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Trump 66: Stereotyped

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When Donald Trump announced for president last June, his first major controversial statement – minutes into his candidacy – was this:

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

This is how bigoted stereotypes – take it back to Archie Bunker – work, even when the bigotry is meant to suggest something positive (say, Jews being skillful handlers of money). How it works is this: The immediate and powerful association is made between the group (Mexican, in this case) and the quality they supposedly and in general are said to embody (criminals, rapists). This is followed quickly by the get-me-off-the-hook qualifier (“And some, I assume, are good people.”)

That last bit, and other offhand comments by Trump about how wonderful the Mexican people are, should fool no one, as it apparently doesn’t. In the same speech in which he referred in passing to what a great country Mexico is, he spoke for minutes on end about the people who had crossed the border illegally and killed American citizens. That is the image his listeners are left with: It is where Trump focused his attention, and it is where the power and emotion of the speech was directed.

Some bigotry – some of Archie Bunker’s, for instance – may have been ignorant but wasn’t necessarily malevolent. Trump’s is darkly malevolent. His language is too sharply pointed not to be intended to hurt his target and rile his supporters. Bigotry and stereotyping is a problem generally, but this is where it reaches into some of its darkest backwaters. – rs

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