It Tolls for Thee: The Dangers of Staying Silent About Trump’s Mexico-Bashing

May 12, 2016
8:33 AM


Whether he’s accusing Mexicans of being “rapists” and “criminals,” or vowing to build a border wall that Mexico will pay for, or threatening to cut off remittances to Mexico, Donald Trump has managed to take the hallowed American tradition of Mexico-bashing to a whole new low.

Given the anti-Mexican tone of his campaign, I simply presumed that any self-respecting Mexican American with a functioning brain would instinctively recoil from his candidacy. Much to my surprise, however, I am discovering that there are actually some Mexican Americans out there who support Donald Trump’s candidacy. While I am admittedly at a loss to fully explain this phenomenon, the anecdotal evidence I have managed to collect suggests that Mexican Americans who support Trump have convinced themselves that Trump is directing his attacks exclusively at Mexican immigrants and not on U.S. citizens of Mexican descent.

Case in point:

What these Mexican Americans have apparently failed to understand, however, is that Trump is not just peddling anti-Mexican immigrant sentiment. He’s peddling anti-Mexican sentiment in the broadest sense of the word Mexican, and this expansive rendering of the word includes Mexican Americans. And while Trump-supporting Mexican Americans may find some form of dubious comfort in recognizing distinctions between themselves and other segments of the larger ethnic Mexican population, a spate of recent incidents have demonstrated that Trump’s supporters clearly recognize the broader application of Trump’s anti-Mexican rhetoric, and aren’t about to trouble themselves with cumbersome distinctions.

In Wisconsin, Indiana, and Iowa, for example, Mexican American high school students (as well as other Latinos) have been taunted on several occasions at school athletic events with Trump’s “build the wall” chant or the “Trump, Trump, Trump” chant. In August, Jorge Ramos, a prominent Mexican American journalist, was ejected from a Trump press conference only to be confronted by an angry Trump supporter who advised him to “Get out of my country.” In March, Jacinta González, a Mexican American activist protesting a Trump event in Maricopa County, was detained and transferred to immigration custody despite being a U.S. citizen. As González later explained in an interview with PRI, she was singled out for special treatment because of her surname. As these and other similar incidents appear to demonstrate, to many Trump supporters, any version of Mexican will do.

Even if Trump and his rabble were the discerning types, and even if they were inclined to focus their attacks on Mexican immigrants, it really shouldn’t matter. Mexican Americans ultimately have a moral imperative to stand unequivocally with any segment of the ethnic Mexican population being unfairly targeted, for whatever reason, no matter how marginalized or vilified that segment happens to be. John Donne perhaps said it best when he advised that we should “never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”