Note: The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent The K.I.N.G. Movement or its supporters. They are the views of the author alone.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with [them]. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Those words spoken on the campaign trail in 2015 by Donald Trump as he officially announced his bid for the 2016 presidency, would come to define the tone of his “Make America Great Again” campaign. They would also set him on a path to ultimately win the Republican nomination. And it was this quote that laid the foundation for Trump's proposal to build a fortified wall along the southern border between Mexico and the U.S.
Let me say it again. These words became and remain the foundation of Trump’s wall.
The foundation for Trump’s wall is not border protection as you might assume—Trump rejected the idea of building a wall between the U.S. and Canada, though many insist that it remains a greater threat to our national security. It is instead, Trump's ideology--consisting of racist, misogynistic and xenophobic language that builds the wall of separation. As Trump proceeds in his quest for the great separation, he capitalizes on the insecurities and fears of the working class—this quest fundamentally opposing to the Gospel of Christ.
Usually the rise of mass xenophobia and racism stems from a combination of greed among the elite and the economic anxiety amidst the working class. It was only as the African slave trade developed and became central to the U.S. economy, did Europeans begin to create racist values and policies to justify the owning of black slaves as property—Chattel.
This racialization of the slave trade was also done to weaken the alliance between poor whites and black indentured servants who formed strong alliances and were rebelling against large landowners who were consolidating land and stripping workers of their rights. They were able to accomplish this by convincing poor whites that their white skin could afford them social significance above their black counterparts.
From this and from travelers’ tales arose the stereotype of blacks as barbaric, prone to excessive sexual desire, lazy, untrustworthy, and even cannibalistic. Sound familiar? And if Trump is taking a page from historic dominates, whether deliberately or subliminally, we all know how this story ends. It doesn’t.
Its ramifications go on and on.
It is economic plight and vulnerability among the working class that creates an environment where such stereotypes can flourish. It's no coincidence that the racism Trump has managed to stoke in this country—with his talk of a Mexican wall—coincides with the decline of manufacturing and non-skilled labor jobs in the U.S., many of which are perceived as being taken by illegal immigrants.
In short, Trump’s wall would be built on the lie that inferior peoples are taking something that belongs to Americans—our lives and our jobs. Just as the falsehoods of blacks were created to justify slavery, the deceit established to justify Trump’s wall is false, as well.
Studies show that even though the number of undocumented immigrants doubled from 1994 to the record level of 12 million in 2007, the violent crime rate in America dropped 34%, and the property crime rate fell 26%. Mexican immigrants, including those who entered the U.S. legally and illegally, had an incarceration rate in 2000 of 0.7%, one-eighth the rate of native-born Americans of Mexican descent, and lower than that of American-born whites and blacks of similar socioeconomic status and education. And repeated studies have found that areas with high concentrations of workers without documentation, such as El Paso, are among the safest cities in the country.
Another deception Trump touts is that these inferior law-breakers are taking jobs away from good, hardworking Americans. However, research has shown that immigration has little effect on domestic wages and employment levels due to the immigrant demographic not looking for work in the same vocations. Unskilled immigrants tend to become maids, cooks, and farm workers—jobs that require less English. Unskilled natives take on jobs like a cashier and driver.
To be clear, I am not downplaying our need to protect our borders and the urgency for national security. No--I’m making a case against what the wall has come to symbolize during Trump’s campaign, which even suggests where we are headed as a collective body—separated and contentious.
History teaches us that walls are often a sign of cultural animosity. The walls of racism, division, violence, and hatred are often erected long before any physical wall goes up.
The Berlin Wall, built after World War II, signified the cultural divide between East and West Germany. East Germans built the wall due to their fear of western fascists. At least 100 people were killed at the Berlin Wall, but millions more rejoiced on November 9, 1989, just two years after the inspirational words of Ronald Reagan asserted, “Tear down this wall!” Said by one with the wisdom and moral compass to forecast the outcome of mutual unity and peace.
