Trump tweets re-ignite conversation on race relations

LISTEN: A conversation with Casimiro Rodriguez of the WNY Hispanic Heritage Council

Mike Baggerman
July 17, 2019 - 3:00 am

Casimiro Rodriguez of the WNY Hispanic Heritage Council. July 16, 2019 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - President Trump's controversial comments have re-ignited a discussion of race relations in the United States.

READ MORE: House vote condemns Trump's tweets, draws some GOP support

The president on Sunday tweeted that Freshman Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came" in response to their ideas on how the United States should be run. Trump then tweeted on Tuesday that those four have received a free pass from "vile, hateful, and disgusting" comments from them in the past on topics such as Israel, terrorism, and public language. Trump said his tweets were not racist and that he believes the four women hate the country.

READ MORE: Buffalo leaders condemn Trump comments

Democrats at all levels of government immediately criticized Trump for his tweets and called them racist. Some republican lawmakers have also condemned the comments.

"It begins (at the local level)," WNY Hispanic Heritage Council President Casimiro Rodriguez told WBEN. "The local communities cannot do too much about what happens at the national level but I've always had the philosophy that we need to influence what we can control. What we've done as a city and county and as leaders from the different organizations and so forth on having a racial equity roundtable, where racial issues can be discussed, I think it starts there."

Today's culture is dominated by 240 character tweets and media sound bytes, but Rodriguez said it's still important to continue with any discussions possible about race relations, including his own experiences dealing with discrimination.

"Language," he said. "They speak their native language in a setting and they're told to speak english. Something as simple as that. That's the atmosphere we live in. We can't give up. We've got to have that discussion. Folks who disagree, we've got to learn to agree to disagree. We can't give up. We have to work with everybody."

Rodriguez' family came to Buffalo in the 1950s and didn't know any English.

"When my parents passed away, they still spoke broken English," he said. "But let me tell you, they had the heart to succeed. They had the heart to prevail and to search for the American dream. I'm a result of that and I'm very proud of that. They came here with humble beginnings, with limited education like many other Hispanic Americans came here. But they did not give up."

Jonathan Rivera, a west side resident who is Erie County's Special Assistant for the Department of Public Works and an active member of the Latino community, spoke at a press conference on Tuesday condemning President Trump's tweets. He said conversations about race relations are important in the world of social media.

"We all have to be held accountable for (comments on social media)," Rivera said. "If it takes days like this to make that happen. Then, so be it."

"Misinformation and lies on social media are just as powerful as truth," Buffalo Common Councilman David Rivera said. "Somehow you have to rebut that. But if it goes unanswered, if he is able to put all those things out on social media and go unanswered, people assume it's true. That becomes very powerful. So how do we deal with information and lies and tweets like this is a good question."

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