The Republicans are coming.
Most years, the California presidential primaries mean very little, because by June the candidates have already been chosen. This year is different. Our state primary could determine if Donald Trump obtains a majority of delegates before the convention.
Between now and June 7, Republicans will hear many campaign messages. There are some secondary issues in the Republican campaign: Does climate change actually exist? Should more Americans have assault rifles? But the big issue is race.
Ted Cruz and Trump are competing for the racist vote. Trump calls undocumented immigrants from Mexico “rapists.” And Cruz has praised Trump for these remarks.
But they have both outdone themselves in their hatred toward Muslims.
Cruz has tried to equate all Muslims with ISIS. He says it is “lunacy” to allow Syrian Muslim refugees into the United States. Trump says we need to get tough against Muslims, citing the unsubstantiated story that Gen. John J. Pershing shot 49 Philippine Muslim prisoners with bullets soaked in pigs’ blood.
I am generally a pretty cynical guy. But I am shocked, saddened and ashamed by this hate speech.
I am reminded of being 12 years old in the spring of 1963, and watching on TV the Birmingham, Ala., police using attack dogs, and then high-powered fire hoses, blowing peaceful black protesters down the street. I was horrified. These kids were demonstrating because their parents were not allowed to vote. I could not believe that adults would do this to kids. I was angry that this could happen in the country I loved and believed in.
Now, 42 years later, I, too, am sorry. Recently, I have been working with Muslim organizations around the country on a nationwide Habitat for Humanity project. The head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in California told me that, right now, things are worse for Muslims than after September 11. A few years ago, a CAIR study found that 50 percent of California’s Muslim youth reported social or verbal bullying at school.
Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, told me that her teenage children are totally fixated on the Republican primaries and debates because they want to find out “what is going to happen to them.” Understandably, American Muslims are afraid. As are Latinos, both citizens and undocumenteds.
We should not accept this hate speech in America. Just as it was important to stand up against racist Jim Crow policies, it is now important to take a stand against the hate speech of Trump and Cruz. We must reject their racist rhetoric in such overwhelming numbers that no one can ever think that they represent us.