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The real racism behind the Trump/Omar furore


This article was first published on on July 19, 2019, and is republished by kind permission.

There’s always something ugly and disturbing about an enormous crowd being roused to mass emotion by the words of a charismatic orator. So it was when Americans chanted ‘lock her up’ about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign in response to then candidate Donald Trump’s repeated claims that she had committed crimes for which she should be prosecuted.

And so it was again during this week’s Trump rally in North Carolina when a section of the crowd started chanting ‘send her back’ in response to President Trump’s attack on the sayings and attitudes of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.

It is nevertheless false and unjust to stigmatise the crowd as ‘racist’ let alone to claim, as a number of hysterical commentators have been alleging, that the chants proved that Trump was opening the way to fascism. Such language comes close to racism and fascism denial.

For as I wrote here, racism attacks people for what they are; Trump was attacking Congresswoman Omar for what she has done. And with good cause.

True, in his typically and reprehensibly careless way he mis-stated some things she has said, particularly about al Qaeda (as far as I can see she has never supported it or said chests should be puffed out with pride over it).

But what is undeniable is that she has refused to condemn al Qaeda, has made unforgivable light of 9/11 (‘some people did something’) and has laughed at those who speak about al Qaeda or Hezbollah in ‘serious’ tones that make people alarmed about them (you can watch that interview here).

It is also undeniable that she has made a series of anti-Semitic comments. She has claimed that Jews use their money to influence American foreign policy, suggested that they are disloyal to America and, in the wake of the Trump tweet furore, introduced a Congress resolution promoting BDS, the campaign whose ultimate goal is the destruction of Israel – which she proceeded to compare to Nazi Germany.

It is also the case that she and the three other members of the ‘Squad’ of ultra-Left Congresswomen lose no opportunity to bash America and claim it is fundamentally bigoted against non-white people, while openly promoting an agenda to transform its culture out of all recognition.

So when the crowd roared ‘send her home’ they were not doing so so because they were prejudiced against Omar’s colour or ethnicity. They were simply saying they didn’t want such a dangerously disloyal and vindictive bigot to continue to be given a free pass in their country; and they were roaring their approval for Trump, who they perceived to be finally drawing a line in the sand against the enemies of America and western values.

That was not racism. It was a protest against an onslaught upon their country and its values which until now their governing class had ignored, tolerated or condoned. They were reacting not against what Omar is but what she does.

The refusal of virtually the entire liberal classes to understand this key distinction is not solely attributable to their unhinged hostility to Trump. It also reflects a disturbing fact about our post-moral society.

This was illustrated by opinion poll findings published in the wake of the furore which revealed that 32 per cent of Democrats (and 22 per cent of all voters) agree that it is racist for any white politician to criticise the political views of any ‘politician of colour’.

So regardless of what any non-white politician does, however appallingly he or she might behave, between roughly one quarter and one third of the public believe that any criticism of them by a white person is axiomatically ‘racist’.

This remarkable attitude was on display throughout the presidency of Barack Obama, when any criticism of anything he said or did was immediately dismissed as ‘racism’. Of course, that dismissal was itself the real racism, since those making this charge were by definition unable to see beyond the colour of Obama’s skin and refused to hold him to the same standards as a white person.

This is undoubtedly a contributory factor behind the ‘racism’ charge being hurled at Trump. In this era of identity politics, Martin Luther King’s famous and inspiring observation has been turned upside down. People like Ilhan Omar and the other members of the ‘Squad’ are being judged not by the content of their character but by the colour of their skin.

As a result, they are being given a free pass for their behaviour. The ‘Squad’ are not upbraided for their own anti-white racism, Jew-baiting and intention to destroy America’s identity and culture. The unchallengeable doctrines of identity politics mean it is axiomatically racist for any white person to object to them at all.

We are certainly living in morally degraded, vicious and frightening times; but not quite in the way being claimed by Donald Trump’s foes.

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Melanie Phillips
Melanie Phillips
Melanie Phillips is a columnist at the Times,. She is the author of Guardian Angel: My Journey from Leftism to Sanity, and her first novel The Legacy was published in April.

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