Conservatives claim that members of a religious group are stockpiling weapons for a takeover of the United States and make them subjects of discrimination and violence, arson and protests. Muslims experience this persecution now, but Catholic Americans endured the same persecution a century ago when they lived in fear, many of them lynched. Formed by white supremacists after the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan was declared a “terrorist organization” by 1870, but by the 1920s, the group persecuted Jews and Catholics.
The United States has a long history of xenophobia: anyone who isn’t white and Christian can be the subject of ethnic and religious discrimination.
Europeans began their xenophobic march across the United States in the 17th century when they began their elimination of the indigenous peoples. By the time they finished, they had eradicated 95 percent of the native population and deported survivors to the most undesirable land they could find. Most Native Americans were denied U.S. citizenship until 1924, but not until 1940 were all the indigenous peoples of the U.S. considered citizens. Not all “Indians” were permitted to vote until 1948.
Anti-Jewish sentiment has existed in the U.S. since the 17th century, peaking in the years between the two world wars. Restrictions in the 1700s included bans from practicing law, medicine, etc. States had religious tests for public office, and some states prevented Jews from voting until the late 1800s. During the Civil War, General Ulysses S. Grant issued an order—immediately rescinded by President Abraham Lincoln—that expelled Jews from the areas in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Mississippi under his control. During the first half of the 20th century, Jews were excluded from “white Christian” jobs, social clubs, resort areas, and colleges.
As people in the America expanded, they brought black immigrants—legally until 1808 and illegally thereafter—to be unpaid labor. Initially, most people believed that these violent, amoral savages could be reformed only through Christian belief, and many still hold the same position.
Irish immigrating to the U.S. in the mid-19th century were called “white Negroes” and stereotyped as alcoholics, depicted like apes to insinuate that they were an “inferior race.” They were Catholics, but Protestants labeled them as pagans—immoral and demonic.
The railroad across much of the United States was built by Chinese labor, but later the nation passed the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act to keep out these laborers. The law stated that Chinese immigration “endangers the good order of certain localities” and led to California’s tax on the hiring of Chinese-American laborers and Oregon’s Chinese Massacre of 1887 in which an angry white mob killed 31 Chinese Americans.
Italian-American immigrants were seen as members of the Mafia. New Orleans acquitted 19 immigrants in 1890 after the police chief was killed, but a white mob attacked and killed 11 of the freed men. World War II led to arrests, interments, and travel restrictions against thousands of law-abiding Italian Americans.
The Oriental Exclusion Act of 1924 was passed to limit immigration from “non-white” countries.
Early drug laws were based on xenophobic beliefs. During the early 20th century, San Francisco banned opium smoking because of its popularity within the Chinese community, and El Paso (TX) made marijuana illegal as an excuse to search, detain and deport Mexican immigrants. Although restricted, other drugs such as heroin and cocaine have remained legal in the U.S.
California passed a law in 1913 to prevent Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and Korean immigrant farmers from owning land. Directed toward Japanese Americans, the law was supported by two Supreme Court cases and wasn’t lifted until for almost 40 years in 1952. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a 1942 executive order interred at least 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry, 62 percent of whom were U.S. citizens. Three Supreme Court cases upheld this order.
In Minoru Yasui v. U.S., Yasui fought a ruling that he was no longer a citizen because he had worked for the Japanese Consulate and learned the Japanese language. The Supreme Court case reinstated his citizenship, but Yasui was sent to an internment camp in Idaho. Gordon Hirabayashi was jailed for two years for missing curfew and failing to report to an internment camp. Fred Korematsu refused to go to an internment camp because he didn’t want to leave his Italian-American girlfriend. In his case the Supreme Court ruled that race did not factor into the internment of Japanese Americans.
Four decades later, legal historian Peter Irons found evidence that government officials had withheld documents from the Supreme Court stating that Japanese Americans posed no military threat to the U.S. In 1983, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated Korematsu’s conviction, one year before Yasui’s conviction was overturned, and three years before Hirabayashi’s conviction was overturned. In 1988, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act, apologizing for the internment and paying $20,000 to each internment survivor. That act was 44 years after the Supreme Court struck down Jim Crow laws in the South, ruling that the policy of “separate but equal” violated the Constitution.
