Shame on GOP for politicizing bridge tragedy

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 was a disaster of horrific proportions. Americans across the political spectrum expressed 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 a candidate for governor, wrote, “This is what happens when you have governors who prioritize diversity over the well-being and security of citizens.” He later added, then deleted, “DEI=DIE.”

As Republicans have railed against “woke” and critical race theory — even though many can’t define what those terms mean — they’ve eagerly moved to nullify DEI programs and initiatives. Last July, Republican Rep. Alex Mooney of West Virginia introduced legislation to terminate the House DEI office, claiming the agency was Marxist and inherently racist against white people.

Six construction workers filling potholes on the bridge were killed in the collapse. They were from Mexico Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, said Col. Roland L. Butler Jr, superintendent of Maryland State Police. The bodies of two were recovered after they were found trapped in a red pickup in the river.

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

The bridge tragedy arrived when voters ranked immigration as the No. 1 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 former President Trump, and by Fox News hoses who foolishly asked if the crash occurred due to “the wide-open border.”

The heroic men who lost their lives were not “poisoning the blood of our country,” as 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 people. America is a diverse, pluralistic society. This is a goal we must strive to continue to embrace and maintain.

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.