Cornell hosts symposium on 'xenophobia in the Age of Trump'
A recent Cornell University panel addressed “xenophobia in the Age of Trump,” with one panelist using the platform to take shots at conservatives and “the West.”
The September 8 panel, titled “Racial Politics and Xenophobia in the Age of Trump and Brexit,” featured professors from three international universities, among whom were University of Cambridge Professor Priyamvada Gopa, University of Naples Professor Miguel Mollino, and New York University Professor Arun Kundnani.
"The imperialist violence upon which U.S.-led capitalism depends cannot be acknowledged in a liberal society."
Of the three, Kundnani spoke the at the greatest length regarding President Trump’s rise to power and the cultural phenomena that won him the White House.
According to Kundnani, while most attribute Trump’s success either to the “economic inequality” or “racial identity” of the white-working class, he suggested that “identity and economics can’t so easily be distinguished because identity categories like whiteness can come to stand in for economic categories like class.”
“So race is never just about itself. What whiteness offers today is a way to connect rage of the failures of capitalism over the past few years to a story of white victimhood,” he continued, positing that “the majority of white people who voted for Trump” did so “because they thought his white victimhood rhetoric meant that he would help them cope with neoliberalism.”
He went on to add that “neoliberalism,” or a support for free-market capitalism, and racism “are tightly woven together in a society like the United States.”
Leading up to his analysis of Trump’s election, Kundnani addresses how “Islamophobia” fits into the “culture of racism in the United States,” inferring that the United States often uses Muslims as a scapegoat for its violent military actions.
“So the imperialist violence upon which U.S.-led capitalism depends cannot be acknowledged in a liberal society, so it’s transferred onto the personality of the Muslim and seen as emanating from outside ourselves, and so therefore that violence is only ever seen as a proportionate response to what’s seen as the aggressive, and threatening, inherent nature of the fanatical Muslim, and in this way we can kind of create a western, white self-image of innocence and beneficence,” he remarked, suggesting that the solution is to consider “not whether Muslim culture is compatible with Western values, but whether the West can be imaged as free of empire and racism.”
“The problem is not how to integrate Muslims into the west, but how the West can be integrated into the rest of the world given its history of colonialism and slavery,” he argued, saying it would be better to read a book about the CIA than The Quran in order to understand the difficulties of assimilation.
Indeed, Kundnani believes that America’s history of colonialism is still alive today, calling it a “nation of settlers, natives, and slaves.”
“We like to say that the United States is a nation of immigrants, but as [other scholars] have pointed out, the United States is actually a nation of settlers, natives, and slaves, and those remain it’s fundamental, literal categories,” he asserted.
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