Today, Donald Trump sent another divisive message to his followers via his official Twitter account regarding Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. For those who would make excuses or who are praying that his racist comments will just blow over, they won’t. Telling people not socially colored white to “go back home” or to “go back to where they came from” is not a new directive and deserves a response.
But we don’t need a history or geography lesson to point out his failings or flawed argument. While the media struggled to label his words racist, we don’t have to wait for them to use the adjective. It was racist. Because this is not really about one’s place of birth or even country of origin. Not simply telling someone to leave the country but believing it is within your right to do so is the problem.
Where does this confidence come from? It is colonial in origin. It is proof of America’s continued possession by the spirit of conquest. It is the belief that socially engineered white people have the power to determine the belonging or dis-belonging of another group not given the privileged label. It is the assertion that said persons have the power to move bodies anywhere around the world as they so choose, for their pleasure and to maintain their comfort. It is a historical habit, never changed or challenged.
Colonizers went to ancestral homes and relocated African bodies for labor and exploitation during the Trans- Atlantic Slave Trade and destroyed indigenous bodies, belonging to what is now the United States of America, that received them on their shores, is what needs to be named. Neither group told European settlers to “go back” or to get back or to keep off their land. The locals were hospitable; these strangers were hostile.
Still, in the crowd of thousands, persons chanted, “Send her back” at Trump’s recent North Carolina rally. But send Congresswoman Omar back where exactly? What address do they have on file? They talk as if she is a package to be returned due their dissatisfaction. She is not what they want in American society.
It is their choice to make, their right to refuse her though she, too, is an American citizen. Is she is not American enough and where does she need to go to get more American? Because there are levels, grades, rungs to this identity. And Congresswoman Omar has apparently been outranked.
That rally was like a committee meeting and all Americans got to watch persons reject other Americans not socially colored white on live television. The chant lasted seconds but long enough to echo back centuries. We’ve heard this all before. This is not a new request. When formerly enslaved Africans were freed and stood as a visible reminder of the barbarity of their enslavers, they wanted to send them back to.
No longer reflecting the relationship of oppressor and oppressed, the mirror that African faces became was more than their enslavers could stand. And today it is tempting to look away, to change the channel or the conversation. But, it won’t change what Trump and thousands of his supporters said. We can’t send those words back.
They are fully present; now we must account for them.