Two families (that we know of) seeking asylum at the U.S. border have had to witness the death of their children under Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody. Instead of questioning the immoral practices of the CBP that led to such horror, members of the Trump administration have blamed the parents of the children for crossing the border “illegally”. Additionally, Tucker Carlson of Fox News decided to use his television platform to state that immigrants make America “dirtier, poorer, and more divided”, rhetoric that is eerily reminiscent of genocidal regimes. This heinous anti-immigrant rhetoric may seem petty, but needless to say, is extremely dangerous.
Television is one of the main sources by which many Americans receive their news. Therefore, it is easy to use television broadcasts as a way to disseminate both the truth, and fallacies. Once terms like “dirtier and poor” are associated with immigrants in the media, it is only a matter of time before this association becomes the norm. The normalization of this rhetoric in the media can perpetuate stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, and unconscious biases.
History has shown us that discrimination can manifest into something truly horrific. The exploitation of black labor after the abolition of slavery, and the current exploitation of migrant workers are just two of many extreme examples. Both of these terrible moments in history have had systemic and cultural ramifications.
In the words of Ms. Lauryn Hill, “let me break it down for you again”. A stereotype is a widely held and oversimplified idea of a person or thing. Prejudice, on the other hand, is a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason, or actual experience, and discrimination is the unjust treatment of specific categories of people (usually pertaining to age, sex, gender, ethnicity, or race). Finally, unconscious biases are perceptions which are deeply ingrained, and can influence behavior.
When stereotypical beliefs are combined with prejudicial attitudes and emotions like fear, they can drive the behavior known as discrimination. Carlson’s anti-immigrant rhetoric is a fear tactic that paints a dehumanizing and distorted picture of immigrants, and in turn can lead people towards discriminatory actions.
Additionally, listening to anti-immigrant rhetoric on a weekly basis can cause people to form unconscious biases that influence their behavior, which in turn is damaging to the human race as a whole. This type of rhetoric is the quickest way to diminish our moral compasses, and decrease our ability to sympathize with others.
Immigrants and migrants are human beings. I can’t believe this needs to be stated, but the Trump administration’s narrative, along with that of its allies when it comes to migrants has been an utter disgrace. As is the case for many of us, they may be threatened with job instability, food insecurity, and lack of resources. They are people who are trying to build a better future for the world, their progeny, and our nation (if we let them in). Trumpian rhetoric paints immigrants and migrants in a negative light which removes the human narrative from their story. It creates a sensationalized “us versus them” ideology for political gain. Some members of the Trump administration (and its supporters) may think saying someone is “dirty or poor” is not a big deal, but in the greater scheme of things, it is catastrophic.
How many more children have to die before we realize that something needs to change?