President Donald Trump has made so many vile remarks about immigrants and people of color that it is often difficult to keep track, but during a roundtable discussion in the White House on Wednesday the president unleashed what is being denounced by lawmakers, activists, and virtually all of civil society as his most racist and dehumanizing rant yet, calling the immigrants his administration is deporting at a rapid pace "animals."
"This is the kind of dehumanizing, violent language that leads to genocide and ethnic cleansing."
—Max Berger, IfNotNow
"You wouldn't believe how bad these people are," Trump said. "These aren't people, these are animals, and we're taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that's never happened before."
Responding to Trump's remarks on Twitter, Mother Jones national affairs editor Mark Follman wrote simply: "This is the language of a fascist."
Watch Trump's comments:
This kind of dehumanization, as countless observers were quick to note, has been used throughout history—and is being used in the present—to justify hatred, oppression, and violence against those perceived as "the other."
Christian Christensen, an American professor of journalism at Stockholm University, warned:
The first weapon used toward normalizing violence against a group is often language. Portraying people as less than human. As dirty and stupid. As carrying disease. As unworthy of respect and dignity. https://t.co/kOeIU5V8Tv
— Christian Christensen (@ChrChristensen) May 16, 2018
"From Palestinians in Gaza to immigrants in America, dehumanization is always the prelude to cruel and callous policies," Omar Baddar, deputy director of the Arab American Institute, noted in a tweet on Wednesday.
Other commentators and lawmakers echoed Baddar and Christensen, calling Trump's remarks not merely "offensive" but extremely "dangerous":
When the president uses dehumanizing language about entire groups of ppl it can’t be understood only as offensive, but as the type of thing that’s always preceded enslavement, genocide & mass expulsion. To see it *only* as offensive is to misunderstand its potential ramifications
— Clint Smith (@ClintSmithIII) May 16, 2018
Trump calling immigrants “animals,” is probably the most disgusting and dangerous thing he’s ever said.
This is the kind of dehumanizing, violent language that leads to genocide and ethnic cleansing.
Fascists deny others’ humanity so they can do with them as they please. https://t.co/epT1htqVFx
— Max Berger (@maxberger) May 16, 2018
US President @realDonaldTrump says immigrants aren't people, they're animals. Classic fascist tactic of dehumanization to justify genocide or mass eviction. Same happened in Palestine too - Israeli leaders described them as 'two-legged beasts' & 'grasshoppers' https://t.co/CFlhEibZ8u
— Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) May 17, 2018
There is no other word for this than disgusting. Is this really what we have come to? The president--of a country whose very character has been defined by immigrants--calling immigrants 'animals' is truly disgusting. https://t.co/OE74Hfi6VL
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) May 17, 2018
"There is no other word for this than disgusting. Is this really what we have come to?" Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) wrote on Twitter. "The president—of a country whose very character has been defined by immigrants—calling immigrants 'animals' is truly disgusting."