In 1969, The Belfast Peace Walls were built in response to intense violence among Catholics and Protestants—a period known as The Troubles. It was in 2013 that Northern Ireland’s prime minister declared the removal of The Belfast Peace Walls by 2023. “What we are attempting to do is tackle the blight of sectarianism and racism and other forms of intolerance that we believe is essential in shaping a shared and coherent society that can move forward and collectively face the challenges of a changing world.” Well said!
In stark contrast, the wall in the West Bank that was erected by Israel in 2003 has come to symbolize the struggle between Israel and Palestine, which is arguably the most contentious ongoing relationship between people groups in the world over the last 70 years.
It’s nearly impossible to ignore the lessons submitted by centuries of discord and hate, yet somehow we continue to be taken in by the disheartening message of intolerance while we advertise to be believers in Christ.
“For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.” (Eph. 2:14)
The Temple “Wall of Hostility”
The “wall of hostility” refers to a four and a half foot high barrier in the Jewish Temple that surrounded the inner courts and served as a dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles. Nowhere in the Old Testament will you find such a structure that separates people into two groups. But this had become the norm in the 2nd Temple times, and no gentile could enter into the Temple precinct because of it. Unfortunately, men have a poor habit of merging their prejudice with God, believing they’re one in the same. Besides it being a barrier that prevented gentiles from entering the inner courts, why was it especially marked by hostility?
The Jewish historian Josephus informs us that the wall included stone slabs with the inscription: “No foreigner is to enter within the forecourt...Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his subsequent death.” (see “Hope For A Racially Divided America: Pt.1” by Jensy Acosta for a great summary of the antagonistic relationship between Jews and Gentiles).
Why do I believe Trump’s wall is unchristian? Because of the prejudicial language inscribed on it—not in stone, but the conscience of our nation.
It wasn't simply the wall alone, but the language inscribed on it that set it apart as a symbol of hostility. We know that walls, by themselves, are not necessarily wrong. We find both scriptural and historical cases where it was necessary for a city to fortify its borders with a wall—Nehemiah's wall being one the more widely known examples (Neh 4:6). This wall that fortified the inner court was not one of those cases. It was a cultural symbol more than a functional one. This wall was marked by its language on the temple wall--language that reflected the Jewish association of Gentiles with inferiority (Acts 10:28, Acts 21:28).
Why do I believe Trump’s wall is unchristian? Because of the prejudicial language inscribed on it—not in stone, but the conscience of our nation. This language continues a legacy of lies and fear that bitterly divides people along spiritual, ethnic, and political lines—and it threatens to undermine the progress of the last 50 years.
Do Not Rebuild
So what do we do with this? I hope at a very simple level, as those loved by Christ, we can ask ourselves the question: have we fallen into this trap of name-calling and labeling, and thereby building walls around our hearts to keep out neighbors with whom we disagree?
I think Paul boiled it down when he said, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (Col. 3:12)
For me, personally, I hope when I see someone wearing a “Make America Great Again” T-shirt, I don't begin to pass judgment and rattle off an internal list of stereotypes about them. I have many friends riding the Trump Train—folks that I love dearly because of our common bond in Christ. I hope God protects me from building walls in my heart toward them because of our differences of opinion—sharp as they may be. I hope that God, in His infinite mercy, will constantly remind me that Jesus has torn down the wall for all Mankind, and that I owe my neighbor the same love that Christ continually shows to me!
At the end of the day, if we can't love one another through these philosophical divisions, then how can we claim to be recipients of Christ’s love? He surely loved us through so much more! (Romans 5:10). If that happens—if we’re unable or refuse to exercise the “mind of Christ”—then Trump wins, regardless of the election’s outcome.
Jesus has tore the wall down of hostility between us. Don't let Trump’s rhetoric rebuild it.
For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor - Galatians 2:18
Cliff Means is the Vice President of The K.I.N.G. Movement NYC Chapter and an alumni of Summit International School of Ministry. He has a passion to help men reach their God given potential through writing, speaking, and servant leadership. Cliff is a Detroit native and currently resides in Queens, New York. Follow Cliff on SyngergyScape or Twitter @cliffmeans