Donald Trump, Jr. tweeted a meme comparing Syrian refugees to poisoned Skittles, sparking outrage and a response from Skittles' parent company. That comparison is fatally flawed in almost every respect, perhaps most of all in its deeply white supremacist roots.
It’s Tuesday, which can only mean that there’s yet another Donald Trump controversy that would end any other politician’s career, but which the national political media will move on from in three, two…
On Monday night, Donald Trump, Jr. tweeted out a meme that compared our alleged “Syrian Refugee Problem” with a bowl of Skittles:
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) September 19, 2016
The meme is generating appropriate outrage over its obvious dehumanization of Syrian refugees, which Skittles’ parent company called out when it released this statement to The Hollywood Reporter‘s Seth Abramovitch:
Skittles are candy. Refugees are people. We don’t feel it’s an appropriate analogy. We will respectfully refrain from further commentary as anything we say could be misinterpreted as marketing.
The first thing that thinking people should note about this meme is its utter absurdity and inaccuracy, a point that is being illustrated in any number of ways. I find the most interesting to be the fact that actual Skittles are a greater threat than Syrian refugees. The stats that are being thrown around today are that “the chance of an American being murdered in a terrorist attack caused by a refugee is 1 in 3.64 billion per year,” and if you expand that to include any terrorist attack in the U.S. by a foreigner, the odds are 1 in 3.6 million per year.
By contrast, choking claims the life of one child every five days in the U.S., and 30% of choking incidents are caused by candy, which works out to about 22 deaths per year, and over 3,700 injuries. That still makes deaths from choking on candy an exceedingly rare occurrence, but do you know how many deaths or injuries have been caused in the U.S. by Syrian refugee terrorists since 9/11? Precisely zero:
The United States has resettled 784,000 refugees since September 11, 2001. In those 14 years, exactly three resettled refugees have been arrested for planning terrorist activities—and it is worth noting two were not planning an attack in the United States and the plans of the third were barely credible.
The plotters in those cases killed no one, and none of them were from Syria.
Former Congressman Joe Walsh was quick to take credit for the meme, which was lifted almost word-for-word from an August tweet:
Hey @DonaldJTrumpJr, that's the point I made last month.
Glad you agree. pic.twitter.com/Nssw6KC1HY
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) September 20, 2016
As it turns out, though, Walsh wasn’t the first to use the Skittles analogy on Twitter, not even close. As it also turns out, Trump, Jr. and Walsh aren’t the only people who like to illustrate things with Skittles. While I was looking for commentary on this issue, I came across a fascinating clip from CNN:
I would just like to see a separate white nation. If you take a bag of Skittles, there’s different colors in that bag. you can mix the colors and it still tastes okay. But if you separate the colors and then taste the individual flavors, it’s even better.
That’s from a recently-aired episode of CNN’s United Shades of America, but as many folks have pointed out, the Skittles metaphor has long, deep roots with white supremacists. Originally used as a way to rationalize bigotry against other minorities, and featuring M&Ms, it morphed into Skittles about the same time the white supremacist community adopted the candies as a symbol of slain teenager Trayvon Martin, and found currency among Islamophobes.
Wherever Donald Trump, Jr. first saw this meme and decided to replicate it, the fact is that the premise alone is racist and dehumanizing, and if it were any other candidate, the fallout would be politically fatal. For Trump, it’s just another day ending in “Y.”
Oh, and there’s this:
The man who photographed that bowl of Skittles from Donald Trump Jr.'s tweet is a refugee. https://t.co/ZmMFEGMxWw
— Gabe #DreamActNow Ortíz (@TUSK81) September 20, 2016