Trump's firebrand rhetoric continues to legitimise intolerance

Trump's firebrand rhetoric continues to legitimise intolerance
Calls made by the controversial president-elect calling for the extradition of up to '3 million' migrants have hardly alleviated the concerns of Muslims and other minority groups in the US.
4 min read
14 Nov, 2016
Anti Trump demonstrations take place in New York's Union Square on Saturday [Getty]
Amid a wave of racist and Islamaphobic incidents targeting POCs and Muslims that have rocked the US since Donald Trump’s surprise election victory the president-elect on Sunday risked inflaming widespread social tensions by vowing to deport millions of undocumented migrants.

“What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers… a lot of these people, probably two million, it could be even three million - we are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate," said Trump speaking to CBS’s 60 Minutes program, on Sunday.

Rather than douse the flames, Trump’s comments have raised concern that social tensions in the US will be exacerbated, with the announcement of controversial figures to his presidential team on Sunday also viewed with concern by both analysts and the general public. The billionaire media moguls forays on Twitter have not helped to assuage concerns much either.

In particular, the appointment of Steve Bannon, head of Trump’s election campaign and the conservative website Breitbart, as chief strategist has been viewed as cause for concern. Breitbart has been accused of antisemitism by the Anti-Defamation League, and peddling racist, Islamaphobic and sexist stereotypes, and has been described as “a haven for people who think Fox News is too polite and restrained.” Bannon, himslef, has been accused of anti-semitism by his ex-wife.

At a time when the Ku Klux Klan is celebrating Trump’s victory, global intrigue, and concern is mounting. 

Even Turkey — not generally regarded as a global beacon of democracy and civil liberties — has issued a warning to its citizens against travel to the US, citing both “violence” witnessed in anti-Trump demonstrations and the increased incidences of “verbal” and “physical” attacks and harassment of an “anti-immigrant” and “racist” nature.

In a statement, released on Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu even insisted that Istanbul and Ankara — which have witnessed suicide bomb attacks carried out by Islamic State linked figures in the last year — were "not more unsafe than any U.S. state”.

In street demonstrations, and on social media platforms American citizens continue to express shock and regret at Trump’s election, and anger at a perceived lack of civic responsibility leading to poor voter turnout that ultimately paved the media mogul’s path to the White House.

But amid growing concerns of rising intolerance and incidents targeting minority groups in the US, many American citizens have also expressed solidarity with such communities. While many political figures including Bernie Sanders have called for Trump to check his bombastic rhetoric, fearing words could be reflected in future policies. Others have called on the president-elect to denounce incidents of "bullying" of Muslims and other minorities.

Simple acts and gestures of solidarity have also been undertaken by members of the American public.

On Twitter one American user, commenting on claims made by Trump during the election campaign that he would seek to establish a database to register Muslims living in the US, asked: "If Trump actually follows through with trying to register all Muslims, can we agree that we'll all just register as Muslim?"

Another touching expression of solidarity occurred during an American Football match in Boston on Saturday when security staff sought to re-assure two Muslim fans that they were safe to perform their Duhur prayers in the stadium during the match.

At a time of uncertainty in America, and with concerns that Trump’s election could have a ripple effect in ushering in an era of right-wing politics in other states, notably in Europe, such acts have taken on a significance beyond symbolic.

But their current necessity also highlights growing divisions within American society, with analysts fearful, that even if the Trump that takes to the Oval Office is different to the Trump seen on the campaign trail, his rhetoric to date has given political leverage and legitimacy to pejorative, racist, and even quasi-xenophobic currents previously more marginalised within American society.