Transcript, Web links and Credits below.
Hey, everybody! After a short summer break, we’re back and ready to roll, and we’re so glad to have each and every one of you with us, right here, right now.
I had a beautiful plan for today’s episode that is very different than what we are about to do. But yesterday, at 8:27AM in the morning, the President of the United States literally logged on to Twitter, targeted four young women of color in the United States Congress, and told them to go back home to the countries they come from and said that for him, they “can’t leave fast enough.”
Never mind that all four of them are American citizens who were elected to office by resounding majorities. Never mind that three of them were actually born right here in the United States, and the other was just a little girl when her family arrived here.
They aren’t white, and they aren’t afraid of him. And in one swoop, Trump made one of the most racist public statements we’ve heard from a President in the modern history of this nation. I need to explain to you the danger I think his words could cause, and then I’ll unpack how we got here, because Trump targeted these four women after several Democrats in power gave him mixed signals that they were fair game.
Let’s dig in.
This is Shaun King, and you are listening to The Breakdown!
Three years ago, almost to this very day, a young family outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota was pulled over by police in a horrible case of racial profiling. The officer, seeing Philando Castile ride by him, later claimed that the shape of Philando’s nose reminded him of the nose he saw in a video of an armed robbery weeks before. Think about that. It was nearly the 100th time that Philando had been pulled over by police in that area. He was a beautiful soul. He was the supervisor of an elementary school cafeteria and had memorized the names and food allergies of every child in the school. They loved him. The school loved him. And his family loved him.
But I had never heard of Philando Castile. I had never seen or met him before. And the first time I saw his face was on Facebook Live, just moments after he had been brutally shot. Someone who knew the family sent me the video just minutes after it went live. Only a few people were watching. And the person who sent it gave me no explanation.
And when I clicked on it, and saw this man — white t-shirt completely soaked in his red blood, gasping for air — I know this sounds dumb, but I actually thought it was fake. His fiancé was in the car next to him, and I couldn’t explain her calmness. My mind couldn’t make sense of it. I don’t mean this as a diss, but I thought she was just a bad actress because. of course, nobody would really be next to someone who was just shot, someone who is dying, and be so calm.
Then I saw her baby girl, right there in the backseat, and I swear to you, I thought I was watching some type of dramatic film that was somehow being aired first on Facebook Live. And I was literally the first person to share it on Twitter, and in my tweet, still so confused by it, I literally asked if it was real.
And indeed it was. And Diamond, his fiancé, was so calm, one because she was in an utter state of shock. But she was so calm because the officer continued to point his gun at them, and the situation was so fragile that she didn’t know if they might get shot too in that moment.
Sometimes, real life is so disturbing, so awful, so problematic, that when you see it for the first time, your mind struggles to catch up. I felt that way a few months ago when I first heard that Nipsey Hussle had been shot and killed.
And yesterday morning, when I first saw what appeared to be tweets from Donald Trump, telling Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib to go back to the countries they came from, countries, he said, “whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all)” — when I saw Trump say that these four women “can’t leave fast enough” — it was one of those moments where my mind struggled to believe that what I just saw was real.
Listen, I’ve covered Trump closely for years now; I know he’s a stone-cold bigot. He was a racist in 1989 when he called for five innocent teenage boys to be executed in New York for a crime they didn’t even commit. He was a racist when the federal government sued Trump and his racist father for housing discrimination all the way back in 1973. He was a bigot when he called for a complete ban on all Muslims entering the United States. He was a bigot when he called Mexicans rapists and murderers. He was a bigot when he sympathized with violent white supremacists in Charlottesville.
Listen, I could go on and on. I’ve seen a list of the top 100 racist things said and done by this man. So my mind wasn’t shocked to see him be a bigot, but my mind was shocked for three reasons. Let me break it down.
(Break It Down music)
Few statements have as much of a racist and white supremacist history as a white person — normally a white man, 100% of them descendents of immigrants — looking at an African American, or an immigrant, or any other person of color — a Latina, a hijabi woman — few statements have as deep and rich of a bigoted history as a white man looking at a person of color and telling them to go back to the country they came from.
It’s interesting that Trump said it this weekend because just this past week he literally invited dozens of white supremacist internet trolls to the White House. And this phrase — telling people to go back to the country they came from — is a favorite refrain from white supremacists online, but it’s been said by bigots in this country for at least 150 years.
But in the modern era, it’s never been said publicly by the President of the United States. It’s the type of thing that you normally see come from Neo-Nazis and the KKK. And so when the President of the United States says this, and not even just in a general sense, but to four specific women of color in the United States Congress, in one instant he has just normalized what had always been seen as an extreme form of racism and bigotry and xenophobia. He has just normalized it.
