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Dehumanizing People Makes Killing Easier

Trump Rallies and El Paso Are a Case in Point

Credit: John Cole, The Scranton Times-Tribune, PA

When the Nazis described Jews as Untermenschen, subhumans, they didn’t mean it metaphorically. They meant they were literally subhuman. This de-humanization was an integral part of the Holocaust. We should have learned from this that dehumanizing “others” inevitably leads to killing, as it did in El Paso.

The white supremacist shooter in El Paso posted an online rant saying his attack was a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas (which was Mexico before it became Texas): “I’m simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.”

“Replacement” was a reference to a white genocide conspiracy theory (The Great Replacement), which originated in France and is aimed at the presence of Muslims. It argues that the white French culture is being destroyed, replaced by Muslims. This conspiracy theory has an online life that fuels white supremacist hate throughout the Western world, including Switzerland, Germany, Scandinavia, Britain, New Zealand, and the United States.

His reference to an invasion was pure Donald Trump who even now is running Facebook political ads condemning the invasion of Latinos at our southern border (not to mention his use of invasion rhetoric at his rallies and on Twitter). Trump’s racism, in addition to focusing on Latinos, has also been directed at African Americans, Muslims, and Jews. Yet, it’s Latinos whom he routinely dehumanizes.

Trump began his dehumanization of Latinos the day he announced for president: “They’re murderers and rapists,” he claimed, referring to Mexicans coming across the border. As this dehumanizing campaign progressed, he routinely fires up his rally crowds with rants about migrant invasions by gang members, murderers, rapists, thugs, and animals with, of course, no proof. This Untermenschen characterization of Latinos reached its zenith when he separated children from their parents and packed migrants seeking asylum, including children, into overcrowded cages in inhumane conditions, and he then sent ICE out to round up more Latinos for deportation.

The world has seen roundups of innocent people by dominant cultures before, with really bad results. We have also seen people characterized as “others” packed into boxcars in inhuman conditions leading to horrific results. During one of his anti-Latino rants, at the now infamous Panama City, Florida, rally, Trump asked his audience how they thought “we” should stop the invasion on our southern border. A member of the audience shouted, “Shoot them.” Trump laughed. It should, therefore, not have been surprising that a white supremisicist responding to this kind of rhetoric committed the largest mass killing of Latinos in U.S. history in El Paso.

Trump’s America cannot fairly be compared to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. Trump, however, can absolutely be condemned for using tactics reminiscent of the Nazis’ dehumanization of Jews leading to the Holocaust. We are witnessing the leader of the Free World constantly, on social media and television, fostering racism. He obviously knows that white nationalism is on the rise in the Western world. He obviously knows that there is an audience, both nationally and internationally, using his racism to bolster their hate. He obviously knows that this kind of white supremacist hate leads to killing.

The President of the United States is suppose to lead all of us toward “a more perfect Union.” Instead, he has de facto become the leader of a white supremacist movement that is killing innocent people because they are non-white.

Donald Trump did not create the white supremacist movement. Humanity, unfortunately, has a long history of those “in power” terrorizing people of different races and ethnic groups coming into their midst. We all share a common humanity, which inevitably will and should be integrated into our communities regardless of race or ethnic origin. This is a good thing. It makes us stronger. It should be celebrated. Instead, we have a president who is opposing it to galvanize a shrinking base of political support. The 2020 election cannot stop white supremacy. It can, however, deprive it of a leader by voting Donald Trump out of office.

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