Although German Americans comprise the largest identified ethnic group in the United States today, the two world wars brought out xenophobia with state laws against speaking German and the indefinite detention of 11,000 German Americans by executive order without trials or due process protections.
The 21st century has seen the targeting of Latinos by police who racially profile, harass, and brutalize Hispanics because of the growing fear of undocumented immigrants. In Maricopa County (AZ), for example, Latino drivers are stopped from four to nine times more than other drivers and detained for longer periods of time. County sheriff, Joe Arpaio, also consistently failed to investigate cases of sexual assault against Hispanic women.
Korematsu v. United States (1944) ruled that individual rights are not absolute and may be suppressed at will during wartime. The conservatives have created a permanent war for the United States, and, by so doing, destroying human rights. Xenophobia: Fear or prejudice against people, culture, ideologies, etc. from foreign lands. That’s the legacy of the United States; Donald Trump is building on that legacy with the support of Republicans who either outright support his xenophobic statements or say that they will support him for the GOP presidential candidate.
The Frankenstein party has been developing its monster of xenophobic members for decades as it developed their “Southern Strategy.” Until now, they have used coded language to appeal to their increasingly angry base, but Donald Trump discovered that he doesn’t need to use code in spewing his hate.
For decades, the GOP has played on the fear and anxiety of its white, evangelical, working-class base. Republicans shipped jobs overseas and made sure that wages stagnated before they decried the loss of the American Dream. The GOP succeeds by turning people against each other instead of fighting the real enemy—the profiteers of the top 1 percent. Only through a system of “divide and conquer” of racism, sexism, homophobia, class-prejudice, and xenophobia can the corporations and wealthy maintain their power.
The Koch brothers, along with other wealthy people, understand the success of fear. The tragedy of 9/11 by 19 people—15 of them from Saudi Arabia—started a war on the Muslims in the U.S., part of its culture since the 17th century. An important component of this war is the distribution of 28 million anti-Muslim CDs, costing over $15 million—funded by a shadow group funded by the Koch brothers.
The media promotes the fear of a Muslim terrorist-inspired mass shooting. This visual of this year’s mass shootings demonstrates how lacking in credibility this fear is.
The Christian-inspired killing of three people at a Planned Parenthood two weeks before the San Bernardino shooting has largely disappeared from the media, not because fewer people were killed but because it was not by a Muslim.
Frankenstein’s monster is now calling for ethnic cleansing—“the mass expulsion or killing of members of one ethnic or religious group in an area by those of another.” The conservatives started targeting Latinos as aliens, rapists, and criminals and then moved on to describe all members of the largest religion in the world as terrorists or terrorist sympathizers.
It’s like working for a large corporation. People who don’t fit into companies are likely to be isolated or fired so people can’t speak out against bullying and sexism. The answer to any resisters is that these are exceptional times and people will be forced to do extraordinary things to be safe.
The question is how far the GOP will let Trump go. He has started threatening to leave them if they aren’t “nice” to him. They need to hang on until he can no longer qualify as an independent candidate in many states. Meantime, the white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups are increasing in number and openly praising Trump.
William Daniel Johnson, chairman of the white supremacy group the American Freedom Party, called Trump “the real deal.” He claims that “virtually all pro-white nationalists are at least somewhat supportive of Donald Trump and most are even enthusiastic. …European Americans know they are the only group that can’t defend their own essential interests and their point of view.” The term “European Americans” is code for “white Christianity.” Trump is delivering the message of xenophobia to millions of people in the U.S., and other GOP politicians are supporting him.
Today is International Human Rights Day; its them is “Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always.” Today Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), GOP presidential candidate, voted with three other Republicans—Jim Sessions (AL), Thom Tillis (NC), and David Vitter (LA) against a proposal that would oppose using religious beliefs to deny people entry into the United States. Cruz’s vote is stronger than Trump’s rhetoric, but only Trump receives public disgust. Trump is not worse than the other candidates: he’s just noisier.