This Is What ‘Peaceful Ethnic Cleansing’ Looks Like

White supremacists like Richard Spencer advocate for ‘peaceful ethnic cleansing’ of people of color. President Trump’s policies serve that objective.
Ever Castillo, left, and his family, immigrants from Honduras, are escorted back across the border by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents Thursday, June 21, 2018, in Hildalgo, Texas. The parents were told they would be separated from their children and voluntarily crossed back to Mexico after trying to seek asylum in the United States. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Ever Castillo, left, and his family, immigrants from Honduras, are escorted back across the border by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents Thursday, June 21, 2018, in Hildalgo, Texas. The parents were told they would be separated from their children and voluntarily crossed back to Mexico after trying to seek asylum in the United States. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Dr. Louie Dean Valencia-García is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right and Assistant Professor of Digital History at Texas State University

In September, reports hit major news outlets that, Bee Love Slater, a transgender woman of color, was found ‘burned beyond recognition’—the eighteenth transgender woman murdered in the US this year. The veneer of tolerance, the bare-minimum for a functioning democracy, has eroded. There has since been another and potentially another such incident.

In 2016, alt-right leader Richard Spencer declared that the goal of his movement, establishing a white ethnostate, would require ‘peaceful ethnic cleansing’. One of Spencer’s former collaborators, Jason Reza Jorjani, a once lecturer at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, was even caught on video describing a future where concentration camps would be spread across Europe. Decades of rhetoric projecting a ‘minority-majority’ society has propelled anxious right-wingers into being ‘black pilled’ into believing there is no hope for a dying white race without radical action. The far-right fears a pluralistic American society.

Pluralism is not the enemy of democracy; indeed, it is necessary to democracy. However, xenophobia, queerphobia, nationalism, sexism, ableism, and anti-liberalism certainly are antithetical to democracy. Today, more than 1000 hate groups are currently active in the United States. The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been actively rounding-up migrants in raids that eerily mirror the actions of the Nazi Gestapo. Moreover, since 2013, there have been at least fifty-two threats or acts violence by Trump supporters reported—against many people of color. This is not surprising given the new reporting that in March Trump suggested the US military ‘shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down’.

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Today, there are concentration camps across the US detaining refugees. Children are being kept in cages. It is becoming clear that current US policies, even if not intentionally, are moving us to a world that would allow for ‘peaceful ethnic cleansing’ to occur. This is to say nothing about the expulsion of the Rohingya people from Myanmar, the planned detention of Muslims in India and those already occurring in China—all cases that would not be considered peaceful under any circumstances.

If we take Richard Spencer at his word, one must wonder what would this ‘peaceful ethnic cleansing’ look like? It would probably be enacted in two ways: 1) through the distortion of law and other pseudo-legal channels or 2) simply by making life so unbearable for people of color, and those deemed ‘degenerate’, that they would simply ‘self-deport’.

In 2017, the Trump administration declined to sign a United Nations resolution condemning Nazism due to a belief that it called for ‘unacceptable limits on the fundamental freedom of expression’. Historically, ethnic cleansing has not just meant killing people because of their ethnicity, but also eliminating so-called ‘degenerates’—including queer people, people with disabilities and liberals. Just this past Tuesday, Trump decried the ‘globalists’—a spurious term often used to in far-right circles as a stand-in for Jews—and celebrated American nationalism.

As the country prepares for a formal impeachment inquiry into the Trump administration’s July actions, withholding congressionally mandated funds designated for Ukraine while requesting that country’s president investigate US presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son’s business dealings in that country, without any evidence of wrongdoing, it is helpful to also remember the context of what happened in the month between July and September.

An August of Bigotry

In August 2019, a killer targeted Latinos at a Wal-Mart in El Paso, Texas. The attack was followed by a shooting in Dayton, Ohio. Days later, in Norway, a twenty-two-year-old attacked a mosque. Also that month, an eighteen-year-old in Ohio also reportedly stockpiled 25 guns and 10000 rounds of ammunition in order to attack a Planned Parenthood clinic and a gay bar.

August was also the month in which an ICE prison guard drove a truck into a group of Jewish protesters. Trump used anti-Semitic tropes to describe Jews. The US Department of Justice circulated links to anti-Semitic websites to federal judges. The Washington Post reported evangelical Christians are embracing antisemitism. High school students in California were recorded giving a Nazi salute.

Still, in August, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of María Soto, born in Los Angeles in 1971, who was denied a passport. The Trump administration told her that her birth certificate was ‘insufficient’. Sick children, many with HIV, cancer, cystic fibrosis and cerebral palsy were told ‘they must leave the country or be put in the hands of ICE,’ only to be reversed after public pressure. New restrictions were put in place that would make it more difficult for the children of Americans abroad to get citizenship. Money intended for disaster aid was re-appropriated to build a wall at the US-Mexico border to keep ‘illegals’ out. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Hispanic citizens are being denied renewal of their passports—being told their documentation is not sufficient.

This is to say nothing of the August reports that the FBI ranked ‘black identity extremists’ as a bigger threat than both Al-Qaeda and white supremacists. Which is the same month, a Texas police officer roped a black man and led him down a Houston street while on horseback. We are living in a world where black people are considered a threat for trying to advocate for themselves in a country that imprisons them disproportionately. Parents raise their kids to be afraid of ‘peace’ officers.

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An Erosion of Government

The Trump administration has attempted to regulate women’s bodies — a known trope under Nazi Germany. Republicans even announced they wanted to label anti-fascists ‘domestic terrorists’. Earlier this year, Twitter decided not to auto-ban neo-Nazis because Republican politicians would potentially get banned in such a dragnet along with them.

The historian Ian Kershaw wrote ‘the Hitler regime was inimical to a rational order of government and administration. Its hallmark was systemlessness, administrative and governmental disorder, the erosion of clear patterns of government, however despotic’. Is this not a perfect description of the Trump administration? Trump, in all his disorder has ceded authority to those around him, like his senior policy advisor, Stephen Miller.

While enrolled in a doctoral program at Duke University, Richard Spencer claims to have mentored Miller when the two men participated in Duke’s Conservative Union. They even organized a debate in 2007 on immigration between Peter Brimelow, the founder of the white supremacist website VDARE, and University of Oregon journalism professor Peter Laufer, who defended liberal immigration policies.

Stephen Miller reportedly helped to draft the executive order that attempted to ban Muslims from entering the US. Miller is accused of derailing negotiations leading to the government shutdown, because he disliked the DACA programme, which would give nearly 800,000 kids a pathway to citizenship. Miller, if nothing else, certainly has helped push policies that would make his former mentor’s goal of ‘peaceful ethnic cleansing’ possible.

And what does having a government which considers antifascist groups a terrorist threat say about that government? As a country, the United States justly stood against fascism during the Second World War. Being against fascism should not be controversial. A president who is both corrupt and promoting this world view must be impeached and convicted.

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Opinion // Donald Trump / Immigration / White Supremacy