Trump’s remarks on immigrants in Britain promote “cultural racism,” critics warn

The Trump baby floats behind a statue of British prime minister Winston Churchill.
The Trump baby floats behind a statue of British prime minister Winston Churchill.
Image: AP Photo/Matt Dunham
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Donald Trump has a long history of criticizing Mexicans and Muslims, black women, and people protesting racism. But the US president seemed to move a step closer to endorsing the far right’s white nationalist views during his trip to Britain, both in an interview with The Sun and a press conference Friday (July 13) with UK prime minister Theresa May.

Trump told The Sun that Britain is “losing its culture” because of immigration in an interview published July 12. When he was pressed on the remarks by a British reporter during the press conference, he doubled down. As the preeminent colonial empire during the 19th century, Britain has already absorbed the food, language, and customs from around the world, but Trump appeared to be referencing the influx of Muslims into Europe in recent years, and to South and Central European immigrants in the US.

Asked to elaborate on his remarks that immigration has “damaged the cultural fabric of Europe,” Trump described immigration generally as dangerous, and warned that Europeans should “watch themselves” because immigration was “changing culture”—a phrase he repeated several times:

I think it’s been very bad for Europe.

Europe is a place that I know very well, and I think what has happened is very tough. It’s a very tough situation. You see the same terror attacks that I do, you see them a lot. We just left some incredible young men and women at Sandhurst, and they were showing us cells, and they were showing us things that frankly twenty years ago nobody even thought about. I just think it’s changing the culture, I think it’s a very negative thing for Europe. I think it’s very negative.

I have a great relationship with Angela Merkel, great relationship, but I think that’s very much her Germany. I think it’s very much her other parts of Europe.

I know it’s politically not necessarily correct to say that but I’ll say it, and I’ll say it loud.

I think they better watch themselves because you are changing culture, you are changing a lot of things, you are changing security. Look at what’s happening. You take a look. Look at what’s happening to different countries that never had difficulties, never had problems.

It’s a very sad situation, it’s very unfortunate. But I do not think it is good for Europe, and I do not think it’s good for our country.

We’re as you know far superior to anything that’s happened before, but we have very bad immigration laws. We’re doing incredibly well given that we virtually don’t have immigration laws.

You walk across the border, you put one foot on the land and now you’re tied up in a lawsuit for five years. It’s the craziest thing anyone has ever seen.

I would make that recommendation to Europe. I’ve made it loud and clear, I made it loud and clear, and that’s the way I feel.

Academics, politicians, and activists warned Trump’s words are dangerous, particularly in a Europe where nationalism and anti-immigrant feelings are spreading. “When world leaders adopt cultural racism in this way, they legitimize right-wing extremism,” wrote Chris Allen, Associate Professor in Hate Studies, University of Leicester. Some compared Trump’s remarks to the “14 Words,” which the Anti-Defamation League calls “the most popular white supremacist slogan in the world.” The full slogan is “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”

London mayor Sadiq Khan, who Trump singled out in The Sun interview, called Trump’s claims about UK immigration “preposterous.” May, at the press conference with Trump, said the UK has a “proud history” of welcoming people fleeing persecution. While she noted that overall immigration has been good for the country, she didn’t openly challenge the US president.