What people in power do in moderation, their followers do in excess. And while Trump had already done much to normalize hate in this nation, yesterday was different. And unlike his call to ban Muslims, unlike his love for white supremacists in Charlottesville — where a small band of conservatives in Congress called him out for it — for the very first time yesterday, not a single elected Republican whispered even a faint criticism of his open, public racism. That’s new.
As I record this, it has been 30 hours without a single Republican rebuke of blatant racism from the President of the United States — nothing. At this point, their silence means they are complicit. That’s what silence always means.
But Trump’s attacks, particularly the phrase that “they can’t leave fast enough,” not only endangers all four of these courageous women, it endangers all people of color. The President of the United States has lowered the bar for what’s acceptable to say to people. He’s lowered the bar for what’s acceptable to think about people, and it’s all rooted in his racist definition of who’s a real American and who isn’t. He doesn’t have a problem with immigrants. He’s married and had kids with two of them. They each hardly spoke English when he met them. He didn’t care.
His mother was an immigrant. His own grandparents barely spoke English and lied to get to the United States. Yesterday, multiple white men in Congress who weren’t born in the United States, like Jim Himes and Don Beyer — white men who’ve called Trump out over and over again — said how strange it is that they are never told to go back to the country where they were born, because for Trump, this is about white supremacy and white power. And these four women don’t fit in his little white box of who belongs here and who doesn’t.
But this one thing is clear: Trump walked into a doorway to attack these four women that establishment Democrats opened first. Now of course, Trump said and did what only he could say and do, and he’s solely responsible for his words and actions. But over the past few weeks, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly demeaned and ridiculed these four women in multiple interviews, and it really started boiling over on Thursday, and Friday, and Saturday — even with the official Twitter account of the House Democrats chiming in on their attacks against them. And so when Trump started his attacks on Sunday morning, notice that he ended them by literally saying he’d bet Nancy Pelosi would pay for their tickets to leave the country. He said that because he saw what I saw. He saw her public critiques of these four women. I saw the white supremacist Ben Shapiro talking about it on Saturday. And it all reminds me of a local radio interview that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did here in New York earlier this week where she said that what Pelosi was doing was going to make the world less safe for her and the other three women, and now here we are, living in that unsafe moment that AOC saw coming just a few days ago.
She knew what I know, which is that when white people in power, Democrats or Republicans, begin to marginalize and ridicule people of color, particularly in this climate, it gives other people who may not have the same principles that you do the thought that they have full permission to pile on. And over and over again in 2019, Democrats have made it clear that Ilhan Omar is fair game to attack — that AOC is fair game to attack — and Trump decided to come in and exploit that weakness.
So listen, I have to run, but before I go, I wanna share our action step for today.
(Action Steps Music)
So far, over 17,000 of you have already joined our brand new Action Steps team at TheBreakdownCrew.com, and we’re trying to grow this team as large as we can. We already have people from all 50 states and dozens of countries on the team, but if you haven’t joined yet, we need you to join now at TheBreakdownCrew.com because we are about to take the quality and depth of our organization much, much deeper.
I’m not talking about press conferences or trending topics. I’m talking about us organizing in a serious, systematic way to fight for change to not only defeat Trump, but to change these systems from the inside out. I’ve said this many times, but this podcast, and our parent company The North Star, we’re not just here to change the news. We’re here to change the world. So for everybody who has signed up at TheBreakdownCrew.com and for everybody who is about to, when you do, I’ll be sending you our next steps.
Thank you all for making it all the way through this episode of The Breakdown! We’re glad to be back, and we’re going full force for the rest of 2019.
If you haven’t already subscribed to our podcast, we’ll be right back here every single weekday, breaking down important news stories and issues, and we’d love for you to subscribe on your favorite podcast apps like Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Please share this podcast with your friends and family. Our next goal is to get to 100,000 subscribers, and we won’t get there without you! Have you left a review yet? On Apple Podcasts we now have over 9,500 five-star reviews, but we’re aiming for 10,000. So we still want to hear from you. So please leave your best review when you get time.
Thank you so much to the nearly 30,000 founding members of The North Star whose generosity even makes this podcast possible. Love y’all and appreciate you so much.
If you love this podcast and want to support our work — or want to see the show notes and transcript for each episode — we’d love it if you considered becoming a founding member of our community at TheNorthStar.com. There we not only have our podcasts, but hundreds of original articles and stories and commentaries from some of the leading scholars and thinkers and journalists in the world.
Lastly, a shout out to our Associate Producer Lyssandra and Podcasting Director and Senior Producer, Willis, for their hard work on this and every episode.
Take care everybody.
Produced by Willis Polk II