For NASW official, Trump’s comments draw uncomfortable parallels to white supremacist leader

By Maxine Thome, LMSW, PhD, MPH
Executive Director, NASW Michigan Chapter

I want to share with you an experience I had while working on my MSW at Michigan State University  in the early 1970s. Another social work student asked me if I would go with her to interview Robert Miles and I said yes. Attention nationalism. Danger of racism yellow road sign. Ku Klux Klan Caution!

Robert “Pastor Bob” Miles had served as the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan and went on to become a major white supremacist leader in Michigan. He founded the “Mountain Church” on his property. In 1971 Miles was arrested for planning to bomb school buses as an attempt to halt integration of public schools. In the 1980s Miles endorsed the Northwest Territorials Imperative as an attempt to establish a white state in the Pacific Northwest.

During our interview with Robert Miles at the farm in Byrum, Michigan I was impressed with his charisma. He spoke clearly and would be believable to those who closely mirror his ideology or possibly are following his smooth presentation framed in Christian rhetoric.

However, as a Jewish woman I found him terrifying. He spoke about not being racist or anti-Semitic but rather loving all people and believing that people of color would be happier in their homes or countries of origin. He also strongly believed that “Earth was the site of a battle between a true God and a false God” and the agents of the false God were those who were not Christian.

Fast forward to recent comments made by President Trump, I was dismayed to hear him use the same type of language that Robert Miles used while working with the KKK, Aryan Nation, and Mountain Church. Trump ordered four Congresspersons of color to go back to their countries of origin. He appeared be unaware that three of the four were born in the United States.

It is interesting because Robert Miles never truly acknowledged the fact that those he wanted to send back to their countries of origin were born in this country. I am saddened by the remarks of the U.S. president that take me back to 40 years ago and the home of the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. President Trump has violated what our country has worked for which is to ensure the rights and safety of our citizens and refugees who come here seeking asylum from persecution.

Maxine Thome

Maxine Thome

The recent labeling of U.S Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) as “weak and insecure” and the statement that they should go back to the “corrupt and inept countries they came from” is simply racist and misogynistic. This statement goes against many social work values and ethical tenets. Trump’s mean-spirited methods of dealing with refugees seeking asylum violates any sign of cultural humility and goes against the core principals of social work and the mission that was and is the heart of the Settlement House Movement.

This week President Trump went after Rep. Elijah Cummings’ Congressional District, which includes Baltimore, Maryland by saying that Baltimore is a “very dangerous and filthy place” where “no human being would want to live.”  Baltimore is the largest city in Maryland and home to many people of color as well as white people. Again, the President’s comments show a complete lack of cultural humility and are explosive racist slurs.

We as social workers cannot stand silent while this is happening to our brothers and sisters. So, what can we do? We can join with groups that are fighting for a change like ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, NAACP, Black Lives Matter, and local groups that are working to assist with the refugee population. There are also churches, synagogues and mosques that are actively involved in social justice issues.

This is a critical time to register people for the 2020 election, join campaigns, and please support M-PACE. M-PACE is the arm of NASW Michigan that allows us to support candidates who support the mission of social work. Finally write to your Representatives and Senators and let them know your thoughts and feelings.

Most of all please do not remain silent and in the words of Rev. Martin Niemoller:

First, they came for the socialists
And I did not speak out, because I wasn’t a socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out-
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me
Again, please speak out. Our numerous and diverse voices can lead to change, but silence cannot.

 Take time to read NASW’s response to Trump’s racist tweets.

5 comments

  1. Maxine, thank you for your passionate statement. Please allow me to post some additional information about the freshmen Representatives that led to President Trump’s frustrated Tweets.

    Representatives Tlaib and Omar co-sponsored a bill for BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) geared toward the destruction of Israel. BDS is a Palestinian organization largely funded by Miftah, an identified terrorist organization. Both Representatives have repeatedly made anti-Semitic statements targeting Israel. Anti-Semitism and terrorism advocacy are a threat to the U.S.

    Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has voiced support for eliminating the Electoral College. She openly stated Mid-West voters in less populous states are not as worthy as voters in states like California, mainly because more white people live in the Mid-West than people of color. NASW has its own version of the Electoral College via Delegate Assembly….even the smallest NASW Chapters have delegates to ensure ALL NASW members have a voice.

    Representative Pressley has made statements promoting identity politics. She has said if you are a person of color, LGBTQ, female, etc.you are not worthy if you are Conservative and don’t agree with her. The statements are clearly discriminatory.

    Regarding the President’s tweets about Baltimore, they graphically described the deplorable living conditions there. He brought much-needed attention that generated a huge volunteer clean up effort and shined a light on the terrible leadership that allowed these problems to grow.

    If the President tweets “I love puppies” liberals will think he said “I hate kittens”.

    Being Social Workers, try to begin where the President is, regarding protection and advancement of the USA. We need to focus our energy and limited resources to help or veterans, or mentally ill, our children, our poor, our disabled, our elderly, our economy, or defense. That is not racist, misogynistic, homophobic, or other names.

    Thank you for considering another viewpoint.

  2. As a Social Worker in Australia I keep tabs on this site from time to to I suppose educate myself on what is happening elsewhere in this important field.
    We here in Australia have been dismayed, nay appalled, at Trump’s comments and behavior towards so tagged minorities and in particular the overtones of white supremacy. What is even more concerning is his oft later denial of intent of his language dismissing it as misinterpreted or fake news. Nobody is entitled to make such divisive and derogatory remarks, let alone Trump who is in a position of influencing millions of people.
    ~ Christine

  3. Kathryn Sargent

    Thank you for sharing this crucial viewpoint representing your crucial group. We need these facts…

  4. Maxine Thome has j written one of the most powerful statements clarifying the blatant racism and bigotry of Donald Trump, his followers, and his corrupt cabinet. Every day he occupies the White House is another outrage vested upon our Constitution, Democracy, International diplomacy, human rights, and human decency His separation of migrant families is a crime that should bring him before the International Tribunal for crimes against humanity. Humpty Trumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Trumpty will have a great fall !!

  5. Thanks for your wise words MAxine

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