Posted by Ryan Suto on January 12, 2018 in Blog

Yesterday, Americans were given a unique dichotomy in how leaders of both major parties engage in identity politics. Broader than any single bill or policy, the contrast presents a central choice regarding how we see ourselves and each other.

At a weekly news conference Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi questioned why “five white guys” were in charge of deciding the fate of America’s DREAMers, pointing out a lack of involvement of those groups directly impacted by any enacted legislation on DACA. The comment was unusual for Pelosi and was met with pushback by Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer, one of the implicated white men who later defended the sincerity of their efforts. Pelosi’s office later added that the comment was meant to emphasize not who was present in the room, but who was absent from it.

On the other side of the political aisle, CNN reported that President Donald Trump, in a private meeting with lawmakers, asked why proposed immigration policies allow people from “shithole countries” into the U.S., questioning why “we want people from Haiti and more Africans in the US.” CNN further reported that the president added “that the US should get more people from countries like Norway.” The White House chose not to deny the President made such statements. Trump’s preference for “countries like Norway” over “Haiti and more Africans” is telling, of course. This is just another episode in the trail of racist statements and policies from Trump: including launching his campaign with bigoted views of Mexicans, multiple attempts to ban refugees, Arabs, and Muslims from entering the US, habitual hesitation to condemn white supremacists, removing various countries from TPS, targeting individuals born abroad for revocation of citizenship, and even sending immigration officials to raid 7-Eleven stores in search of individuals eligible for deportation.

This is not all about Trump, unfortunately. A whitelash has followed the presidency of Barack Obama and a general increasing diversity in America, which includes: Birtherism, the Tea Party movement, a historic proliferation of voting restrictions, and the empowerment of white supremacists as evidenced by the violent march on Charlottesville, VA in August of last year.

Thus, these two statements on immigration by Pelosi and Trump, made by leaders of their parties on the same day, offer Americans two different versions of ourselves: one that seeks power in diversity and the other that seeks to impose power on the diverse.

As Americans, we can continue down Trump’s preferred path of excluding ‘others’ from the accepted conception of what it means to be American. We can continue to build walls, close doors, and sneer at those beyond our neighborhoods and beyond our borders. This path involves codified racism, the destruction of lives, the trampling of human rights, and a rebuke of the cultural and economic trends of globalization of the last century.

Or, we can choose to foster an American identity which acknowledges and understands our past and present flaws, inviting those willing to join us in the pursuit of securing all equal voice and opportunity under the law and in society. In challenging each other to expose and reject formalized injustice and inequality, we can chart a responsible and sustainable course in our globalized world as a diverse and accepting America.

This decision is not a passive one, and must be made consciously, both in the streets and the voting booth. Those who reject the nativist, white supremacist-inspired isolation led by the current White House took important steps in 2017 such as airport protests against Muslim Bans, coordinated advocacy for a clean DREAM Act, and the defeat of Roy Moore--all representing the move away from America’s Trumpian course. However, to move the weight of a nation toward inclusivity in 2018 and beyond, fatigue and apathy must give way to activated moral conviction in a pluralistic and just America.