Dear Asian Youth,
Remember back in early May when armed protesters stormed the Michigan statehouse and yelled into officers’ faces because they so desperately wanted a haircut? Remember how they thought the stay-at-home order was encroaching on their constitutional right to leave their homes and get their nails done without a mask? Because I remember, and I also will never forget President Trump calling them “very good people”.
Later that month, an innocent Black man by the name of George Floyd was murdered, causing the streets to break out into riots and protests. Black people fought for their right to a peaceful existence and demanded justice for not only Floyd, but all victims of police brutality. Trump called these protestors “thugs,” a racially-charged word that cruelly perpetuates the stereotype of Black people being inherently violent. The use of this word against Black people dates back to the Civil Rights Movement, when the media repeatedly branded the activists as “thugs” to undermine the legitimacy of their actions and frame their civil disobedience as a threat to society. These implications are present today, as too many people exclusively use the word “thugs” to describe Black people. In the words of Columbia University professor John McWhorter, “the truth is that thug today is a nominally polite way of using the N-word...It is a sly way of saying there go those black people ruining things again.”
Why is it that our president was so understanding of the people who were protesting for haircuts, yet he couldn't fathom why George Floyd’s death would spark such a strong outcry for justice? Trump’s offensive tweets are only the tip of the iceberg. His actions in response to the George Floyd protests are appalling, as he proves that he is more concerned with appealing to his voters than addressing the systematic racism and police brutality that have been plaguing the nation for centuries.
In the same tweet where he calls protestors “thugs,” he threatens the protesters by stating “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”. And unfortunately, he wasn’t bluffing. With Trump’s approval, the police have only escalated the situation by exerting unnecessary violence against peaceful protesters through the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash grenades. In other words, Trump is doing everything in his power to end the protests by sweeping the greater underlying issues under the rug, even if it means using excessive police brutality, the very issue we are trying to fight. Once again, the reason he is working so hard to end these protests is to gain more support from the ignorant people who will be voting for him in the upcoming election. His immoral intentions are due to the fact that most of his voters have never–and will never be–affected by police brutality nor systemic racism. They don’t care for change; they only want the protests to stop so that they don’t have to be affected by these issues. Only then can they return to their lives of privilege and ignorance and pretend like innocent men and women weren’t brutally murdered for the color of their skin. By encouraging the police to use violence to end these protests, Trump is acting like he is solving the problem. In reality, he is only reinforcing racist mindsets while ignoring that the protests are solely products of the real problems: police brutality and systematic racism. These are the real issues at hand, and by refusing to address them, Trump is only causing more racial tension and division among the people.
Trump’s determination to appeal to his supporters is even better exemplified in the tear gassing of Lafayette Park on June 1st, in which many gathered for a peaceful protest. Despite the clearly peaceful protest taking place before the assigned curfew, the U.S. Park Police and National Guard were suddenly directed by administration to clear the area. As a result, officers started attacking protesters with smoke canisters, irritants, explosives, batons, and horses. The reason for such sudden action came to light when Trump walked through the cleared area before stopping at St. John’s Church and posing with a Bible for multiple photos. The Bible is a prop he brought along to appeal to religious people and in turn, advance his political ambitions and agenda. This is made clear by the fact that he did not pray nor did he even acknowledge the church in any way. He simply took the photos and left. On top of using religion as a political weapon, he disregarded the peaceful protester’s First Amendment right to assemble and forcibly expelled them through unnecessary violence to make this glorified propaganda. This shows how little he cares about actually ending white supremacy and police brutality. He silenced these people fighting for justice because he doesn’t care about them, but then ensured that he looked like a good candidate for the Christian population, which, according to the Pew Research Center, just happens to make up 70% of polled Americans.
Funnily, Trump is hypocritical enough to try to earn votes by claiming to be an ally. He does so by comparing his actions for the Black community to those of Biden, his political opponent in the upcoming presidential election.
But let’s take a step back and carefully consider his words. First of all, since when has Trump even been an ally to the Black community? He certainly wasn’t when he continuously condemned NFL players such as Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem while protesting racial injustice.
Nor was he an ally in 1989 when he bought a newspaper ad asking for the Central Park Five to be charged with the death penalty (for reference, the Central Park Five were five innocent young Black men who were wrongly convicted of assault). And certainly not now, when he is silencing the voices of those demanding justice. He is, once again, taking advantage of a social movement to further his political agenda. However, his actions have made it clear that the only people he actually cares about are those who will support him. According to an examination of the 2016 election by Pew Research Center, white people unsurprisingly constitute 88% of these supporters. While Trump may not directly benefit from helping the Black community, they are currently a marginalized group who deserve justice.
All in all, by only appealing to his supporters, Trump is only causing more division in the United States. Instead of uniting everyone as a country that cares about solving systematic racism, he is splitting the country into those who benefit from his actions and those who suffer. He should be addressing the true issues that led to George Floyd’s death and showing that he genuinely cares for this country’s well-being, as opposed to getting caught up in his political ambitions. The persistent institutionalized racism in our country has been going on for far too long and we need a strong leader to end these issues, not make them worse. And of course, this means exercising our fundamental right as American citizens this upcoming November: voting in the polls of Election Day. Vote because I do not want to see this president continue to use Twitter as a means of perpetuating violence. Vote because it is within our right to no longer stand for a president who turns a blind eye to all forms of racial supremacy.
Vote because we must fight for the ultimate utopia: the land of the free.