Recalling Dr. King’s Legacy in the Age of Trump

By Dr. Sharlene Sinegal-DeCuir
Data News Weekly Contributor

Donald Trump has been president for approximately two years now. Within those two years the White House has endured controversy after controversy. It is almost as though we as Americans are becoming numb to the outlandish things President Trump is doing with our nation. His promise to “Make America Great Again,” has done nothing of the sort. Instead, most Americans outside of his political base often agree that his policies and tactics are “Making America Hate Again.” The hate that is felt in America today is reminiscent of a time when America was divided racially, socially, culturally and economically between Blacks and Whites. A time when Blacks were the stepchildren of America and the struggle to claim the American Dream was truly a nightmare. Today that nightmare belongs to another class of brown minorities who strive to obtain the American Dream and the dream of Martin Luther King Jr.

What is stopping the dream of many Hispanic immigrants are the policies that Trump has adopted since being in office. He has made it increasingly hard for immigrants from certain parts of the world to legally enter into the United States, labeling them “undesirables.” President Trump fails to remember the history of this nation and the fact that the United States was created by undesirables and immigrants.

One of Trump’s biggest campaign promises to his political base is his vow to build a wall along the country’s southernmost border. And that promise is now at the center of the longest government shutdown in the history of our nation. We have heard the rhetoric that America is experiencing a humanitarian and national security crisis and that the wall will solve these issues. But what is the wall really about? Here is what one of my students had to say, “My thoughts about the wall is that it is a physical representation of White Supremacy, to “keep out” people in pursuit of the American Dream. The promise of this wall being built was a part of Trump’s platform to appease the poor White working class, who are so ignorant about so many things…actually believing the coal industry is coming back and that the culprit of their demise is the immigrant.” Tiberni Hall, Xavier University of Louisiana.

President Trump would like Americans to think that all Hispanic immigrants are criminals who mean us harm. His use of scare tactics is dangerous, demining, and problematic. Many of the same scare tactics were used to dehumanize African-Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. African-Americans were seen as vagrants, rapist, criminals, and a threat to the “majority” way of life. As a result, many Black people lost their lives and some families still suffer the legacy of that loss.

Sergio Vasquez, Assistant Program Director for Duchesne House for Volunteers, and resident of New Orleans who arrived in the United States 45 years after crossing the border at the age of 6 says, “The current administration’s attack on immigrants as a threat to American values is problematic at best and dehumanizing at worst. We crossed without incident and were reunited with our family on the other side of the San Diego border. None of us are rapists, drug dealers, murderers, or reprobates. My brother is now a sergeant in the Los Angeles Police Department, my sister an educational consultant, traveling around the country, and I have served as teacher and campus minister in Catholic schools.” Sergio and his family are examples of what immigrants strive to do in America. Most immigrants are not entering America to destroy it, they are entering America for opportunity. Opportunity to be educated, to live free of harm, and to make something of themselves, to be as Trump claims himself to be, “a self-made man.”

A 2004 graduation speech given by Trump at Wagner College in New York has surfaced on social media platforms, in which Trump tells the graduates, “Never give up, don’t allow it to happen, if there is a concrete wall in front of you, go through it, go over it, go around it, but get to the other side of that wall.” Surely these are words of hope and inspiration for anyone wanting to obtain the American Dream. So, will a wall stop immigrants? Will $5.7 billion in tax money needed to build the wall help or hinder America, couldn’t we use those funds for a better cause. Here’s a thought, how about we invest that money back into the American economy, perhaps we pay our educators more or here’s a thought… increase minimum wage.

How can we keep Dr. King’s legacy alive today, according to Dr. Raphael Cassimere Jr. who served as the New Orleans NAACP Youth Council President during the Civil Rights Movement? “People of all races who believe in the ideas of the nation must continue to protest, organize, and fight again as we did decades earlier?” Dr. King’s legacy lives as his dream for America is renewed in this current national struggle.

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