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Why Trump’s Language Reveals His Racist Attitudes

Campaign 2016 Elections Featured Post Politics Top News

Why Trump’s Language Reveals His Racist Attitudes

Latinos for Trump

It’s easy to caricaturize a living, breathing caricature, which is why Donald Trump impersonations are so simple to do. Just pucker your lips, exude insecurity, whine about the media, and boast that you grab women by the genitals. Oh, and don’t forget to talk about “the blacks,” “the Hispanics” and “the Muslims,” and how much they all love you. Because why shout “I’m a racist” explicitly when you can let more subtle language do the talking for you?

“I have a great relationship with the blacks,” Trump said back in 2011, a statement that wasn’t true then and is comically off-base now. “I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks.”

“We’re going to have great relationships with the Hispanics,” he said after an Indiana primary win in February. “The Hispanics have been so incredible to me.”

Trump’s use of the definite article—“the”—in discussing racial and religious minorities, and other historically marginalized groups, tells us all we need to know about how he views them. It’s a rhetorical way of separating “us” from “them,” a clear means of dividing the “regular” white people from all “the others.”

“I love the Muslims,” Trump told CNN last year—which… give us an effing break already. “I think they’re great people.”

Writing at Quartz, linguist Lynne Murphy takes apart Trump’s use of “the” when speaking of black people and others, noting that it turns groups of individuals into faceless monoliths. Consider it a sort of stripping away of humanity that turns millions of people who happen to share some common traits into an “undifferentiated whole.”

“‘The’ makes the group seem like it’s a large, uniform mass, rather than a diverse group of individuals,” Murphy writes. “This is the key to ‘othering’: treating people from another group as less human than one’s own group. The Nazis did it when they talked about die Juden (‘the Jews’). Homophobes do it when they talk about ‘the gays.’”

(For example, homophobe Donald Trump, just days after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, told a crowd, “Ask the gays what they think and what they do, in, not only Saudi Arabia, but many of these countries, and then you tell me: Who’s your friend, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?”)

“There’s this distancing effect, like they’re over there,” Eric Acton, a linguist at Eastern Michigan University, told Business Insider. “They’re signaling they’re not part of it—they’re distancing themselves from it.”

“It’s drawing a circle around a certain group of people,” University of Toronto linguist Sali Tagliamonte told the outlet. “It’s a very straight-jacketing kind of expression. It’s a very delineating thing that could make members of that group think they’re being pigeonholed.”

Atlantic contributor David A. Graham notes that when Trump speaks to his base—which is almost solely white—he dispenses with “the” and talks in terms of “we.” He tells crowds, “We’re going to make America great again.” At the RNC, he opened his speech by stating, “We’re gonna win, we’re gonna win so big!” At a rally last week in Pennsylvania, he told the assembled faithful, “We’re going to beat the system, and we’re going to un-rig the system.” Graham points to this quote, which is just bursting with “we”:

“We’re going to bring back our jobs, and we’re going to save our jobs, and people are going to have great jobs again, and this country, which is very, very divided in so many different ways, is going to become one beautiful loving country, and we’re going to love each other, we’re going to cherish each other and take care of each other, and we’re going to have great economic development and we’re not going to let other countries take it away from us, because that’s what’s been happening for far too many years and we’re not going to do it anymore.”

“Part of Trump’s rhetorical power is his supercharged used of ‘we,’ a method that persuades people across the country that they are part of a larger movement, and somehow share with Trump his aura of wealth and luxury. (It’s the same technique he’s used to sell real estate for years.),” Graham writes. But when Trump refers to minorities not as “we” but “the,” it’s an indicator “that for Trump, blacks and Hispanics aren’t part of ‘we’—’they’ constitute separate groups.”

It also shows that when Trump talks about “the blacks” and “the gays” and “the Muslims,” he isn’t really talking to those groups. He’s talking to “us”—the angry, minority-mistrusting whites who make up his base.

“Also, when Trump describes any group of people, he always describes them as if their name was a category on a PornTube site,” Desus Nice, one half of the comedy duo behind the podcast Bodega Boys, told Buzzfeed.

Murphy notes that when Hillary Clinton uses the definite article, she does so in a completely dissimilar fashion. “The difference is that when Clinton talks about the Russians, the Syrians, the Iranians, and the Kurds, she’s talking about governments or military groups, not everyone of that particular nationality.”

The Internet has, of course, noticed Trump’s racist phrasing, to go along with all the other racist aspects of his campaign. #TheAfricanAmericans hashtag, and related tweets, appeared on Twitter to point out how ridiculous the term sounds every time it leaves Trump’s mouth.

At some point along the way in his campaign, someone on Donald Trump’s team seems to have given him a little advice on this. But it was the wrong advice. Now, instead of dropping “the” before he discusses the abysmal lives and futures of minorities—because Trump would have us believe minorities live in hellscapes where rainy days mean bullets are falling from the sky—the candidate has switched out “African American” for “black” and “Latino” for “Hispanic,” presumably because he thinks it’s more respectful.

