American racism was on full and unapologetic display at President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina, Wednesday night, as thousands of his supporters chanted, “Send her back!” when Trump mentioned Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar.
One of the four congresswomen of color that Trump said should “go back” to their ancestral countries earlier this week, the Minnesota lawmaker has quickly become a focal point in the president’s re-election strategy of naked nativism.
According to The Washington Post, Trump stood silent for 13 full seconds, reveling in the sound of this new rallying cry — reminiscent of the “Lock her up!” chants from 2016, as he battled Hillary Clinton for the presidency.
But this chanting is different. Where the anti-Clinton sentiment was centered on perceived corruption, the desire to send Omar — a United States citizen and elected official — back to Somalia is based on Trump supporters’ disagreement with her politics and, undoubtedly, a disdain for her skin color.
Trump spent several minutes bashing the Democrat, the Post reported, falsely claiming that Omar supporter al-Qaeda and referencing her previous remark on 9/11, saying she “minimized the September 11 attacks on our homeland.”
“She looks down with contempt on hard-working Americans, saying that ‘ignorance is pervasive in many parts of this country,’” the president said, which finally spurred the chanting.
Criticism over the chant came from across the political spectrum.
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) called the chants “vile,” “racist” and “cowardly”, and her fellow candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said Trump is “stoking the most despicable and disturbing currents in our society.”
Bishop Talbert Swan, a pastor and leader of the NAACP in Springfield, Mass., tweeted: “This is not cute, witty, or benign. This is malignant, dangerous, violent, white supremacist hatred targeting a sitting member of Congress, @IlhanMN, a Black woman, a Muslim. This vitriolic racist, antipathy puts her life in danger.”
Conservative voices joined in as well, some from relatively surprising corners of the internet.
Daily Wire reporter Ryan Saavedra wrote, “Like it or not, Omar is a U.S. Citizen and you can’t deport a U.S. citizen.” It’s fine to be angry with her, he said, but “threats of violence and acts of violence are never okay.”
Likewise, conservative radio personality Hugh Hewitt said “Send her back!” is a “terrible, nativist chant.
Former Illinois Republican congressman Joe Walsh tweeted: “'SEND HER BACK, SEND HER BACK,' is ugly. It’s ignorant. It’s dangerous. And it’s un-American. It’s flat out bigotry. And every Republican should condemn this bigotry immediately. Stop this now."
The Post noted that few elected Republicans offered comment on Wednesday night.
For her part, Omar responded with a quote of poet Maya Angelou: “You may shoot me with your words/ You may cut me with your eyes/ You may kill me with your hatefulness/ But still, like air, I’ll rise.”