Trump’s re­marks about chang­ing Euro­pean cul­ture draw ire

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY JESSE J. HOL­LAND AND RUS­SELL CONTRERAS As­so­ci­ated Press

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s lament this week that im­mi­gra­tion is “chang­ing the cul­ture” of Europe echoed ris­ing anti-im­mi­grant feel­ings on both sides of the At­lantic, where Europe and the United States are go­ing through a de­mo­graphic trans­for­ma­tion that makes some of the white ma­jor­ity un­com­fort­able.

His­to­ri­ans and ad­vo­cates im­me­di­ately de­nounced Trump’s com­ments, say­ing such talk would en­cour­age white na­tion­al­ists.

“The way he put this ar­gu­ment about chang­ing our cul­ture … about Europe be­com­ing less nice than it is, in other words, th­ese peo­ple are here and they are mak­ing the cul­ture crappy and mak­ing the place lesser, that’s straight out of the white su­prem­a­cist/white na­tion­al­ist play­book,” said Heidi Beirich, di­rec­tor of the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter’s In­tel­li­gence Project.

Trump, in an in­ter­view with the Bri­tish news­pa­per The Sun, blamed im­mi­gra­tion for a chang­ing cul­ture in Europe: “I think al­low­ing mil­lions and mil­lions of peo­ple to come into Europe is very, very sad. I think you are los­ing your cul­ture. Look around. You go through cer­tain ar­eas that didn’t ex­ist ten or 15 years ago.”

Trump, the grand­son of a Ger­man im­mi­grant and the son of a Scot­tish im­mi­grant to the United States, re­peated his con­tention at a news con­fer­ence with Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May:

“I just think it’s chang­ing the cul­ture. I think it’s a very neg­a­tive thing for Europe. I think it’s very neg­a­tive,” he said. “I think it’s very much hurt other parts of Europe. And I know it’s po­lit­i­cally not nec­es­sar­ily cor­rect to say that, but I’ll say it and I’ll say it loud. And I think they bet­ter watch them­selves be­cause you are chang­ing cul­ture, you are chang­ing a lot of things.”

Beirich called those com­ments “racist.”

Claire M. Massey, a scholar at the In­sti­tute for Bri­tish and North Amer­i­can Stud­ies at Ern­stMoritz-Arndt Univer­si­tat in Greif­swald, Ger­many, said Trump’s com­ments were “aw­fully painful,” es­pe­cially for the United King­dom, where im­mi­gra­tion has played a key role in re­build­ing the coun­try af­ter World War II. “Eng­land and the United King­dom wouldn’t be what it is to­day with­out im­mi­grants,” she said.

Massey said Trump’s com­ments re­mind her of the rhetoric com­ing from neo-Nazis in Ger­many and Poland. The com­ments will em­bolden the far-right in Europe at a time when many Euro­pean na­tions are al­ready very di­verse.

Lis­bon, Por­tu­gal, for ex­am­ple, is now home to siz­able and vis­i­ble Brazil­ian, Cape Verdean, and An­golan pop­u­la­tions. The im­mi­grant groups and their Por­tuguese-born chil­dren have helped re­vi­tal­ize ar­eas of the cities once in dis­re­pair and have a pres­ence in ev­ery­thing from pro­fes­sional soc­cer teams to pop­u­lar cul­ture.

Por­tuguese Mozam­bique-born fado singer Mariza is among the na­tion’s most beloved per­form­ers.

In France, im­mi­grants from the Mid­dle East and Africa have set­tled through­out Paris and have drawn the ire of the far­right and even some mod­er­ates over the city’s chang­ing makeup. ThenFrench Prime Min­is­ter Fran­cois Fil­lon de­creed in 2011 that women were banned from wear­ing face veils out­side of the home ex­cept in mosques or as car pas­sen­gers. A Euro­pean court later up­held the ban, say­ing the in­tent was to unify the coun­try, but not be­fore an out­cry by hu­man rights ac­tivists.

Through­out Eng­land, from London to Liver­pool, im­mi­grants from Asia, Africa, the Mid­dle East and the for­mer Bri­tish colonies in the Caribbean have re­shaped var­i­ous neigh­bor­hoods, draw­ing scorn from mem­bers of the far-right and some ru­ral res­i­dents who blamed the Euro­pean Union and im­mi­grants for the eco­nomic strug­gles of once-pros­per­ous min­ing re­gions.

The United States is also go­ing through a de­mo­graphic shift. The Cen­sus Bureau es­ti­mates that the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion will have more mi­nori­ties than whites for the first time in 2043, a change due in part to higher birth rates among His­pan­ics and a stag­nat­ing or de­clin­ing birth rate among blacks, whites and Asians.

Trump’s pub­lic life has been filled with con­tro­ver­sial state­ments about im­mi­grants.

In the first mo­ments of his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign in June 2015, he called for the con­struc­tion of a bor­der wall with Mex­ico and ac­cused the coun­try of send­ing mi­grants who were “bring­ing drugs. They’re bring­ing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I as­sume, are good peo­ple.”

He con­tin­u­ally used dark im­agery to de­pict im­mi­grants as dan­ger­ous in­vaders. Then, in the af­ter­math of a ter­ror­ist attack that De­cem­ber in San Bernardino, Cal­i­for­nia, that was car­ried out by a U.S.-born Mus­lim and his Pak­istani wife, who was a le­gal U.S. res­i­dent, Trump called for bar­ring all Mus­lims from en­ter­ing the coun­try. The Supreme Court even­tu­ally up­held his ex­ec­u­tive or­der ban­ning travel from sev­eral mostly Mus­lim coun- tries, re­ject­ing chal­lenges that it discriminated against Mus­lims or ex­ceeded his author­ity.

In Jan­uary, Trump ques­tioned why the U.S. would ac­cept more im­mi­grants from Haiti and “shit­hole coun­tries” in Africa as he re­jected a bi­par­ti­san im­mi­gra­tion deal, ac­cord­ing to one par­tic­i­pant and peo­ple briefed on the con­ver­sa­tion.

In re­cent weeks, Trump bowed to tremen­dous po­lit­i­cal pressure and is­sued an ex­ec­u­tive or­der end­ing his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s prac­tice of sep­a­rat­ing mi­grant chil­dren from their par­ents when fam­i­lies cross the bor­der with Mex­ico il­le­gally.

Paul A. Kramer, a Van­der­bilt Univer­sity his­to­rian, said Trump’s most re­cent com­ments were an in­ten­tional at­tempt to ally him­self and his base in the United States with the far-right na­tion­al­ist move­ments in Europe.

MATT DUN­HAM AP

Demon­stra­tors hold plac­ards out­side the U.S. em­bassy in London on Feb. 4, 2017, as they take part in a protest against U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s travel ban.

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