Lu: Implicitly Racist Policies

by Jessica Lu | 10/21/15 6:30pm

Each presidential election brings with it a series of political and personal controversies surrounding the candidates, and the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination has been no different. Outrageous statements from the many, many individuals running have dominated news headlines for months. When you look at the actual policies that these politicians are proposing, however, you find that they are still ridiculous. Some proposals, like eliminating birthright citizenship, are downright racist. Some have defended these policies advocated by Republican presidential candidates like Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal by saying they are not explicitly about race, and thus cannot be considered racist. This is patently false and an astoundingly myopic view of how policies can influence the daily lives of individuals. When you propose policies that oppress, disenfranchise and target a specific racial group, that is racist.

Both our courts and our legislatures have found that any law leading to discrimination — even unintentional — is unlawful. Section 804(a) of the Fair Housing Act, for example, prohibits not just intentionally discriminatory actions pertaining to housing, but also those leading to an impermissible and unjustified result. Even if these candidates are not openly saying, “deport all the Mexicans,” calling for the deportation of undocumented immigrants — who are overwhelmingly Latino — is discriminatory. It is the effect that matters, not only the alleged intent. Trump even admits that, in calling for an end to birthright citizenship — which offers citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants born in the United States — he seeks to eliminate a “magnet for illegal immigration.” In doing so, he plans to make it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for the children of Latino immigrants, and the children of all immigrants, to acquire citizenship. No, there is nothing inherently racialized in the two words “birthright citizenship.” But we all know about whom Trump is talking — undocumented immigrants, who are overwhelmingly people of color.

Moreover, if you look at the larger implications, the effect of eliminating birthright citizenship is even more discriminatory as it jeopardizes the overall representation and enfranchisement of people of color in the United States. Limiting the number of individuals who may receive citizenship also means limiting who will be able to vote in future elections. Statistics show that people of color often side with Democrats — so not only is eradicating birthright citizenship a way to discriminate against people of color, it is also a political ploy that helps to protect the Republican party from the effect of America’s shifting demographics. These actions are, at their core, racist.

Trump told Fox Business Network host Stuart Varney on Tuesday that he would “absolutely” consider the suspension of particular passports and the closing of mosques in order to fight the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL — similar to measures recently adopted in England that Trump believes are “great.” Such measures undoubtedly target Muslims, and only Muslims, and the closing of mosques is a direct infringement on the right to practice one’s own religion. In essence, these actions particularly target those who fit some stereotypical Western idea of what Muslims are “supposed” to look like, regardless of their actual faith — especially after the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, where attempts to screen for potential terrorists resulted in incredibly prejudiced behaviors from the Transportation Security Administration. Closing mosques and suspending passports is not a rational approach to fighting ISIS. It is an open attempt to discriminate against and disadvantage Muslims.

The problem with overlooking these bigoted policies is that it normalizes institutional racism. Deporting undocumented Latino immigrants, depriving Muslims of their right to freely practice their religion and preventing people of color from securing birthright citizenship all lead to deeply discriminatory effects and the institutionalization of racism. Codifying legislation with a discriminatory effect makes our government a racist one — we become a country that deprives people of color of their religion, their citizenship and their livelihoods. Some may not say that is what we are doing, but if we put Donald Trump in the White House, that is most certainly what we will do.