Go back to Africa.
That’s what racists would say to black folks when I was coming up. It was a defense of sorts — thrown up like a shield to repel us whenever we challenged the racial contradictions of America.
I thought of that phrase, and the angry, sneering faces of those who used it when Donald Trump tweeted that four congresswomen of color should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” I thought of it again when Trump doubled down on those comments, saying the women could “leave right now.”
Like most black people, I’ve heard such things before, and I pity those who utter such remarks, because I was born in America, on a cold December morning at Philadelphia General Hospital. And if my fellow Americans don’t understand that this is my country, they can never understand that my criticism of our country is a form of tough love.
However, there was no love in Trump’s declaration that these women should go back to where they came from. There was only racism—thrown up as a shield against people of color who dared to raise questions about America.
In response to Trump’s comments, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House would vote on a resolution condemning Trump’s “racist comments” that “have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.”
Sadly, such condemnation makes little difference, since black and brown people have always lived with hatred in America. Now that hatred is out in the open, and it’s focused on four freshman congressional Democrats who have several things in common. Each of them has been critical of Trump’s immigration policies, they’ve challenged fellow Democrats and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and each of them is brown.
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez of New York is Puerto Rican; U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan is Palestinian American, U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts is African American, and U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota is Somali American.
Three of the four women were born in America, and Omar is a former Somalian refugee who has been an American citizen for nearly two decades.
None of that seems to matter to Trump, who wrote in his tweets that the women come from “countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world.
Ironically, this is the place they come from, so in my view, Trump is right. The government under his leadership is a complete and total catastrophe.
How else to explain that a man who received 3 million fewer votes than his opponent is somehow president of the United States? How else to explain that a record number of cabinet members have left the Trump administration in his first two years in office? How else to explain that major positions in Trump’s administration remain unfilled?
Trump also said the governments where the women come from are inept, and if former British ambassador Kim Darroch’s leaked diplomatic cables are to be believed, Trump and his administration fit the description. Darroch called Trump “inept,” “insecure” and “incompetent.”
So yes, our government is a catastrophe, and yes, I want these women to help fix it. And while they’re at it, I want them to fix the “crime infested” places Trump is talking about.
Right here in America, mass shootings occur in schools, offices, nightclubs, and movie theaters. One of them recently occurred right here in Philadelphia, where seven people were shot and wounded at a neighborhood basketball game, even as political leaders were preparing to meet and talk about violence at a community forum.
Yet, in response to these sobering realities, President Donald Trump tells black and brown Americans to go back to other countries where most of them have never lived.
That is a racist response. It is a backwards response, and it is a response that endangers us all.
If our nation is to overcome that kind of ignorance, we must commit to moving forward together, regardless of race. Going backwards is no longer an option.
Listen to Solomon Jones weekdays from 7am to 10am on WURD Radio 900 AM/ 96.1 FM