“Lost in the shitstorm over “shithole” was another equally damning example of President Donald Trump’s blatant racism and sexism. It was an outward display of a mindset that in many ways has paved the way for the government shutdown we’re facing now.
Last week, NBC News reported that last fall, the president of the United States asked a career intelligence analyst “Where are you from?” She responded, “New York,” and that should have ended the conversation. It didn’t.
He asked again, and she responded, “Manhattan.”
For those who have initiated a similar conversation, if you ask twice and you don’t get the answer you are fishing for ― just drop it. Take a hint. We don’t want to go there with you.
Trump, clearly oblivious to this social cue, follows up and asks where “your people” are from.
Finally relenting, the analyst answered that her parents are Korean. At this point, Trump, through his ignorance, has robbed this woman of all the hard work, intellect and skill she has invested into her profession by placing some artificial value on her (and her family’s) ethnicity.
Where she or her parents are from has zero bearing on her job or value. It’s one thing if someone volunteers information about their culture, background, family and upbringing. But until they do, it’s none of your business and should have no role in how you judge, evaluate and view them as professionals or human beings.
Taking it even further, Trump somehow manages to combine sexism with racism by asking why the “pretty Korean lady” wasn’t negotiating with North Korea. The insane thing about this statement is that I’m 100 percent certain that in Trump’s mind, he was paying her a compliment.
What he did was demean and insult a woman who was simply trying to do her job.
Trump owes this “pretty Korean lady” an apology for his ignorant, racist and sexist comments. I don’t think Trump realizes or cares about the consequences that his tone, tenor and words have had in the lives of people who don’t look like him.
Pretty much my entire life, I’ve been asked (primarily by white people) the question that I imagine every “Asian-looking” person cringes at inside: “Where are you from?”
In most cases, I’m certain that the person asking this is not consciously discriminatory, but rather is just completely ignorant of how annoying this question is to people who look like me. Like the career intelligence analyst attempted to do with Trump, I answered the question by saying “New York” or “California” ― where I had spent my childhood and formative years. Inevitably comes the dreaded follow-up: “No, I mean what is your background? Chinese or Japanese?
The puzzled looks I would receive when I responded: “German and Italian” were priceless but also revealing. I simply did not fit into their preordained stereotypical worldviews.
My name is Kurt (German) Bardella (Italian), and I am adopted.
For most of you out there who ask this question of people who look or sound “different,” you’re probably just genuinely curious and mean no harm. You’re just trying to start conversation.
But the case of Trump and the career intelligence professional reveals something much more offensive. It was a glimpse into the racially charged worldview that Trump subscribes to, a worldview that has infected the Republican Party and now led us to a government shutdown.
It’s the same worldview that led to his vulgarly demeaning the lives of would-be immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and nations in Africa. It’s the same worldview that has him obsessed with building a border wall to keep “bad hombres” out of the United States. And it’s the same worldview that drove him to end DACA.
Trump and his Republican enablers are so fixated on enacting these outwardly racist policies that they are willing to preside over a government shutdown to get them.
The shutdown showdown unfolding right now is about much more than government funding. It is about two different portraits representing the American identity. The Trump-GOP viewpoint sees our country as one that is, first and foremost, Caucasian. The Democratic perspective sees a diverse nation of many cultures, backgrounds, languages and customs.
That’s what we are fighting about. It may be more politically expedient for Democrats to back down, but with our national identity hanging in the balance, this is the time to take a stand.
Kurt Bardella was born in Seoul, South Korea, and adopted by two Americans from Rochester, New York, when he was three months old. He currently lives in Arlington, Virginia.
One had only to listen to Senator Tom Cotton on “Meet the Press” yesterday to see how true Bardella’s commentary is. Cotton lied, obfuscated, and generally avoided answering Moderator Chuck Todd’s questions.
Then, he let loose with his biggest fabrication: that somehow legalizing the Dreamers and eventually allowing their parents to legally immigrate would “do damage” to the U.S. which would have to be “offset” by harsher, more restrictive immigration laws! So, in allowing the Dreamers, who are here doing great things for America, and somewhere down the road their parents, some of whom are also here and are also doing great things for America, to become part of our society is a justification for more racially-motivated restrictions on future immigration. What a total crock!
But it gives them legal status. That’s an amnesty, by adjusting their status from illegal to legal, no matter what you call it. It didn’t give money to build any new border barriers, only to repair past border barriers. It didn’t do anything to stop chain migration. Here’s what the president has been clear on. Here’s what I and so many Senate Republicans have been clear on: we’re willing to protect this population that is in the DACA program. If we do that, though, it’s going to have negative consequences: first, it’s going to lead to more illegal immigration with children. That’s why the security enforcement measures are so important. And second, it means that you’re going to create an entire new population, through chain migration, that can bring in more people into this country that’s not based on their skills and education and so forth. That’s why we have to address chain migration as well. That is a narrow and focused package that should have the support of both parties.
Meanwhile, on Meet the Press, GOP Latino leader Al Cardenas hit the nail on the head in charging Cotton and others in the GOP with a disturbing “lack of empathy” for Dreamers and other, particularly Hispanic, immigrants:
“Excuse me, that’s right. And you know, look, for the Republican Party the president had already tested DACA. The base seemed to be okay with it. Now that things have changed to the point where this bill passes, and it should, Democrats are going to take all the credit for DACA. And we’re taking none. Stupid politics. Number two, the second part that makes us stupid is the fact that no one in our party is saying, “Look, I’m not for this bill but I’ve got a lot of empathy for these million family.” Look, I can see why somebody would not be for this policy-wise. I don’t understand it. But I can respect it. But there’s no empathy. When I saw the secretary of homeland security in front of a Senate saying she’d never met a Dreamer. And yet she’s going to deport a million people, break up all these families. Where is the empathy in my party? People, you know the number one important thing in America when somebody’s asking for a presidential candidate’s support is, “Do you care…Does he care about me?” How do we tell 50 million people that we care about them when there’s not a single word of empathy about the fate of these million people.”
Here’s the complete transcript of “Meet the Press” from yesterday, which also included comments from Democratic Senator Dick Durbin and others. Check it out for yourself, if you didn’t see it.
Unlike Cotton and his restrictionist colleagues, I actually had “Dreamer-type” families come before me in Immigration Court. The kids eventually had obtained legal status, probably through marriage to a U.S. citizen, naturalized and petitioned for their parents.
Not only had the kids been successful, but the parents who were residing here were without exception good, hard-working, tax-paying “salt of the earth” folks. They had taken big-time risks to find a better life for their children, made big contributions to the U.S. by doing work that others were unavailable or unwilling to do, and asked little in return except to be allowed to live here in peace with their families.
Most will still working, even if they were beyond what we might call “retirement age.” They didn’t have fat pensions and big Social Security checks coming.
Many were providing essential services like child care, elder care, cleaning, cooking, fixing, or constructing. Just the type of folks our country really needs.
They weren’t “free loaders” as suggested by the likes of Cotton and his restrictionist buddies. Although I don’t remember that any were actually “rocket scientists,” they were doing the type of honest, important, basic work that America depends on for the overall success and prosperity of our society. Exactly the opposite of the “no-skill — no-good” picture painted by Cotton and the GOP restrictionists. I’d argue that our country probably has a need for more qualified health care and elder care workers than “rocket scientists” for which there is much more limited market! But, there is no reason se can’t have both with a sane immigration policy.