In a Washington Post op-ed, Lakshmi said the bigotry espoused by Trump’s supporters was a reminder of the past.
“Those words, those hurtful, xenophobic, entitled words that I’ve heard all throughout my childhood, stabbed me right in the heart,” she wrote. “They echoed the unshakable feeling that most brown immigrants feel. Regardless of what we do, regardless of how much we assimilate and contribute, we are never truly American enough because our names sound funny, our skin isn’t white, or our grandmothers live in a different country.”
The same day Lakshmi’s op-ed was published, Trump defended the rallygoers as “incredible patriots,” backpedaling on his previous attempt to distance himself from the chant. He had said Thursday that he was “not happy with it” and disagreed with his supporters.
Lakshmi warned that the situation has become “Charlottesville 2.0,” referring to the 2017 white supremacist rally that turned deadly when a neo-Nazi drove his car into a crowd and killed counterprotester Heather Heyer. After the violence, Trump infamously claimed there were “very fine people on both sides.”
“He has long been dog-whistling to white nationalists, and as he ramps up for 2020, that whistle has become a battle cry,” Lakshmi wrote.
Lakshmi, who recalled coming to the U.S. with her single mother, also pointed out a fact continually cited by critics of Trump’s xenophobia: His own family contains immigrants.
“The president is himself a second-generation American,” she wrote. “Two of the women he has married are immigrants, but the only difference between them and Omar ― and myself ― is skin color. It’s clear that Trump equates being American with being white. But he doesn’t have the right to judge the Americanness of any of us.”
In addition to Omar, Trump has also attacked Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). These four congresswomen appeared to be the target of a series of tweets in which Trump urged progressive Democrats to “go back” to “the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
While Democrats, including those singled out by Trump, have denounced his comments as divisive and racist, many Republicans have been silent on the matter and continued to dodge questions after his rally.