New travel ban tips us off: Trump is coming for all brown people, even citizens

I know that I often say I prefer my racists be up front and honest and direct about it so I know what they’re about and don’t have to mess around with pretense, but Donald Trump is something else. He’s a whole new level of blatant that might make me long for more passive-aggressive presidential racism. I’m just waiting for him to demand more money from Congress not just for his wall to keep out Hispanic people from Central America and Mexico but also to hang up giant signs at each coastline saying: “No Coloreds Allowed.”

Just a few days ago (January 31), Trump instituted new travel restrictions aimed at six countries for what seems to be the primary reason that brown-skinned people live there. Those would be: Nigeria, Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan and Tanzania. It’s aimed to virtually block immigration from Nigeria and Myanmar (a place where the Muslim minority is fleeing genocide) and to heavily restrict it from the other nations on the list.

Raise your hand if you’re aware of any major conflicts we have with these nations or if any of them are strongly associated with terrorists who have attacked the United States directly.

Did you raise your hand? Oh, you’re a MAGA-hat-wearing Trump follower. Go the hell away.

But really, this is an extension of what Trump did back in 2017, early in his dictatorship, a Muslim travel ban that got challenged in the courts—which ultimately ended up in favor of our orange autocrat. And yeah, you might have guessed it already, but a common thread in the countries added to the list now are substantial Muslim populations.

Yes, plenty of folks will argue that this is for our protection, because stirring up fear by slapping “Muslim” on any horrible policy makes a huge chunk of America feel safer and allow them to bask in their bigotry. But it’s always been notable that the Muslim nations that never seem to get added to the ban list are ones that actually produced terrorists who took part in 9/11 and are also nations in which Trump has major personal financial interests. Really, this is all designed to sow fear among those deemed as “other” and sadly it works.

What’s heartbreaking about this beyond just being inconsistently cruel to brown-skinned people because of race and/or religion is seeing yet more people in the United States who are citizens and now have to weigh how safe it is to visit those countries. There are people here who are citizens, whether naturalized ones or born here, who have family roots in those nations. But these days, under Trump and with ICE and CBP having been his loyal fascist enforcers and continuing to be so even more cruelly, these people have to worry if they will be allowed back into their own country.

It’s already happened countless times that American citizens come back from countries Trump doesn’t like, whether across the ocean or south of the border, and they are detained for no good reason. Terrorized and harassed. We’re not that far from Trump simply stripping naturalized citizens of their citizenship en masse and, for that matter, doing so to Americans who were actually born here. The administration has already begun trying that with Hispanic people, questioning the validity of the birth certificates issued at U.S. hospitals for them.

One post on Twitter really broke my heart: A woman talking about urging her mother (a naturalized citizen of 20 years or more) not to attend her sister’s funeral in Nigeria because she might not get let back into the United States—or at the very least likely encounter frightening treatment by federal jackbooted thugs.

It starts by just blocking people from entering the country, when we’ve boasted how we are nation of opportunity, freedom and openness—leaving refugees without hope and treating immigrants in general like some kind of infesting vermin. In the end, it will lead, if Trump keeps power long enough and tightens his grip ever more, to many people losing their citizenship.

Trump doesn’t like Black people. He doesn’t like Latinx people unless maybe they’re white-skinned. He doesn’t like Muslims. And while he can deny all these things all he likes (and he does), his actions are clear as to his intent: Make America as white as possible again.

Before I go, I also want to point out how all of this travel ban talk has brought out more subtle racism as well from people in the middle and on the left. Too many people are pointing out on social media how successful and educated Nigerians tend to be, as a way of highlighting how pointless and stupid the new travel bans are. Education isn’t a reason to avoid the racism; humanity is. All these people being banned are human beings and in many cases human beings facing violence or other threats in their homelands that often are caused in large part by American foreign policies of the past many decades.

This will continue. Immigration will be tightened more and more until it doesn’t exist for almost anyone but white European people if Trump stays in power. To be honest, it’s not just Trump. Plenty of GOP representatives and senators and their constituents want to keep out the brown folk and Muslims and kick out the ones we have. They need to be checked as well. But the single greatest architect of all this mistreatment and lack of empathy and protection for non-white people is Trump himself. He’s basically king of the United States now thanks to the Senate’s handling of the impeachment trial. There’s nothing to stop this from getting worse aside from voting Trump and a lot of other Republicans out—assuming we even get fair elections in November. And if we don’t, what will we do. Will we stand up to protect immigrants and refugees? Will we stand up even for our own citizens?


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Let’s go deeper: How to work with me

Just my semi-annual PSA that my anti-racism work extends far beyond this site. In addition to serving as the executive director of one of the longest continuously running anti-racism organizations in the country, I also offer other services for deepening your anti-racism praxis. 

This past fall, I started offering anti-racism coaching sessions. This is a one-hour Zoom session or call where we discuss current issues that you may be facing in your personal or professional anti-racism work. My work is to serve as a sounding board and resource to help you both deepen your work and navigate the thorny and messy issues that often arise in our practices. I work with clients on both an as-needed and ongoing basis. The cost per session is $125. Email blackgirlinmaine@gmail.com to book a session.

