Growing up in Evansville, Indiana, in the 1970's, my grade-school-rebel self objected when my white classmates used the n-word. They appeared to have a tacit agreement that while one shouldn't call anyone that, or say it around strangers, when talking about black people among young white peers, its use was unremarkable. I disagreed. Whenever I heard it, I complained that it was a mean, bad word, and that it was wrong to say it. (Well, and I'd yell, "Stop saying that!" - one reason I always heard "You're so bossy!" at such an early age.)
Countless times then, one of my little friends would adopt a patronizing tone and explain how they’d been taught by a father or aunt or older sibling that the word didn't apply to all black people. "It just means the bad ones. There are good ones," they'd expound, "and bad ones." Trying to reassure their troubled playmate, they'd say, "Don't worry, Julie, (n-word) is only for the bad ones."
I don't remember the extent of my vocabulary at the time, but I do remember thinking, if not in so many words, that beyond using slurs, it was dehumanizing to say "good ones and bad ones" when talking about people.
That this was a revelation to her was very interesting to us, and because her personality was so guileless and, well, sweet, it had its charm. And sure, it was good she’d figured out such a thing. But the enjoyment of the memory dulls a little when considering what her exclamation laid bare. It betrayed her presumable view that some of them are not as sweet as we are. (Okay, I still get a giggle out of that.) And it raised the question of whether, heretofore, she'd imagined that… er… none of them are sweet as we are. The "we" and "them", even when used by the kind-hearted, always rankles.
As outrageous as that statement was, I was more bothered by the next one. It gave me again the feeling I'd had as a schoolgirl: the good old, surely-you-don't-mean-people-here feeling. In the statement, and I've reread the transcript to confirm my memory, Trump uses "it" to refer to "the bad ones". "They're sending us not the right people. It's coming from more than Mexico. It's coming from all over South and Latin America (sic), and it's coming probably -- probably -- from the Middle East."
Meanwhile, on he goes: Trump continues to use the "good ones" and "bad ones" terminology in his campaign. And it continues to hit my ear like the utterance of a sheltered, Southern thirteen-year old, or of a pretend-grownup fourth grader, on a playground in the 70's Midwest.