“They have no education, they have no jobs,” Trump said at the end of Wednesday night’s debate. “I will do more for African Americans and Latinos than she can ever do in ten lifetimes. All she has done is talk to the African Americans and to the Latinos.”

Maybe you should talk to some of the African Americans and the Latinos, Trump. They’d tell you that you’re still getting it terribly, offensively wrong.

Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Photo: A person holds a sign reading ‘Latinos for Trump’ on the third day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 20, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri




  1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth October 25, 2016

    “I have a great relationship with the blacks,” Trump said back in 2011, a statement that wasn’t true then and is comically off-base now. “I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks.”

    “We’re going to have great relationships with the Hispanics,” he said after an Indiana primary win in February. “The Hispanics have been so incredible to me.”

    These two quotes from Trump are synonymous with “…Some of my best friends are (Substitute your favorite group to ingratiate yourself with)”.

    Being stiff, aloof, and officious come easily to Donald.

    1. idamag October 26, 2016

      See if you can find the instance where two Latinas went to a trump rally. They were wearing T-shirts that said, “Latinas Contra Trump.” They expected to be turned away, instead, the Trump kids used them for a photo shoot.

      1. KDJ54 October 26, 2016

        Just go to the Daily Kos, they have the story there. Its hilarious.

      2. Dominick Vila October 26, 2016

        Maybe the Trump kids flunked Spanish in high school…

  2. Dominick Vila October 26, 2016

    The use of “the” to divide ethnic and cultural groups from the white majority is not an accident, and it is well understand, and received, by Trump’s supporters. Trump is not popular because of his policy proposals, or because anyone really believes that the King of bankruptcies, a man that has made a fortune off the misery of others, can really fix any of the socio-economic issues that must be addressed and corrected in years to come. He is popular because of his proposal to build a wall along our Southern border, and make Mexico pay for it. He is popular because of his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the USA. He is popular because of his not so subtle put downs when he talks about African Americans. He is popular because he personifies hatred and prejudice, and has managed to convince millions of Americans that all our problems are caused by the most marginalized and impoverished members of our society. He is using the same tactics that Hitler, Lenin, and most dictators have used to control the masses, ignoring that in a country as diverse as ours, his incendiary rhetoric only guarantees defeat.

  3. FireBaron October 26, 2016

    Well, considering that Teflon Donnie is attempting to appeal to the same people who believed every utterance out of Sarah Palin, I am not surprised by the use of “THE” and “WE” in his speeches. For whatever reason, these folks are willing to continually support candidates who do not have their best interests at heart. Oh, they talk the populist talk but that is it. While they sound sincere while doing so, when pressed they have no idea how to deliver what they claim they are in favor of. Often they do not really know the topic well enough to understand what they are claiming and what people believe the results will be.
    Given Teflon Donnie’s history of personal victimhood, if anything he promised did not come to pass he would always claim “Congress refused to support this.” or “We tried to pass it but the courts told us not to.” Considering the last GOP President had a rubber-stamp Congress, a Teflon Donnie victory would likely maintain that majority, so the first claim would fall flat. As for the second, the Courts would not return a decision on a bill before it is voted into law, and only then if someone with Standing brought it through the system. Given Donnie’s complete and total lack of knowledge about how our government actually works (i.e. not “I pay politicians for results”), even if the majority of voters were to select him, his administration would probably go down in history as worse than Buchannan’s!

  4. Moshulu October 26, 2016

    When it comes to a certain group of people they will believe anything, they believed Palin, Romney, and now Trump. The group I’m speaking of is the poor, unemployed Appalachians. Recently I traveled that way again to see for myself, as with President Obama, mostly during his second run when I went through Appalachia, the bumper stickers were all “Romney/Ryan,” and, “Anybody but Obama.” This time is “Trump/Pence,” and “Hillary for Prison,” bumper stickers. I stopped and talked to a group of guys, unemployed, hanging out, asked them the problem and right off they said all “the blacks and hispanics” were taking the jobs, these guys were coal miners. After we talked I stayed in the area two more days, found my way to three coal mines, all shut down, not one black or hispanic working there, but hey, that’s what Trump told them.

    1. jmprint October 26, 2016

      All while they sit around and get their government check. They don’t really care to work, because if they did they would get in involved with doing other things, hispanics will do any job to make ends meet.

  5. Jon October 26, 2016

    Trump’s favorite person is The Donald who sits at the center of the universe. He seems to like the way “The” sets him apart from everyone else. He is well aware of the defining function of “The” and uses it effectively to deliver his message of them, those who are different from us, or the others. He may lack intellect but he knows how to play to hatred, fear, and prejudice.

  6. dianne.dugger November 10, 2016

    One yr have passed since I decided to leave my previous work and that decision was a lifechanger for me… I started to work over internet, over a site I found over internet, for several hours each day, and I profit now much more than i did on my office work… My pay-check for last month was for 9 thousand dollars… The best thing about this gig is that i have more time for my kids… http://secure38.com


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