White People Have Denied That They Are Racist For a Long Time

Jim Crow

After Donald Trump told U.S Representatives Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley, Tlaib, and Omar to “go back” to their own countries, I heard and read a lot of conservatives say something similar to Fox News commentator Brit Hume:

Hume’s tweet shows his ignorance.  For more than half a century, historians have made a a strong case that nativism/xenophobia is rooted in racism. But I would imagine Hume, if confronted with such scholarship, would simply say that it was produced by a bunch of liberal professors and it thus has no merit.

Other conservatives have said that using the term “racist” to describe Trump’s tweets will somehow water-down the true meaning of the term.  Racism is bad–really bad–so let’s use the term carefully.  These statements are usually followed a reference to Miriam-Webster.

Now many of these same conservatives are saying that Trump’s recent tweets about Elijah Cummings and Baltimore are not racist.

I would suggest that instead of thinking about racism by trying to apply a dictionary definition to our current moment, we should think historically about white people’s understanding of racism.  If we did this, we would learn that there is a long history of white people denying their racism. In fact, most white people in America during the so-called Jim Crow-era thought that they were treating blacks fairly. (The same, I might add, could be said for slavery).

Michael Tesler, a political scientist at the University of California-Irvine, makes this case in a recent piece at The Washington Post.  Here is a taste of his op-ed, “Republicans don’t think Trump’s tweets are racist.  That fits a long American history of denying racism“:

Although many politicianspolitical commentatorsnews outlets and even a few longtime defenders of the president have called Trump’s words “racist,” Republican leaders have generally closed ranks and rejected this characterization.

To understand this debate about Trump and racism, it’s important to put it in historical perspective. First, it is but one episode in a long history of American denials of the extent and consequences of prejudice, racial discrimination, segregation, disenfranchisement and persecution. Whites have done so even when the racism was virtually undeniable.

Second, this debate illustrates the more recent and growing partisan polarization on the question of what constitutes racism. That polarization makes it unsurprising that so many Republican leaders would not condemn Trump in these terms.

The Jim Crow era, from the 1870s through the 1950s, was a period of explicit, legally sanctioned racism. Racial segregation was enforced by law for decades. Black people were subjected to systematic discrimination, property deprivation, disenfranchisement and even violent death at the hands of Southern racists.

But remarkably, when pollsters asked white Americans about the situation of blacks, most still thought that African Americans were being treated fairly. In 1944, 1946 and 1956, the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) asked Americans, “Do you think most [N]egroes in the United States are being treated fairly or unfairly?” The graph below shows that at least 60 percent of whites said that most blacks were treated fairly.

Read the entire piece here.

Trump is Manufacturing Racial Fears

trump fake news

Peter Beinart, writing at The Atlantic, is on to something when he writes, “In the past, the president riled up his base by exploiting violent incidents in the news.  Now he just manufactures his own controversies.”

Here is a taste of his piece:

Over the past two weeks, as President Donald Trump has picked fights with Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and now Elijah Cummings, a consensus has emerged: Trump has begun his reelection campaign. He’s stoking bigotry to motivate his conservative white base.

It makes sense. But if Trump is launching an offensive, he’s also trying to solve a problem: He has less material. Over the course of Trump’s 2016 campaign, the United States and its allies experienced spasms of deadly violence, which helped him convince white Christian Americans that only he could protect them from a supposed threat from Muslims and blacks. