Anti-immigrant Rhetoric “Otherizes” Those Fleeing Violence
How sowing hatred against foreigners works to divide us, not protect us.
By: Becca Most
Some Americans are anxious about the changing demographics of the country. They are fearful of the unravelling of tight-knit communities, of the collapse of the job market, and of people who don’t follow the traditional “American” narrative depicted in movies and history books.
A couple of weeks ago, as a caravan of refugees from Central America approached the U.S. border, President Trump employed his most successful immigration strategy yet: fear. The group was an easy scapegoat. Over the course of several days he spread rumors that went unverified, claiming the caravan contained “unknown Middle Easterners,” “criminals,” and “gang members” all of whom he suggested would threaten the safety and cohesion of the country.
Trump has used this tactic often, sowing fear through an aggressive campaign of anti-immigrant rhetoric. But, rather than protecting the country from foreign terrorism, his words work to dehumanize those fleeing violence and persecution, turning the refugee into a faceless “other.”
“Othering” is dangerous because it perpetuates stereotypes and encourages a mindless group mentality. By classifying individuals into the group of “Middle Easterners,” “criminals,”or “gang members,” it is easier to judge them at face value and rally behind perceived differences between “us” and “them.”
Anti-immigrant rhetoric is more than just an ethical dilemma, but one with physical consequences. When the caravan reached the border wall on Nov. 24, the Trump administration was criticized for using more “lethal force than necessary” when it deployed tear gas on a crowd of migrants against the fence. The gas hit men, women, and children.
Most, if not all, of those waiting at the border are fleeing violence, corruption, and poverty. Despite what Trump says, they aren’t criminals. They don’t want to hurt Americans.
In fact, they want to become them.