Opinion: I Feel the “Build the Wall” Chant Is Racist

Walter Rhein

Photo byImage by Walter Rhein

People say they’re worried about border security. If that’s the case, they should be chanting “We want border security.” But that’s not what they say and there’s a reason they chanted “build the wall” instead.

I’m always a little uncomfortable when people engage in ritualistic chanting. We should all be able to recognize that it has an effect on our thoughts when an authority figure requires us to stand in a room and recite something. I’m not convinced that this behavior is good for our society. I don't think it promotes individuality and compassion.

The pledge of allegiance is another example of something I consider to be a ritualistic chant. I think it’s a waste of time to have students recite that at school. I think you show more respect to our country by teaching students that they have the right to refuse to stand and recite some arbitrary pledge of allegiance.

I don’t think you show respect to our country by accusing anyone who offers an alternative viewpoint of “hating America.” Such phrases don’t show respect for freedom, they demonstrate an inclination to authoritarianism.

The inclusion of the phrase “under God” in the pledge of allegiance is problematic. The argument could be made that the inclusion of that phrase transforms the pledge of allegiance into a prayer.

No matter where you stand on this issue, it’s easy to see that reciting a chant does not give the speaker room for individual thought. Instead, you become part of a mass. Your identity is buried within the group.

Today, it’s less common for people to go around chanting “build the wall.” However, I remember the people who used to say it. Many are still flying their preferred candidate's flags outside their home.

One of the things that bothered me about “build the wall” is that most immigrants come to the United States through airports. This, to me, indicates that “build the wall” was never about border security. Instead, it’s about race. My wife happens to be an immigrant from South America. Every time there was a publicized rally where people started chanting “build the wall,” I noticed an increase in hostility directed against her.

I was always willing to talk to people about issues of border security, but I asked my friends and family not to participate in the “build the wall” chants. I told them that I was concerned because I thought the chants incited hostility against my wife and my kids.

They refused. They told me I was being silly. They disrespected my position and my concerns for my family.

I have since cut these people completely out of my life.

It doesn’t matter to me that today few people are chanting “build the wall.” I remember when it was said. I remember the problems it caused. I remember the flawed philosophy and the money wasted on the project.

People like to say that you shouldn’t end relationships over political differences. However, what are you supposed to do when friends and family insist on chanting a phrase that incites violence against your wife and children?

Too often in the United States, complex concepts get reduced to oversimplifications. Perhaps it wasn’t the objective of my friends and family to cause harm to my wife and children. However, if that was the result then what do their intentions matter?

If we want to talk about border security, let’s be mindful of doing it in a way that will not be taken as violent rhetoric aimed at immigrants. Doing so might save relationships and remove some of the division in our society.

Comments / 137

Published by

Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI

More from Walter Rhein

Comments / 0