One again, Republicans are politicizing a tragedy

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Leave it to the right to make a cheap attempt to capitalize off human tragedy.

For most people, the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore last week was a disaster of horrific proportions. Americans across the political spectrum expressed their sorrow and prayers toward the victims and their families.

But for many in the bombastic world of right-wing conservatism, it presented an opportunity to partake in one of their favorite hobbies: injecting racism into the issue at hand.

As first responders frantically plunged into the frigid waters of the Patapsco River looking for survivors, the right-wing machine was using the tragedy to further agitate its ongoing xenophobic and bigoted campaign toward immigrants and the perceived albatross of “wokeism.”

Users on X, formerly Twitter, spread racist dog whistles alongside videos of Brandon Scott, the Black, 39-year-old mayor of Baltimore.

“This is Baltimore’s DEI mayor commenting on the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge,” wrote one user with over 250,000 followers. “It’s going to get so, so much worse.” Anthony Sabatini, a Republican congressional candidate in Florida, posted a video of the bridge collapsing with the words “DEI did this.” Phil Lyman, a Republican state representative in Utah and current candidate for governor, wrote, “This is what happens when you have Governors who prioritize diversity over the wellbeing and security of citizens.” He later added, then deleted, “DEI=DIE.”

As Republicans have railed against “woke” and critical race theory — despite the fact many of them can’t specifically define what these terms really mean — they’ve have eagerly moved to nullify DEI programs and initiatives. In July 2023, Republican Rep. Alex Mooney of West Virginia introduced legislation to terminate the House DEI office, claiming the agency was Marxist in nature and inherently racist against white people (it isn’t).

Six construction workers filling potholes on the bridge were killed in the collapse. They were from Mexico Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, according to Col. Roland L. Butler Jr, the superintendent of Maryland State Police

The bodies of two were recovered after they were found trapped in a red pickup truck in the Patapsco River, according to Maryland State Police. They have been identified as Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes from Mexico and Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera from Guatemala.

These are all men who came to America in pursuit of a better life for their families and themselves. These were individuals who were willing to brave freezing temperatures in the middle of the night in an effort to help improve the lives of fellow citizens.

The fact is the Baltimore bridge tragedy arrived at a moment when voters have ranked immigration as the number one issue in this year’s presidential election. That’s propelled by fearmongering over a humanitarian crisis at the southern border by GOP candidates, engineered by sadistic ring leader Donald Trump, and by Fox News hoses who foolishly asked if the crash occurred due to “the wide-open border.”

These heroic men who lost their lives were not “poisoning the blood of our country,” as Donald Trump would argue. On the contrary, they were adding to and rejuvenating it.

This is a moment of reckoning when we need to roundly reject the virus of xenophobia and reclaim our belief in the United States as a destination for hardworking, conscientious individuals. America is a diverse, pluralistic society. This is a goal we must strive to continue to embrace and maintain.

Copyright 2024 Elwood Watson, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate

Elwood Watson is a professor of history, Black studies, and gender and sexuality studies at East Tennessee State University. He is also an author and public speaker.