I have been wanting a wall built along the Mexican border for twenty years. I never really had much hope for it. Now I have none at all.
There are basically two arguments against building that wall: the first is that it won’t work; the second is that it will. And I have even heard some people advance both reasons without any sense of inconsistency. One minute we hear that people will just use ladders to get over the wall, and the next minute we hear that it is cruel and inhumane to keep people out.
My view is that a wall, properly manned and monitored, would work, and that while I feel sorry for the people trying to get into this country, I still don’t want to let them in for the same reason that I don’t want a homeless person sleeping on my couch. I am just not that good.
I am willing to concede that I may be mistaken as to the effectiveness of a wall in stopping illegal immigration. And if someone wants to accuse me of being selfish and heartless for wanting a wall, I will concede that point as well. The question that concerns me at the moment is not whether my desire to have a wall built along the southern border proves either that I am a fool or a knave, possibly both, but whether it proves that I am a racist.
It’s all Donald Trump’s fault, of course. In the commentary of late about Donald Trump’s racism, several examples are typically put forward as evidence. First, there was his remark that most of the people coming here from Mexico are rapists, drug dealers, and assorted criminals. Second, there is his advocacy of a ban on Muslims. Third, there is his claim that the judge presiding over his case is prejudiced against him on account of his Mexican heritage.
One might quibble over whether these things are racism or some other kind of prejudice. For example, the ban on Muslims I would call religious discrimination, because Muslims do not constitute a race. On the other hand, since it is now fashionable to say that race is just a social construct, I suppose we could socially construct Muslims as a race if we wanted to. For that matter, we might even simplify things by socially constructing the race of illegal immigrants, regardless of their national origin, skin color, or physiognomy. People sneaking into this country from Mexico, Syria, Thailand, and Nigeria would all be of the same race, the race of illegal immigrants. Then, anyone opposing illegal immigration would be a racist. But we all know that race is more than just a social construct, and that socially constructing a race of illegal immigrants as outlined above would be just plain silly.
Therefore, I do not wish to quibble about whether Trump’s remarks are racist or just some other kind of prejudice or discrimination. Let us, for the sake of simplicity, stipulate that Trump’s remarks are racist and that Donald Trump says these things because he is a racist. What bothers me is that in addition to the examples mentioned above as proof of Trump’s racism, his desire to build a wall is listed right along with them. Now, it is one thing to say that Donald Trump wants to build a wall because he is a racist. It is quite another thing to say that someone is a racist because he wants to build a wall. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain have all supported the idea of building a wall at one time or another. Are they racists? Or rather, were they racists at the time but no longer?
Whatever their reasons were for a change of heart, or at least a change of position, I can guarantee they will never be in support of a wall again. There probably never was much chance for a wall before Trump declared his desire to become president. Now there is no chance at all. The idea of a wall will forever have the Donald Trump taint, and no future politician with aspirations to become president will want to have anything to do with it.