It may be widely considered as an ugly racist taunt, but it didn’t stop the President of the United States, Donald Trump, from telling four congresswomen of colour to “go back” to where they came from. As ever, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was leading the resistance.
If there’s one truly unoriginal attack flung upon ethnic minorities, it surely has to be the age-old insult “go back to where you came from.” It’s ugly, it’s racist, and it makes absolutely no sense to native-born people of colour who have lived in a country since birth, but are denied the right to claim nationality.
Unfortunately, that’s the level Donald Trump stooped to over the weekend, when he posted a series of tweets denouncing Democratic congresswomen of colour.
The POTUS embarked on a hate-filled tirade claiming that “’progressive’” Democrat Congresswomen who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe” should “go back” to where they came from.
“So interesting to see ‘progressive’ Democrat congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” he began.
“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” he added.
Although the president did not explicitly name the congresswomen in question, in the last few days Trump has attacked several first-year House Democrats sometimes nicknamed “the squad”, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. All four are women of colour, three of whom were born and raised in the US, while the fourth, Ilhan Omar, moved to the US as a child in the 1990s and was naturalised in 2000.
Trump’s tweets referred to an ongoing conflict between the four women and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who Trump sarcastically tweeted “would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”
Not that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was going to let Trump’s racism go unchecked. The liberal politician, who is the youngest woman in American history elected to serve in the United States Congress, was on blistering form when she unleashed one of her signature Twitter takedowns in response to the POTUS’s incendiary comments.
“You are angry because you can’t conceive of an America that includes us. You rely on a frightened America for your plunder. You won’t accept a nation that sees healthcare as a right or education as a #1 priority, especially where we’re the ones fighting for it. Yet here we are,” she wrote.
“But you know what’s the rub of it all, Mr. President? On top of not accepting an America that elected us, you cannot accept that we don’t fear you, either. You can’t accept that we will call your bluff & offer a positive vision for this country. And that’s what makes you seethe.”
Ocasio-Cortez further denounced the president in a scathing tweet branding his comments as demonstrative of the “hallmark language of white supremacists”.
“It’s important to note that the President’s words yday, telling four American Congresswomen of colour “go back to your own country,” is hallmark language of white supremacists. Trump feels comfortable leading the GOP into outright racism, and that should concern all Americans.”
The congresswoman also highlighted that in the face of widespread condemnation from political leaders across the world, including British prime minister Theresa May, who said they were “completely unacceptable”, the silence from Republicans on scandal was all too telling.
“Until Republican officials denounce yesterday’s explicitly racist statements (which should be easy!), we sadly have no choice but to assume they condone it,” she continued. “It is extremely disturbing that the *entire* GOP caucus is silent. Is this their agenda?”
All four congresswomen took aim at the President for calling their citizenship into question. “Want a response to a lawless and complete failure of a president? He is the crisis. His dangerous ideology is the crisis. He needs to be impeached,” Rashida Tlaib tweeted, while Omar branded Trump “the worst, most corrupt and inept president we have ever seen.”
Ayanna Pressley also took Trump to task, writing, “THIS is what racism looks like. WE are what democracy looks like. And we’re not going anywhere. Except back to DC to fight for the families you marginalize and vilify everyday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi even came to the defence of “the squad”, condemning Trump for his “xenophobic comments.”
“When @realDonaldTrump tells four American congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to ‘Make America Great Again’ has always been about making America white again. Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power,” she wrote.
The freshmen congresswomen have been outspoken about Trump’s immigration policies, in particular the suffering of migrants along the US-Mexico border following a recent trip to border detention facilities. Earlier in the month, Ocasio-Cortez detailed the “horrifying” conditions at a migrant detention centre in Texas, reporting that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers were forcing women to drink out of toilets.
All four women has also criticised a recent emergency funding bill passed by the House to afford provision for migrant detainees, especially in the wake of reports that children did not have access to basic toiletries including soap, toothpaste and blankets.
In an ideal world, of course, the POTUS would focus on remedying the widespread inequalities in the US, rather than resorting to marginalising women of colour for working to secure economic, social and racial justice. At the same time, Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, Pressley and Omar are speaking truth to power, and are the real voices to pay close attention to as the presidential race heats up.