Back in 2016, I compared Donald Trump to Hitler and it ruined my relationship with a colleague, who believed I was insulting his grandfather’s military service in World War II. He said that even though Trump is horrible, my actions were irresponsible. We have not spoken to each other since and to be honest, I hope it stays that way. I have no regrets and I said what I said.
It seems that a lot of people are (performatively) offended by anyone who reveals the truth about the United States being a country that actively practices genocide and a host of other human rights violations in order to further its imperialist agenda. My colleague, like many naive and misguided people, bought into the narrative of America’s democratic virtue and nobility. And like so many, he truly believes in the false narrative of American exceptionalism. What America stands for and what America has actually done are in deep contrast with one another.
It’s always been the American way to minimize any evil that it does, especially if it paints white people in a bad light. Jim Crow is really apartheid, but no, we can’t call it that. Apartheid is something Americans are against. It’s something foreigners like South Africans did. A lone wolf, white mass murderer is the same as a terrorist. But we all know that only brown people get that designation. Then there’s all the defense of the police, even though there is concrete evidence that hundreds of officers are tied to white nationalist hate groups across the country. White people who grow weed get called entrepreneurs. Non-whites get called thugs and drug dealers.
Last week Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called Trump’s migrant detention centers “concentration camps” and non-gravitating people all over the country got angry with her, claiming that she “minimized the Holocaust.” They are wrong, and the real reason they are upset is because they don’t want to accept the fact that they are supporting a concentration camp. So to make themselves feel better they deny that it’s an actual concentration camp. Period. These people seem more upset about her use of the term “concentration camp” than they are about children being abused and dying in camps that their own tax dollars are paying for.
The term “concentration camp” shouldn’t shock people. “They have a long history in the United States and Donald Trump is trying them out right now.” (Devaga, Salon). We kid ourselves by exclusively applying the term to the Holocaust. The U.S. had Japanese internment camps in WWII. In the 1800s, the U.S. government rounded up the Cherokee and placed them into what were called “emigration depots,” but basically, these were concentration camps. During the Philippine American War, the Americans set up concentration camps for Filipinos in Batangas. During and after the Civil War, the U.S. set up concentration camps to corral freed slaves. The most notorious of these was in Natchez, Mississippi. Concentration camps exist in modern times too: Think about Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. We all saw what happened there. We all saw the videos and heard about the horrors inflicted on men, women and children by American soldiers.
Why are people so numb to what is actually happening to families in the migrant detention centers, yet they get so emotional at the utter mention of the term “concentration camp”? How did this moment come into being? According to Andrea Pitzer — a journalist and author of One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps — existing fault lines and deep social problems in America that have existed since the birth of the country converged…since the 1960s and civil rights shifts. A part of the country has never fully adjusted to or accepted the changes of the 1960s and the civil rights movement. In addition, the role of Fox News, the Tea Party and the Republican "Southern strategy" created this movement with Trump and our current political moment.
These border camps didn’t start with Trump. Border detention centers have always been around, and they were awful under Clinton, Bush and even Obama. U.S. border policy seems to think that by punishing migrants for crossing the border, it will put a stop to border crossers. It doesn’t work. All it does is allow for unimaginable cruelty to go rampant. What we can see with Trump’s administration is that he’s willing to take that cruelty and go even further.
Trump is simply a symptom of the problem. His supporters and supporters of these camps need to be held accountable too. It’s been argued repeatedly that his supporters wanted to see people hurt, non-whites especially, and that’s the reason they voted for him. And just to be clear, these camps are tied to Stephen Miller’s immigration policies that are intent on limiting brown and black people from entering the U.S.
Remember, the end game of this administration is to make America as white as possible again. If it sounds similar to another famous racist, inhumane regime, that’s because it is.
Calles Santuarias Baltimore
Join us in voicing our outrage against ICE and the Trump administration's continued threats of massive raids against our immigrant community members. Stand with us as we call for an end to and routine deportation of immigrants that make our city great. Tell ICE to get out of Baltimore. We gather together to demand a Baltimore that is a true Sanctuary City for all those who call it home, and for the freedom of migrants here and everywhere.
On Thursday, June 27th at 6 PM, we'll be protesting at 31 Hopkins Plaza, outside of the Baltimore ICE Field Office. Bring signs, noise makers, and as many people as you can to take a stand for justice!
*Sanctuary Streets/Calles Santuarias Baltimore is an informal group of volunteers who stand in solidarity with migrants/asylum seekers/refugees/immigrants by providing logistical and emotional support to those targeted by inhumane immigration policies.