President Trump referred to people as "animals" — and then doubled down, saying that he was only referring to certain people.
Trump's comment came during a roundtable discussion about sanctuary cities in California, after Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims described what she sees as a problem with current law enforcement and immigration policy.
Trump replied, "We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — and we're stopping a lot of them — but we're taking people out of the country. You wouldn't believe how bad these people are. These aren't people. These are animals."
Many honed in on the president's words, accusing him of dehumanizing all undocumented immigrants from south of the border. The president clarified that he was specifically referring to those in MS-13 — gang members mostly from Central America, notorious for particularly brutal, violent crimes.
I.C.E. agents detain a suspected MS-13 gang member and Honduran immigrant. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.
John Legend beautifully explained why it doesn't matter if the president was only dehumanizing violent gang members.
When Trump made these remarks, Legend and his wife, Chrissy Teigen, were in the hospital welcoming their new baby. Yet the singer still took a moment to explain why dehumanizing any group — even violent gang members — is problematic.
"I'm in the hospital with our new son," he wrote on Twitter. "Any of these babies here could end up committing terrible crimes in the future. It's easy, once they've done so, to distance ourselves from their humanity."
The perspective one gets gazing at a brand-new human being, still unmarked by the world, is as about as pure as it gets.
Legend challenged us all to examine the root causes of violence and look for collective solutions.
"But it's much more honest and challenging to realize they were all babies once and think about what in society, their home life, etc. took them from baby to violent gang member," he continued, "and then to think about collective action we could take to mitigate these conditions."
It's easy to create black-and-white, us-versus-them, good-versus-evil narratives.
It's harder to dig deep into what leads people to violence and contemplate how we could play a role in preventing it.
Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images.
Without devolving into personal bashing, Legend pointed out a universal truth: As history has proven time and again, dehumanization of any group of people is a dangerous path.
What makes his comments so compelling is that he put forth his arguments and challenges ideas with a thoughtful nod to the complexity of the issue — and without disparaging anyone's ideology, political affiliation, or appearance.
Thank you, John Legend, for a refreshing example of how to engage in thoughtful and reasonable discourse, even within an undeniably divisive topic.