Presidential Candidates Making Gains by Exploiting the Ugly Ignorance of Bigotry


This article appeared in the October 2015 issue of the print edition of THE TORCH as a part of the center spread feature titled “Blind to Our Own Bigotry.”

In the past year and a half, we have seen many brutal attacks on minorities in America. Whether it is the more recent events of Sandra Bland being yanked out of her car or Ahmed Mohammad being handcuffed for brilliantly building a clock, there is no denying the blatant racism and bigotry that still goes on in our country.

Citizens ask, “Is racism getting worse? Is the media covering these incidents more often just to stir up tension and to get good ratings?”

It’s a common misconception that these extreme acts of abuse are something of the past and that they couldn’t be real in present day society. Could non-American, non-Anglo, non-Christian people really continue to be treated so poorly because they are in an ever-growing minority?

There is some shocking news on rampant bigotry in the United States. During GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s town hall meeting on Sept. 17, an attendee made the statement: “We have a problem in this country: it’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one. You know he’s not even an American. We have training camps growing where they want to kill us.” To which Donald Trump responded, “We are going to be looking at a lot of different things, and a lot of people are saying that, and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.”

Trump not only ignored the Islamophobia at hand, he also didn’t correct the false statement that Obama is Muslim and isn’t an American. By omission, Trump went out of his way to give credence to the speaker’s suggestion that being Muslim is a “problem.”

Muslim people continue to face extreme hatred on a day to day basis because of ignorant perceptions fueled by such comments. Since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Trump and his ilk of fear-mongering, race-baiting politicians have successfully made people of the Islamic faith the latest “Boogieman” that Americans must fear. The same politicians continue to capitalize on this fear with every action of ISIS, the extremist militant group and self-proclaimed Islamic state which is led by and mainly composed of Sunni Arabs from Iraq and Syria. These politicians who are looking to exploit the ignorant bigotry that they have helped to create in their supporters never point out that ISIS and similar groups make up a miniscule percentage of the Muslim population world-wide and do not represent the thinking of all people of the Islamic faith.

Dr. Ben Carson, another Republican candidate, followed suit with his two cents by stating on Sept. 20 that the Muslim faith is incompatible with the Constitution and that he could not support a Muslim for president of the United States. “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that,” Carson said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

One might expect that in a progressive society, such blatant bigotry from people seeking the office of the presidency would cause their polling numbers to drop considerably. However, if anything, these statements saw both Trump’s and Carson’s popularities with their base increase. According to CNN, “The retired neurosurgeon [Carson] said he raised $1 million within 24 hours following the CNN debate on Sept. 16, and that donations have poured in after remarks he made over the weekend about Islam and the presidency.”

Exactly how toxic and dangerous are these views? A number of Republican presidential candidates have suggested automatic citizenship should be denied to American-born children of undocumented immigrants, a clear violation the 14th amendment. And in Austin, Texas, last week, the very question played out in federal court when Mexican families who are in the U.S. illegally brought suit against the state of Texas for denying birth certificates to their children who were born in Texas, as reported by NPR’s John Burnett.

To brush up on our basic civics lessons, the 14th amendment guarantees U.S. citizenship to anyone born or naturalized in the United States. Apparently, in Texas however, it is fine to ignore the Constitution in the name of ignorance and bigotry.

These individual instances and the numerous others similar to them that fill our newscasts and newspapers with ever-increasing frequency only serve to show that the United States, as a country, is failing to live up to the ideals on which it was founded. Despite the gains over the past 50 years we as a country have made in the way of Civil Rights, a way too large percentage of our citizenry harbors racist and bigoted sentiments. Even more depressing is that we have those who lead, or are looking to lead, our country feeding into and capitalizing on those racist and bigoted sentiments. They should be ashamed of themselves. And, we should be ashamed of ourselves to continue to give these candidacies any semblance of credence.