Donald Trump has shown no sign of toning down his anti-immigrant rhetoric, and now his take-no-prisoners attitude is inciting hate and racism, as evidenced again in Virginia last week.
As the Republican presidential frontrunner launched into an anti-immigrant tirade about giving “free stuff” to “illegal immigrants,” a local CBS reporter recorded an encounter in which a blue-shirted Trump supporter repeatedly shouted “F— you” to pro-immigration activists and spat in the face of one man before walking away. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of incidents against Latinos.
Trump’s mainly white, non-college-educated male supporters have told immigrant activists to “clean my hotel room, b—”; shouted, “If it ain’t white, it ain’t right,” while ripping up posters; told Latino U.S. citizens to “go home” while grabbing their hair and spitting on them; told prominent journalist and U.S. citizen Jorge Ramos to “get out of my country;” joked, “You can shoot all the people you want that cross illegally”; and, of course, in the famous Boston incident, beat up and urinated on a homeless Latino legal migrant.
Yet Trump continues to rise in the poll while his clear incitement of hate goes unpunished, so much so that Trump was invited to host the NBC show “Saturday Night Live.” Really? This incitement of racism and the clearly divisive tactics are funny?
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law,” and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination prohibits all incitement of racism. Nonetheless, NBC saw it fit to invite Trump to more prominence.
Since June, when Trump first launched his campaign, his vile diatribe against immigrants and Mexico has served to further divide this country. By suggesting that Mexican immigrants are rapists, criminals or drug dealers, he has expanded the bounds of appropriate conduct, creating an atmosphere of xenophobia that is being accepted and treated like another reality TV episode.
Trump, for his part, has claimed it is only a “very, very small group” of people who are turning xenophobic.
But last Wednesday, it was clear that several of his 5,000 supporters quickly became agitated when faced with pro-immigrant protestors. They had no hesitation in shouting, “Go back to Mexico,” as some of the protesters were escorted out.
No thought to the fact that the protestors could be U.S. citizens or born here. Based on the color of their skin, they were judged and simply branded as Mexicans, immigrants and undocumented instantly. Why? Because Trump has tapped into the hatred simmering below the surface in white, non-educated America and set it to boil.
Trump needs to be held accountable for this. Hate speech is speech that offends, threatens or insults groups based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability or other traits. His diatribe so far is hate speech.
The U.S. Supreme Court did rule in 1942, in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, that intimidating speech directed at a specific individual in a face-to-face confrontation amounts to “fighting words,” and that the person engaging in such speech can be punished if “by their very utterance [the words] inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.”
It is time to revisit this “fighting words” doctrine and make it more applicable, especially to the “crazies on boil” at Trump rallies.
The writer is CMO of Hard Beat Communications, which owns the brands News Americas Now, CaribPR Wire and Invest Caribbean Now.