Racism is perhaps the most perplexing, disturbing, and persistent social problem in America. When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, his historic election represented a silver lining to the dark clouds of racism that hovered over America. Unfortunately, this silver lining turned out to be an illusion.
In the eight months since Donald Trump took over the reins of the presidency from Pres. Obama, he has given new life to racism. Whether it’s real or perceived, racism is alive and well under the Trump presidency. Recently, the media has been abuzz with conversations that include questions about him being a racist or a white supremacist, denials that he is not, and accusations that he is.
Part of the reason why racism persists is that it straddles the realm of subjectivity and objectivity – we can’t see its attitudinal or psychological characteristics, and sometimes we see the effect it has on people and society. These characteristics play a role in the denial of accusations of racism, the failure to acknowledge racism whenever it occurs, and the confusion in determining what comments or behaviors constitute racism.
When white supremacist protested against the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue this past August in Charlottesville, Virginia, they resurrected the ghost of racism once again. The hatred and racism that ensued resulted in the death of Heather D. Heyer when a white supremacist, Alex Fields drove his car into a group of protesters.
Although the tragic death of Heyer was disturbing what was even more disturbing was that Pres. Trump weighed in on the protest and minimized the behavior of the white supremacist’s protesters by making a false equivalence with the protesters who peacefully opposed them. Trump also made comments that showed that he was against the removal of Lee’s statue and other Confederate statues.
Trump’s comments on the Charlottesville protest, was not one of reconciliation or an appeal for unity. Rather it was perceived as a failure to condemn the white supremacist. Some even saw his response as one of his many dog whistles to his racist base. Unlike other presidents who appealed for calm and unity when similar incidents occur or when the specter of racism threatens to divide the country, Trump created more controversy with his unpresidential comments.
Donald Trump is no stranger to controversy and racial insensitivity. During the 2016 presidential campaign, he made insensitive and insulting comments about Mexicans and about Judge Gonzalo Curiel who is of Mexican heritage. Judge Curiel at the time was presiding over the lawsuit involving students alleged they were defrauded by Trump University when Trump called him a “hater” who was being unfair to him because he is “Hispanic,” because he is “Mexican” and because Trump is building a wall.
Last Friday night during a rally speech in Huntsville, Alabama, Trump called the NFL protesters “son of bitches” and emphatically said that they should be fired for disrespecting the flag. His inflammatory comments escalated the protest as this past Sunday more NFL players continued the protest that quarterback Colin Kaepernick started.
It is hard to find a case where Donald Trump condemned or made critical comments against whites committing acts or making comments that have racial overtones. For example, there is no record of him condemning Ted Nugent when he called Pres. Obama a mongrel dog, or when white police officers kill unarmed black men, or when Dylan Roof shot to death nine black members while they conducted Bible study in their Charleston, South Carolina church.
At the time Dylan Roof committed his horrific and sacrilegious act, Donald Trump was the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. His divisive insensitive racial rhetoric did not go unnoticed as then-Governor Nikki Haley again criticized him when she said,
It is rhetoric like his that led Dylan Roof to gun down nine black members of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston last year.
Sill this did not stop Nikki Haley from accepting Trump’s offer as United States ambassador to the UN– so much for principles.
It is not surprising then that Donald Trump has been accused of being a racist. Recently, ESPN’s Jemele Hill called Trump a white supremacist. Trump’s White House response was that “ESPN should fire Jemele Hill over Trump ‘white supremacist’ tweet.” Following that professor Marc Lamont Hill after being asked by former Congressman Jack Kingston if Pres. Trump is a white supremacist on MSNBC, categorically responded,
What I’m saying very clearly, unequivocally, unapologetically on national television is that Donald J. Trump is a White supremacist.
The accusation that Donald Trump is a racist is not new as he has been involved in behaviors or incidents as far back as the 60s that smacked of racism or racial discrimination. In 1960 he and his father Fred Trump who owned apartments in New York were sued by the state for refusing to rent to blacks.
In 1989 five African-American youths were accused of killing a white female jogger in Central Park, Donald Trump took out a full-page ad in the New York Times calling for their conviction. He did this before the accused were given their due process in court. Eventually, the five youths were found innocent, and Donald Trump never apologized to them. The Guardian online said this about Trump,
For many who have studied Trump’s rise to prominence, the Central Park case provided an early glimpse into how his racially charged views entered his political and tactical mindset.
In 2008 when Barack Obama was elected the first African American president, Donald Trump launched his birtherism conspiracy theory about the president being born in Kenya. His birtherism was an effort to demonize Pres. Obama and delegitimize him. When Pres. Obama released his birth certificate showing that he was born in Hawaii, Trump dismissed it and to this day has not apologized to Pres. Obama.
People who are racists do not become racist overnight or when they are adults. They were exposed to hatred and racism from their early childhood days. This appears to be true with Donald Trump because there is evidence that showed that his father, Fred Trump was a member of the Ku Klux Klan according to the American Herald Tribune, which reported that,
His father a racist who would in the course of his life, clash with New York City Police as a member of the Ku Klux Klan and then as a wealthy real estate magnate, refuse to rent to people of color.
Donald Trump over the years has revealed plenty of details about himself that demonstrates his proclivity for racist behavior. One thing that is consistent with his racist inclinations is that he does not apologize for his racially insensitive comments or behavior. Two examples of this are his failure to apologize to Pres. Obama for promoting the false conspiracy theory of birtherism and to the five African American young men that were falsely accused of murdering the female jogger in Central Park.
Despite Trump’s racist proclivities, he has his black supporters. One supporter who was at his Phoenix, Arizona rally in September held up a sign that said, “Trump & the Republicans are not racist.” And one TV pundit said that Trump could not be a racist because he picked up a little black girl and kissed her during a rally in Wisconsin. These staged events though mislead people to believe that Trump is not a racist.
For Trump’s black supporters and defenders who insist that he is not a racist, it appears that a larger number of his detractors believe that he is racist. This includes a Huffington Post writer who in 2016 gave 13 examples of him being racist.
The phrase, “If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it’s a duck” applies to Donald Trump. Yes, these days he is looking more like a duck (maybe we should start calling him “Donald “Duck” Trump), walking like a duck, and quacking like a duck—quacks that can be translated as him being a racist.
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