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Stop calling DeSantis' racist charade a 'protest'

Several reports have framed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' stunt, in which he sent migrants to Martha's Vineyard, as a "protest." It's really a racist charade.


In the past two days, popular media outlets have carried Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ water by portraying his cruel stunt, in which he sent people seeking refuge in America to Martha’s Vineyard, as a “protest.”

DeSantis, along with Republican Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona, have made a show of busing and flying people seeking to enter the U.S. through its Southern border to liberal-leaning regions. The conceit is that the experience will be so dreadful for these regions that they’ll demand the Biden administration take up extreme measures to curb immigration. 

Several news organizations have all used “protest” to describe what some Democrats have suggested is literal human trafficking. And now is a critical time for anyone who has used the term to consider their potential complicity in this act of racist bigotry. 

“Protest” is a misnomer for this aimless (and, as far as we know, endless) campaign that uses migrants as props to terrorize.

Protests are acts embarked upon by disempowered people to message things to the powerful. People use protests to evoke change that they don’t have the power to bring about themselves. In this case, DeSantis has offered only vague criticism about “open border” policies — a phrase that has been discredited repeatedly. So what we’re talking about here is more accurately described as a tantrum than a protest, given it has no clear endgame. 

And what makes this even more disgusting is that DeSantis actually isn’t powerless in resolving this or any other immigration issue. And neither are other Republicans. 

It’s important to make the distinction here between one’s ability to solve a problem and one’s willingness to do so. Florida hasn’t reached a critical mass of people; we know this because DeSantis’ office has bragged about all the people allegedly moving to Florida from liberal states. And contrary to DeSantis’ claims that the people he transported — who reportedly weren’t even trying to enter his state — were moved to “protect” Florida, there’s no evidence they posed a threat. And there’s no legitimate reason that Texas, where the migrants apparently were headed, or Florida can’t take them in, even as the U.S. wades through its decadeslong immigration issues. 

But on top of that, DeSantis, as I alluded, is uniquely ill-equipped to say anything about failed immigration policy. That’s because he was in Congress for years — including 2017, when Republicans controlled all three branches of government — and his party failed to pass immigration reform. In fact, when it looked like a bipartisan group of lawmakers was set to reach an agreement on an immigration bill many believed would have strengthened law enforcement while providing protections for some undocumented people brought here as children, the House Freedom Caucus — founded by then-Rep. DeSantis — tanked the legislation

Now, some are describing DeSantis as “protesting” a problem he helped create. 

The point of this stunt is not to protest. There isn’t even a concrete demand being expressed. The point is to propagandize. This is promotional material of the worst sort and no different from other efforts throughout history to herd nonwhite people like cattle and use them, as if they’re property, for political or commercial benefit. 

Was Japanese internment a “protest” against immigration? Was slavery a “protest” against labor costs? Was the Trail of Tears a “protest” against Native American land use? Was it a mere “protest” when Italian immigrants like DeSantis’ ancestors were categorized as “a pest without mitigation” and shunted away from white, conservative enclaves, sometimes violently?

Of course not.

So we’re going to call this what it is: a plainly racist charade. And no one who frames it as legitimate or acceptable political expression is worth even a second of your time.