It was inevitable, really. And a not-unforeseen consequence of the president’s racism that started as a dog whistle but has now settled in a frequency that can be heard clearly by everyone. What’s now abundantly clear is: The racism is the point. The racism is the election strategy. So it shouldn’t be surprising that Trump’s dehumanization of immigrants, followed by “go back” tweets about four Democratic congresswomen of color, has morphed into one virulent idea in the minds of Trump’s base. On Wednesday evening that idea was given voice—with presidential prodding—at a Trump campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina. When Trump derided Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, one member of the Democratic “Squad,” mischaracterizing her statements to cast her as not just a political foe but an enemy, the crowd slowly, in unison, began a chant of “Send her back!”
The sinister chant is stunning in its intent and implications. Omar was born in Somalia and came to the U.S. three decades ago when her family was granted political asylum. The Minnesota congresswoman’s criticism of Trump’s abhorrent immigration stance and American policy writ large irks the right wing, which—as Tucker Carlson articulated last week—doesn’t see her as sufficiently grateful. The menacing derivation of the “lock her up” chant, like Trump’s racism, won’t be a byproduct of the campaign—it’s going to be a central feature. The prospect of largely white audiences over the next year baying for minority politicians to be “sent back” to the countries where their parents, grandparents, or other relatives came from is chilling. So brace yourself.
“They don’t love our country. They are so angry,” Trump told the crowd, labeling the lawmakers “hate-filled extremists.” “If they don’t like it, let them leave,” Trump said. “Let them leave.”
Omar also responded Wednesday night on Twitter to the president and his supporters with a quote from Maya Angelou: “You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll rise.”
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This post was updated with an Ilhan Omar tweet.