Reductio Ad Hitlerum

What is a racist? Like many people, I had thought it was someone who believed a particular race (generally their own) to be innately superior to all (or some) others. But since almost everyone has now designated the new American President to be a racist, I am left wondering.

The central justification for labelling Donald Trump “a racist” is something he said on the campaign trail. In one typically free-wheeling speech he claimed that Mexico was not sending its “best” people to America: “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re [their?] rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” It is hard to transcribe Trump speeches accurately. But I think it would require an especially hostile attitude towards the speaker to ignore the fact that they are evidently meant to contain an element of humour and do not assert that all Mexicans are rapists.

Nevertheless, this has become the main evidence for the prosecution.