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  • Activists from groups including Black Lives Matter protest ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 17, 2016.

    Activists from groups including Black Lives Matter protest ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 17, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Published 18 July 2016

Sounding the racial dog whistle, the Republican National Convention begins this week, promising to "Make America Safe Again" and "Make America First Again"

From the return of segregated bathrooms reminiscent of the Jim Crow era, to the racial dog-whistle proposal to “Make America Safe Again,” the Republican National Convention in Cleveland began Monday on a menacing note, signaling the deepening political polarization in the US as the country seems on the verge of imploding under the weight of police violence, xenophobia, and unsustainable disparities in wealth and income. 

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The RNC kicked off Monday by unfurling a banner with the "Make America Safe Again" slogan wihiich is hardly inconsistent with the anti-immigrant and white supremacist campaign themes that have catapulted billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump to the top of the GOP ticket. 

Trump has proposed banning all Muslims from entering the United States until authorities “figure out what is going on,” while criminalizing Mexican migration with his proposed massive border wall stretching across some 1,000 miles. A Republican party statement released Monday claimed that President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have left the U.S. “vulnerable” to outside “security threats and the negative consequences of illegal immigration,” and proposed to strengthen the US military and ratchet up national security measures to “make America safe again.”

And over the weekend , Wall Street Journal reporter Bryan Tau tweeted photos of a large convention sign with arrows pointing to “white elevators.” When Tau inquired about the sign, he was told it was being removed for "obvious reasons" with no further explanation.

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Perhaps reflecting the increasing tribalisms that seems to bewitch the U.S. of late, some defended the signs on Twitter as a color-coding scheme used for logistical purposes, while others on social media channels blasted the signage as a throwback to Jim Crow-era segregation laws in the Deep South. 

Still, many see the RNC as emblematic of a country drawing its battle lines and preparing for escalating sectarian conflict, either political, violent, or both. Sunday, a man from Kansas City, Missouri, ambushed Baton Rouge police officers, killing three in apparent retaliation for the widely-publicized police shooting of a black man, Alton Sterling, in a Baton Rouge parking lot last month. That follows a similar ambush nine days earlier of Dallas-area police officers on patrol at a Black Lives Matter protest march.   

Meanwhile, the White House responded to a petition that garnered 100,000 signatures calling on the government to officially label the Black Lives Matter movement a “terrorist group.” The Obama Administration refused to address the movement´s clear racial underpinnings and instead directed petitioners to Obama’s recent statements urging people to “stand in each other’s shoes and look at the world through each other’s eyes”  “The White House plays no role in designating domestic terror organizations,” reads the official response letter to the petition. .

Trump, on the other hand, has opted to ignore the Black Lives Matter movement, which is spearheading a new generation of political activism.

“We are TRYING to fight ISIS, and now our own people are killing our police,” the presumptive Republican nominee tweeted Sunday in reference to the Baton Rouge shootnigs. 

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Also Sunday, Stephen Colbert crashed the stage during preparations for the RNC to poke fun at Trump and conventioners. While dressed as Caesar Flickerman, the host from “The Hunger Games” movie franchise, the comedian seized the microphone and announced that Trump “has formed an alliance with Indiana Governor Mike Pence.”   

The stunt was reminiscent of how the blue-haired Flickerman, portrayed by Stanley Tucci in the “Hunger Games” movies, declares the alliances between the contestants battling for survival in the Spartan-like contests. The Late Show host’s stunt lasted less than a minute before a security guard quickly escorted him away.

The next three days of the RCN will carry the themes “Make America Work Again” — in which the Republican party claims policies like Obama’s Affordable Care Act destroy jobs — “Make America First Again,” and “Make America One Again.”

The final RNC theme references “divisive identity politics” that — in the context of Republican rhetoric and particularly Trump’s campaign — is a thinly-veiled attack on Black Lives Matter and other movements for racial justice and an attempt to widen the country´s racial divides. 

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