If you want to bring me to your group or organization, consider the following options: 

Authentic Dialogues: Talking About Racism and Moving to Action 

This interactive session is designed to look critically at racism in our communities and our nation by examining the roots of white supremacy and how the past impacts our present. A key goal will be teaching, sharing, and learning practical tools for working in our own communities to combat racism and to start conversations on addressing racism and difference in predominantly white spaces. This session is a mixture of lecture and small-group work, which will allow participants to deepen their knowledge of racism, examine their own biases, and learn techniques for starting conversations on racism and how to be an effective ally. Prices vary based on location and organizational budget. Email blackgirlinmaine@gmail.com to book a session

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Tell Me the Truth: Exploring the Heart of Cross-Racial Conversations

How can we speak openly and honestly in cross-racial conversations? What would such a conversation even look like? Shay Stewart-Bouley (Black) and Debby Irving (white) show us as they share racism’s impact on their lives and how cross-racial conversation has been instrumental in their own understanding of 21st century racial dynamics. Shay and Debby will explore the common fears and pitfalls of cross-racial conversation that keep people isolated in their own racial groups, at the expense of personal, professional, and societal growth. They’ll also help audience members understand how interpersonal social patterns hinder organizations from living up to their own ideals for diversity. No two conversations are alike as they step on stage with no agenda. Finally, Shay and Debby will offer suggestions to create racial justice habits that can move us from isolated events to sustainable connections. 

Remaining Winter 2020 Dates for Tell Me the Truth

  • Monday ~ February 3 ~ anytime
  • Tuesday ~ February 4 ~ anytime
  • Sunday ~ February 23 ~ anytime

Cost: $2,500*

Previous Hosts

  • Black Heritage Trail ~ Portsmouth, NH
  • Harvard University Health Services ~ Cambridge, MA
  • Colby College ~ Waterville, Maine
  • Central Square Theater ~ Cambridge, MA
  • Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry ~ Roxbury, MA
  • Marblehead Racial Justice Committee ~ Marblehead, MA
  • SURJ Southern Maine/Seacoast ~ Kittery, ME
  • University of Maine ~Orono, ME
  • University of Maine ~ Bangor, ME
  • University of Maine ~ Augusta, ME
  • Nevins Library ~ Methuen, MA
  • Natick Coalition for Change ~ Natick, MA
  • American Civil Liberties Union ~ Portland, ME
  • Bar Harbor Maine YWCA ~ Bar Harbor, ME
  • Families Organizing for Racial Justice ~ Newton, MA
  • Seattle Equity Summit ~ Seattle, WA
  • Friends School of Portland ~ Portland, ME
  • Highline Public Schools ~ Seattle, WA

Contact cynthia@debbyirving.com for more information or to book a date

* travel may be extra if location greater than 80 miles from Boston or Portland, ME


If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

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Standing in solidarity globally

As a Black woman and anti-racist, the news of the assassination, murder, killing or whatever we are calling it of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani at the behest of our very own Donald Trump has landed rather harshly with me.

By no accounts was Soleimani a good guy. From everything that I have read, an untimely death was almost certainly in his cards at some point. However, as an American, I know all too well that our nation has a rocky history with the truth as it relates to people that we deem as “other.” American truth is precarious at best.

We have made it our business for hundreds of years to traffic in truth that is convenient to our side, specifically the side of white folks and truth be damned! Given that our current commander-in-chief is a known liar, and apparently the majority of people who serve him also are truth-deficient, we may never know if there was actually an imminent threat being posed by Soleimani.

What we do know, though, is that the United States has a long history of mucking around in primarily non-white countries and that there is a long line of “invasions … bombings … overthrowing governments … occupations … suppressing movements for social change … assassinating political leaders … perverting elections … manipulating labor unions … manufacturing “news” … death squads … torture … biological warfare … depleted uranium … drug trafficking … mercenaries …” (Killing Hope 2008).

We also know that the average American is often clueless about our reality abroad and that too often we accept the “truth” as it is spoon-fed to us. Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, anyone? Oops, our bad!

I am nowhere near qualified to provide a global geopolitical analysis on Western imperialism. As an anti-racist writer and speaker, I will say though that if events in recent years in the United States brought you into racial justice and anti-racism spaces, then you need to be equally as concerned about events abroad. The same white supremacy that undergirds much of American racism can also be seen abroad. The same lack of truth that is a hallmark of American history can also be seen anywhere we have left a footprint.

In the end, we cannot claim to be in solidarity with Black and Brown people in our country without standing in solidarity with oppressed Black, Brown and working-class people globally.

Wherever this latest conflict takes us, it won’t be the powerful, rich, white men who feel the pain. It will be the everyday person in Iran, struggling to survive. It will be others across the region as well. It will be American troops who are disproportionately Black, Brown and white working-class people and their families who are directly affected. Once again, victims of a system that too many refuse to dismantle.


If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

Comments will close on this post in 60-90 days; earlier if there are spam attacks or other nonsense.

Photo by William Navarro on Unsplash