You might think, if you don’t pay much attention to history, that Trump and Hitler just had an irrational hatred for some particular group of people, and then used their power to act out on this hatred. No, this institutionalized racism is far more sinister and chilling than that, and also much more cynical. Dictators need a group of people to keep rest of the people focused on.
Dictators don’t just rise to power and then start to spread hate and fear. They use that hate and fear to come to power. They need a minority to blame the problems in a society on. It helps establish their base among the ignorant who feel that their problems must be caused by someone else. It draws the haters and bullies and racists to their cause.
The minority the dictator picked as their scapegoats serve many purposes. The sad and frightening truth is that a certain percentage of people who might not be overtly racist are going to accept the idea that there is some subset of their society that is receiving all the blame and being treated differently than they are. They tell themselves that they, personally, aren’t acting out against these people. But they don’t actively try to protest this treatment. This is partly because it is human nature to think that if someone else’s life is worse than yours, then your life is somehow a little better. It is easy to overlook the slow advance of organized racism in policies when it isn’t happening to you or anyone in your family. And people convince themselves, even when they see people being mistreated, that somehow, those people must deserve this treatment in some degree.
Once the dictator is in power, the victims of this discrimination serve other purposes. A dictator needs to erode civil rights and liberties. An effective way to do this is to wait until there is some sort of terrorist attack, or, like Hitler did with the Reichstag fire, to fake an attack. Even mass protests might be enough. Because the dictator needs to slowly erode the rights of the people, and martial law is a good way to do this. He needs an excuse to diminish the rights of the people while increasing the powers of the army and law enforcement. And since a dictator runs the army and law enforcement, this isn’t that hard to do. He only has to have enough of his chosen people in high rank.
Now combine this with the fact that a dictator has already put his loyal followers in key positions in the government and legal institutions. The people who can change laws, interpret laws, and pass laws, are now working to give the dictator ever greater powers.
The parallels between Trump’s rise to power and that of any number of dictators is astounding and quite obvious to anyone who studies history.