No, my title is not overly hyperbolic. America is indisputably undergoing a process of ethnic cleansing directed by the Trump administration. Before we jump into the new horrifying report detailing these crimes against humanity, I must define the term “ethnic cleansing” since Americans have become inured to these kinds of monstrosities, and we have been trained to believe that it can’t happen here. It can. It has in the past. And it’s happening again right now. Per Encyclopedia Britannica:
Ethnic cleansing, the attempt to create ethnically homogeneous geographic areas through the deportation or forcible displacement of persons belonging to particular ethnic groups.
Per The Washington Post, here’s what we’re dealing with on our southern border:
His official American birth certificate shows he was delivered by a midwife in Brownsville, at the southern tip of Texas. He spent his life wearing American uniforms: three years as a private in the Army, then as a cadet in the Border Patrol and now as a state prison guard.
But when Juan, 40, applied to renew his U.S. passport this year, the government’s response floored him. In a letter, the State Department said it didn’t believe he was an American citizen.
As he would later learn, Juan is one of a growing number of people whose official birth records show they were born in the United States but who are now being denied passports — their citizenship suddenly thrown into question. The Trump administration is accusing hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Hispanics along the border of using fraudulent birth certificates since they were babies, and it is undertaking a widespread crackdown.
This is what “taking our country back” looks like from a policy perspective. Yes, Bush and Obama enforced this policy too, but the report makes it clear that it was nowhere near the scale of what Trump is doing. Trump represents a large chunk of Americans who believe that the only true way to be an American is to be “white.” When they talk about immigrants taking over our culture, they don’t mean British immigrants, but anyone whose skin is too dark to be anointed “white.” That is ethnic cleansing. A certain type of person is deemed insufficiently American, and this twisted logic dictates that in order to preserve our American identity, America must cleanse itself of these supposed undesirables. We associate the term with mass murder, but it does not have to go that far to qualify as ethnic cleansing (but the lesson we should take from history is that this is the direction these kinds of policies inevitably take if left in place long enough).
What these Trump supporters fail to understand is that “whiteness” is an ever-shifting construct. Whiteness exists solely to reinforce class barriers along sometimes amorphous racial lines—not to technically define ethnic groups. Swedish “white people” do not share the exact same culture as Italian “whites.” Whiteness has no specific cultural definition outside of denigrating the ethnic groups it ostracizes. This cartoon from an 1899 Harper’s Weekly that I highlighted in my piece in 2016 about the amorphousness of whiteness demonstrates what the enforcement of whiteness is really all about.
Today, it’s laughable to consider the Irish nonwhite. Ann Coulter, one of America’s most famed racists, is the descendant of Irish immigrants. Not even a century ago, the Irish were deemed uncivilized by the Trumpist acolytes of the time, and No Irish Need Apply signs sprang up in stores across major cities like Boston, Chicago and New York. These were usually placed next to “no dogs allowed” signs. This was also a form of ethnic cleansing, as Americans tried to drive the “nonwhite” Irish out of our major cities. Today, Boston’s beloved basketball team is named the Celtics. That’s as clear an indication as any of how whiteness is not a genuine construct, but a reflection of the discrimination of the time.
The truth of the matter is that America has always been a country centered around a foundation of white supremacy. The most powerful country in the world was built on the graves of Native Americans and on the backs of slaves kidnapped from Africa and the Caribbean. We fought a Civil War that killed hundreds of thousands of Americans over the right to subjugate black people (excuse me, it was fought over “states’ rights”...to subjugate black people). This malaise has never left us, and there has always been a significant chunk of the population who reject our founding ideal of “all men are created equal” in favor of discriminating against those deemed to be insufficiently white at the time.
This new development is horrifying. Despite our era of progress, we really are moving backwards in many ways. Trump and his band of useful idiots want to take us back to a time before nonwhite Americans were considered equal under the law, and as WaPo detailed, we’re already there for some folks:
In some cases, passport applicants with official U.S. birth certificates are being jailed in immigration detention centers and entered into deportation proceedings. In others, they are stuck in Mexico, their passports suddenly revoked when they tried to reenter the United States. As the Trump administration attempts to reduce both legal and illegal immigration, the government’s treatment of passport applicants in South Texas shows how U.S. citizens are increasingly being swept up by immigration enforcement agencies.
Trump has set up child concentration camps with little to no oversight where sexual abuse is rampant in some shelters. Now, we are illegally detaining American citizens because they happen to be in an area with a lot of immigrants and citizens delivered by midwives (because the cost of going to a hospital is too high). And because some real birth certificates are indistinguishable from fakes, those who have the wrong skin color are now stuck under the boot of big government.
This isn’t even Trump’s first attack on nonwhite American citizens. He set up an entire office dedicated to stripping American citizens of their citizenship if they are suspected of “cheating” to get it. Given that the administration is trying to ruin the lives of Hispanic-American citizens who served in the army, no one should trust them to enforce their “cheating” decree fairly. These policies, like the Muslim Ban, are about cleansing America of certain ethnic minorities. Period. This is what Trumpism is all about. It’s a backlash to modernity led by people whose lives are so sad and pathetic that they wrap up their entire identity in an indescribable culture of “whiteness.”
If you have ever wondered what you would have done during the rise of Nazi Germany, it’s whatever you’re doing right now. America has committed atrocities like this before and we are doing it again. For all the good “white” people in America who care about the rights of marginalized groups, there is an army of “white” folks who enthusiastically cheer the ethnic cleansing of those same groups. If their voices are louder than yours going forward, then we will fulfill our destiny in Hitler’s eyes when he wrote in Mein Kampf:
There is today one state in which at least weak beginnings toward a better conception [of immigration] are noticeable. Of course, it is not our model German Republic, but [the US], in which an effort is made to consult reason at least partially. By refusing immigrants on principle to elements in poor health, by simply excluding certain races from naturalization, it professes in slow beginnings a view that is peculiar to the People’s State.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.