When three terrorists killed seven people and wounded 48 in the London Bridge terror attack on Saturday, London Mayor Sadiq Khan released a statement expressing grief and resolve. Then he told Londoners they should not be alarmed by an increased police presence.
Shortly afterward, President Trump renewed a months-long feud between the two men by attacking Khan’s statement via Twitter:
“At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’ ” Trump tweeted.
That reply — based on the wrongheaded notion that Khan was somehow minimizing the attack — was about more than targeting a man who’d called Trump’s views of Islam “ignorant.” It was a message that is in keeping with Trump’s overall goal.
Trump, after all, wants to ban travelers from six majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. After federal courts blocked the ban, the Trump administration appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could hear the case this month.
Trump is not waiting for the courts to decide, however. He is attempting to win in the court of public opinion. If that means exploiting the dead in the wake of a London terror attack, he is willing to do so. Perhaps more troubling, Trump is ready to do everything he can to convince us that Muslims — no matter what positions they attain in Western societies — are not to be respected.
Belittling London’s first Muslim mayor on the world stage delivers that message.
Sadiq Khan is a well-respected, British-born Muslim of Pakistani descent. Born to working-class parents in south London, he earned a law degree from the University of North London and climbed the political ladder. He did so even as the British were fashioning the Brexit campaign around the resentment of people who look and pray like he does.
Khan did everything Western society tells brown people to do. He worked hard. He sought an education. He rose through the ranks. He assimilated.
And still, it isn’t enough, because Sadiq Khan is a Muslim, and in the worldview Trump would have us adopt, Khan should be judged on that basis alone.
That kind of prejudice undergirds the very notion of a travel ban, because it assumes that anyone from a particular country who practices a certain faith must have terrorist leanings. It assumes that they inherently possess certain characteristics that make it necessary to treat them differently.
Prejudice feeds us the false notion that such people are always dangerous, whether they are employed or unemployed, leaders or followers, doctors or lawyers, councilmen or mayors.
They’re all alike.
That mindset allows us to paint people with the broadest of brushes. I know, because that same mindset allowed America to embrace slavery, Jim Crow, and the disproportionate economic and social outcomes that both systems produced.
If we believe they’re all alike, then we can establish a Muslim registry, as Trump suggested on the campaign trail.
If they’re all alike, we can have a “complete and total shutdown of Muslims” coming to the United States, which Trump also said on the campaign trail.
If they’re all alike, it doesn’t matter whether they’re Osama bin Laden or Sadiq Khan. They all have the same intentions. They all walk in lockstep. They all look alike, sound alike, and think alike.
So why do I care if Trump peddles this kind of foolishness? Because that’s what America said about my people. Such reasoning was used to justify everything from enslavement to lynching to segregation to murder. And it began with attacking our leaders.
Black luminaries from Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Barack Obama were criticized, demeaned, and disrespected, all in an effort to show the world that blacks, no matter their achievements, are unworthy of respect.
I recognize that same mindset in the attempt to ban Muslims from our country. Moreover, I see it in Trump’s apparent effort to demean Khan in front of the world.
Khan is not taking the abuse lying down, nor should he. But seven people were killed in the city he governs and, as Khan’s staff pointed out after reading several insulting tweets from Trump, Khan has a lot to do right now.
He has to lead.
I only wish our president would stop tweeting long enough to do the same.
Solomon Jones is a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News.
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