Fabiola Santiago

Skittles stunt shows Trump Jr. is a chip off the old prejudiced block

This screenshot shows the tweet posted on Monday by Donald Trump Jr. comparing Syrian refugees to a bowl of poisoned Skittles.
This screenshot shows the tweet posted on Monday by Donald Trump Jr. comparing Syrian refugees to a bowl of poisoned Skittles. AP

Donald Trump Jr. is not only the first-born son of the Republican presidential candidate. He’s also one of his top advisers. What Trump Jr. does or says matters — and his bowl of poisonous Skittles campaign meme is no joke.

It’s a blatant display of racism and xenophobia, a disgusting way to demonize and demean suffering Syrian refugees. Its offensiveness also adds to the accumulative stress felt by every unlucky group smeared by the Republican presidential candidate — Mexicans, immigrants, women, the disabled, and at a time of heightened racial tensions, African Americans.

You’ve got to hand it to them. The Trump camp knows how to tap into the worst of American culture and dish out the most macabre of results.

Miami son Trayvon Martin, 17, had gone out to buy Skittles when he met up with neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, who profiled the teenager as a robbery suspect, followed him against police dispatch advice, and killed him in an alleged struggle. Zimmerman was charged with murder, claimed self-defense, and was acquitted after an emotionally taxing trial.

Throughout, Zimmerman supporters and white supremacists filled the internet with memes featuring photos of Trayvon and jokes about Skittles: “Nobody Tastes the Rainbow on My Shift.” “Skittles Are to Die For.” “Skittles Salesman of the Year.”

It was the lowest of low behaviors. And now comes Trump’s son to communicate would-be President Trump’s refugee policy in terms appropriate only for the heartless: He tweeted a meme Monday night comparing Syrian refugees to “a bowl of Skittles” that could kill you.

“If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.”

It shouldn’t be surprising coming from the Trump camp.

Dehumanizing groups of people is the selling strategy of the Donald Trump political brand — and it helped him cinch the Republican nomination.

But with that stunt, Donald Trump Jr., a supposedly modern sophisticate who was to balance his father’s crude image, became the poster boy for the Ugly American.

“This image says it all,” he also tweeted. “Let’s end all the politically correct agenda that doesn’t put American first.”

He’s right about one thing. The Skittles tweet does say it all: Donald Trump Jr. is a chip off the old prejudiced block.

Like his father, he’s ignorant, prejudiced and entitled — characteristics that Donald Trump supporters have exhibited as well throughout the campaign.

The fancy suits don’t make the man. He’s a mini version of his pedantic, retrograde father.

And like his stepmother and her speech-writing staffer, he’s a plagiarist, too.

The demeaning meme is a riff off a similar comment tweeted out by Tea Party talk show host Joe Walsh, who didn’t seem to mind too much the copying of his racist thought. Birds of a feather. At least Walsh knew enough to capitalize a brand name and write with better grammar.

The photograph Trump Jr. used of the Skittles piled into a snow white bowl is also stolen, taken without permission in violation of copyright law from its creator, David Kittos, a London-based photographer. It’s particularly hideous usage because Kittos was once a refugee who fled the war in Cyprus. He told the BBC that he won’t take payment for it — and wants the meme pulled.

Like his father, Trump Jr. — who recently evoked images of the Holocaust to criticize the media — is clueless to the suffering of others.

Unless you’ve turned a blind eye to the struggle of Syrian families fleeing war, bombs turning once-prosperous cities to rubble, and the daily acts of terrorism in their homeland, Trump Jr.’s tweet rouses a certain kind of familiar nausea reserved for the lowest points of his father’s presidential campaign.

The Syrian war has sent five million people fleeing for their lives and killed more than 400,000, including American journalists covering the war. Trump’s idea of a presidential plan to aid the Syrians, based on complete ignorance and shameless pandering to American fears, is to “build a safe zone in Syria, build a big, beautiful safe zone, and you have whatever it is, so they can live.”

The only thing worse than his simplistic ideas is the hostile atmosphere Trump and his supporters are creating for people in this country who don’t look like them. It’s not going to lead us anywhere good and noble.

Week after week, Trump and his camp step up the bizarre, the dangerous, the unfathomable. All of it would be unacceptable in any other candidate — yet Trump’s numbers in the polls continue to rise.

He is one step away from the Oval Office — and his son’s bowl of Skittles should worry us all the more.