Trump and Parkland: Vicious racism as permission for violence

The killer wore a MAGA hat and expressed the same views as Trump's worst supporters. Think that's a coincidence?

By Chauncey DeVega

Senior Writer

Published February 22, 2018 4:59AM (EST)

 (AP/Brynn Anderson)
(AP/Brynn Anderson)

Trump is a noun, and also a verb. It is the last name of our president, an ignorant, bigoted, misogynistic petite-fascist. It is also those malignant values channeled into action. Since Donald Trump declared his candidacy, which ended with his implausible victory, there has been a record increase in hate crimes and other related violence. Trumpism is spreading like a social disease. America has been Trumped.

When white supremacists ran amok in Charlottesville, Virginia last August, injuring dozens and killing Heather Heyer, an anti-fascist protester, many wore Trump's informal uniform of khaki pants and his signature red MAGA hat.

Both during Trump's presidential campaign and since his election there have been repeated instances of white men yelling "Trump!" or "Make America Great Again!" as they have harassed or physically attacked nonwhites, Muslims, gays and lesbians and those they perceive to be "immigrants."

Last week, Trump-as-violence killed and brutalized again. This time in Parkland, Florida. This is not so much opinion or theory as a statement of the obvious.

Last Wednesday, a young man named Nikolas Cruz entered his former high school and proceeded to kill at least 17 people and injure dozens more. On social media, Cruz posted images of himself wearing his red MAGA hat while shooting a gun in his backyard. Cruz also shared pictures of himself on Instagram wearing a Trump hat, and brandishing an array of knives and guns. By his own account, Cruz is also a vicious racist, an anti-Semite, a misogynist and a homophobe. As reported by CNN, Cruz made no secret of his hateful beliefs in an online chat group whose "constant theme" was overt bigotry:

The hatred he and others in the group espoused met little resistance from its active members. In one part of the group chat, Cruz wrote that he hated, "jews, ni**ers, immigrants."

He talked about killing Mexicans, keeping black people in chains and cutting their necks.

There are hundreds of racist messages, racist memes and racist Instagram videos posted in the group. . . .

Cruz said he hated black people simply because they were black; Cruz hated Jews because he believed they wanted to destroy the world.

After one member expressed hatred for gay people, Cruz agreed, saying, "Shoot them in the back of head."

White women drew Cruz's hatred as well, specifically those in interracial relationships, whom he referred to repeatedly as traitors.

Nikolas Cruz is not alone in transforming his embrace of Donald Trump into real-world violence. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that since 2014, at least 43 people have been killed, and more than 100 injured, by the so-called "alt-right" movement, with 2017 by far the most lethal year.

Donald Trump has unleashed a flood of white supremacist and other right-wing violence in the United States. This is a function of a larger sociopolitical dynamic. His right-wing movement -- and that of today's post-civil rights era Republican Party, more generally -- draws its strength from the racist lie that white people, especially white men, are the true victims of oppression in America. Trump has given his supporters permission to be violent: This is the most primitive form of social dominance behavior.

Trumpism is also a reminder that racism, on a fundamental level, is interpersonal and structural violence.

Donald Trump is a hero and role model for his voters and supporters. No good can come from such ideation. Trump's white supremacist foot soldiers in the "alt-right" believe that violence is necessary for their "Darwinian" battle against "inferior" groups. This is a key aspect of fascism.

If Trump were indeed a person of morality and righteousness, he would reject such backward ideas. Instead, he and the Republican Party have encouraged such dangerous and anti-democratic behavior. They have sowed dragon's teeth, as writer Stephen King put it not long ago on Twitter, and now seem surprised they have produced an actual dragon.

By Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a senior politics writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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