Plunkett: Trump’s name calling represents a bigger problem

Rory Plunkett

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board.

During a White House meeting on immigration on May 23, President Donald Trump referred to illegal immigrants saying that, “these aren’t people, these are animals.” Trump later said that he was referring to the MS-13 gangs that are coming through our border.

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“When the MS-13 comes in, when the other gang members come into our country, I refer to them as animals. And guess what – I always will” Trump said.

 Ironically MS-13 is a major gang that originated in the U.S. While its first members were immigrants of mainly Salvadorian descent, MS-13 was established in Los Angeles in the 80s. Trump’s remarks are prejudiced and an attempt to justify the administration’s preparations to split families apart who cross the U.S. and Mexican border illegally and hold their children on military bases.

The use of dehumanizing rhetoric is a consistent trend in American history and a common weapon in white nationalism’s arsenal.

From the pseudo-science that claimed that African people have differently shaped skulls and smaller brains, to the language in our justice system that allowed children to be tried as adults, labeled murderers or felons, and then put on death row to await an execution date; all of this language is devised and methodically crafted in order to dehumanize and justify the killing, enslavement and imprisonment of real people.

It is no mistake that the people who are consistently dehumanized throughout American history are not considered white. This is why the President’s remarks are so disturbing and pertinent to our nation’s conversation.

The President’s language describing real people with families, friends, and relationships as something other than humans makes it easier for us as a nation to condemn groups of people. We then fall into the trap that is fear, anger and detachment from those who we deem lesser.

The President’s language describing real people with families, friends, and relationships as something other than humans makes it easier for us as a nation to condemn groups of people.

To call another human being an animal is an offense to their experiences, ideals and humanity.

This type of language opens the door for legal capital punishment, and is a contributor to why America is one of the most developed countries with the  most executions and why America was a global leader in the execution of juveniles. In his book “Just Mercy”, Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, said that “capital punishment means ‘them’ without the capital get the punishment”.

It would be easy to look at specific groups as “others” and separate them from Americans, or a person who has committed crime and say that they are the issue and that they are a criminal. But what does that say about us as a people, as a society?

When we accept these words that our President spews, we accept that it is possible to become un-human, that it is possible to be born unhuman.

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I do not advocate for crime, but it must be said that many criminals are not monsters. When you make a mistake, you would hope that people wouldn’t lose grasp of your humanity. What we deem as “criminals” are still people.

The words we use and things we say are what we will remember and what our society will be remembered for. I do not want to remember our President referring to and treating real people as animals, for that shames us as a nation.

Rory Plunkett can be reached at  letters@collegian.com or online at @jericho_wav