Negin Farsad is a comedian and the author of How to Make White People Laugh.
The 2016 election has brought us some really ridiculous moments—like when John Kasich ate pizza with a fork. But what I’ve found most striking is how the major GOP frontrunners have been, well, ragingly bigoted. And, even more striking, bigotry has seemed to work.
The centerpiece has of course been the treatment of the two big M’s: Muslims and Mexicans.
The anxiety over the Muslim “epidemic” has been a conversation since the beginning of the election. Full disclosure: I have a dog in this race because I’m an Iranian-American Muslim lady who happens to like my rights. But still, this rhetoric has ranged from wildly inappropriate to overtly bigoted. We’ve seen candidates like Donald Trump asking for a ban on Muslims or a Muslim registry. Or, you know, other violations of the constitution.
We’ve heard Ted Cruz vow to “patrol” Muslim neighborhoods. It doesn’t matter that these things might get in the way of that pesky First Amendment right to the freedom to exercise religion—or that patrolling Muslim neighborhoods is something we tried in New York and it accomplished nothing. Reality doesn’t matter because uttering “the M word” has gotten votes!
That’s of course only one of two M words. The other one is Mexicans. Trump thinks Mexicans are drug lords or “rapists.” He talks about building a wall between the United States and Mexico—one that the Mexicans will gleefully pay for. Trump’s wall has been mercilessly ridiculed, and yet, it still gets huge cheers at every rally. These are rallies with people who seem to lurve bigotry.
Why does unabashed bigotry still work? How it is that it “inspires” people to go out and vote? Because for as much as we are a diverse country, for as much as we seem to embrace multiculturalism, and for as much as we give ourselves a pat on the back for having tough conversations about difference, we actually do a terrible job talking about…any of these things.
We don’t like what they call “nuance” or “variance” or “specifics.” We’re happy to get nuggets of already recognizable information that actually contain no information at all—that are mostly made of pink slime and chicken beaks.
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I’m sure that, out of more than 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, there’s a story that has nothing to do with terrorism. I’m equally confident that, out of 35 million Mexican-Americans, there’s something that would make them look good instead of like monstrous border crossers and/or manipulative job takers.
We should talk more about race and ethnicity and immigrants because, if we did, then the xenophobic nonsense being peddled by Trump wouldn’t have made him a presumptive presidential nominee—it would have made him nuts. But as it stands, what they’re saying doesn’t sound all that crazy because we have nothing to compare it to. If there were any other mainstream narrative about these groups, we would be able to immediately determine that Cruz or Trump were hucksters pushing a bunch of crazy talk. We could tell the difference between beans and magic beans.
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How do we counter a message that Muslims and Mexicans are anything other than terrorists and rapists? We tell literally any other story about these people. There are eight million stories in the naked city. It’s time we move on from this one.