Donald Trump took time away from a tax reform meeting in West Virginia on Thursday to say, again, that Latin American men are a bunch of rapists, which is why we need stricter immigration laws in the United States. "And remember my opening remarks at Trump Tower,” he began, referring to his presidential campaign kickoff speech in June of 2015 when he said that Mexico is sending “rapists” along with drug traffickers and drugs.
“When I opened. Everybody said, 'Oh, he was so tough,' and I used the word rape. And yesterday, it came out where this journey coming up,” he said, referring to the annual Pueblo Sin Fronteras caravan for immigrant rights currently traveling from Central America through Mexico to the United States, “Women are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before. They don't want to mention that. So we have to change our laws." (On Friday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump was referring to the Central American women too often raped on the journey to the United States to seek asylum, which is one reason they formed the caravan in the first place.)
When it comes to rallying his voter base, the men-of-color-as-sexual-predator trope has to be the most fail-safe tool Trump can invoke, since white men have been using this lie to scare white women and each other into submitting to racism for as long as race relations have existed.
White men have been using this lie to scare white women and each other into submitting to racism for as long as race relations have existed.
The myth of black and brown men as sexual predators toward white women is a deeply psychological motivator that activates people’s basest survival instincts, one that's been around as long as white men have been colonizing places filled with darker-hued humans. And, it’s clearly been highly effective for getting voters to leave logic behind; It's part of how Donald Trump won the White House.
The assertion that Mexico is sending rapists to the United States was a test run for how to generate attention in a crowded primary — say something racist and beyond the pale to make the liberals mad, which Steve Bannon's even acknowledged. That got him more screen time than any of his Republican competitors and continues to gain him media coverage and excite his supporters.
It's that excitement, that unseemly pleasure that men like Trump apparently take in asserting that we should all fear the sexual predation of nonwhite men, that makes it so easy for me to believe that the entire racist structure of colonialism is founded upon white men’s sexual insecurities. There is a perverse pleasure taken in making these warnings, in calling us savages, in generating and regenerating the myth that they are protecting "their" women (and thus their pale future) from the voracious sexual appetites of nonwhite men. They can feel their obsolescence encroaching; they always have.
It takes a rapist to believe that everyone else is intent on rape.
The vilification of men of color also serves as an indicator about some white men’s own malicious intentions: It takes a rapist to believe that everyone else is intent on rape. In the United States, from the colonial period to well into the 1960s, white men raped women of color with impunity even while setting up their white female counterparts as beholden to them for protection against men of color. Through this mind-bending logic, they managed to create a system that had virtually no legal consequences for a white man who raped a black or brown woman, while black men could only ever be rapists to white women (and thus strung up at the nearest tree after any accusation, regardless of evidence).
And today we have a white male president who has been accused of sexual assault or misconduct by at least 15 women since the 1980s and who has admitted on a tape — which we have all heard — to being the type of man who gropes unsuspecting women's genitals with impunity because of his status. This very president won the White House on a platform that accuses nameless, faceless Mexican boogeymen of traveling all the way to the United States, risking life and limb, to commit rape against American women.
And now he has accused them of committing so much more rape in their home country that the numbers are unseen before in human history, in an effort to deny asylum to, among others, the very women he accuses them of victimizing. His voter base laps up his baseless accusations against whole swaths of humanity while chanting “build a wall,” choosing to believe that immigrants of Latino descent are subhuman — the very savages their forefathers once swore they were — and unworthy of consideration as political refugees fleeing violence and extreme poverty.
Donald Trump doesn't care about rape victims or potential rape victims, whether they're white women or Central American migrants who have formed a caravan to escape that fate.
Yes, poor people in Mexico and Central America are vulnerable targets for crime, just like they are in the United States. Yes, women traveling alone and across a foreign country with few resources are at risk for being assaulted, sexually or otherwise, just like they are here.
Yet in fact, one international data-crunching website says that rape is twice as prevalent in the United States as it is in Mexico. And we’ve seen ample proof in the past year that even privileged white women and men in the United States are at risk of being raped or sexually assaulted because sex crimes are, sadly, all too common among human beings regardless of race or nationality, and sexual predators come in every skin color.
Donald Trump doesn't care about rape victims or potential rape victims, whether they're white women or Central American migrants who have formed a caravan to escape that fate. He's simply willing to twist the very real fear of a very real crime that doesn't discriminate by race or country into a racist projection against immigrants that misinforms voters, further victimizes the disenfranchised and drives an even bigger wedge between cultures. And to do all of that for political gain is, quite frankly, the most inhuman thing of all.
Cindy Casares is the founding editor of Guanabee.com and has contributed to The Guardian, The Texas Observer and Latina.com. She grew up on the border of Texas and Mexico and currently resides in Austin, Texas.