Send her back,” President Trump’s fan club chant as he silently basks in their racism. This, after he singles out Congresswoman Ilhan Omar as a hater of his version of America.
Just days earlier, Trump’s tweets single out “The Squad” of minority Congresswomen with the classic “Why don’t you go back home” trope, despite knowing that three of them were born in the US and the other, Ilhan Omar, came to the US from war torn Somalia as an infant.
“Send her back”, it would seem, is the new iteration of the “Lock her up” chants that dominated his last election campaign, attacking Hilary Clinton. It can’t go unnoticed that his targets are women in power. The white supremacists have long attacked such women: it’s misogyny, pure and simple.
I met Omar two years ago in Istanbul where we were both speaking at a conference on gender violence. I was impressed with her then and still am.
Expect a spike in hate crime, expect more victims, expect more insecurity and pain in already vulnerable communities, this is the legacy of the words Trump uses.
I could write a piece on how Trump is delivering a calculated distraction strategy to take attention away from allegations relating to child sexual abuse involving his friend Jeffrey Epstein, but that would be a disservice to the impact his words and those of his fan base are having.
I know the impact of those words. A little while back, I was subjected to a far right, fake news campaign, which led to a group of thugs gathering outside my home and sending significant threats to my family: letters and emails in their 1000s calling for me to be “sent home.”
I made light of the threats by referencing that I was born in Birmingham, and will go back there whenever I want to! However, the consequences were, in truth, scary and worrying. Ignorant thugs bought into the narrative and wanted to harm me.
You can work to improve the lives of millions of your fellow Americans or Britons, but you’re “just not one of us”. You can protect the vulnerable but “you don’t belong”.
Now, just imagine being the target of similar from the so called “Leader of the Free World.” I can’t begin to imagine what Omar must feel like. Knowing her, she will quote Maya Angelou and continue to “rise.”
The threat, however, goes way beyond the congresswomen, or me even. This is an attack on all immigrants and children of immigrants who challenge authority because they want to make the world a better place. Even if you just choose to keep your head down, the chants of “go home” will resonate in your ears and make you feel, as it does me, that you are not welcome.
Trump, his followers and those who refuse to call his words “racist” and condemn them are stabbing each one of us in the back. They are making our contribution to society meaningless because we are different.
If we allow this to go unchallenged then racists will gain strength and support for their behaviours. Expect a spike in hate crime, expect more victims, expect more insecurity and pain in already vulnerable communities, this is the legacy of the words Trump uses.
Our leaders know it and their failure to call it what it is is cowardly, shameful and dangerous.
Nazir Afzal OBE is the former chief crown prosecutor