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Monday, April 19, 2021

A little history on divisive language

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President Trump is using a bit of pugilistic rhetoric to kick off a week filled with his own diversity training, a phrase and trope that, taken in isolation, is perhaps innocuous enough.

A decade ago, when the United Nations drafted a plan to transform the United States into a country that welcomed and integrated migrants from around the world, it received support from a lot of groups in the political and religious worlds. The media, too, welcomed a long-awaited change in American policy.

But those looking to move forward with more straightforward policies found Mr. Trump fighting back, pointing out the plan contained several elements that he found offensive and calling it racially divisive.

In 2007, a decade after the United Nations announced its diversity plan, many groups in the United States endorsed a similar document called the “National Community Standards of Excellence.” But Republican leaders objected, with Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., denouncing the plan as “controversial” and telling colleagues he had concerns that “this set of goals will make America more like nations of the world where ethnic, religious and racial differences in society are held in contempt.”

Some Republicans worried the United States would lose its competitive edge against other nations by advancing policies that were more liberal than those in other countries. “There is absolutely no evidence for this,” then-Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., wrote in a letter to colleagues. “We need to push this thinking to the periphery of American life, even if that requires political leadership that to some makes for an awkward fit with the religious right.”

When Mr. Trump was a candidate in 2015, he maintained the same skepticism.

“We’re all one people. We’re all one country,” he said. “We’re going to be one country, united. The world’s going to come to our shores. And I want to send a message to them — the foreigners — we’re going to be one big melting pot.”

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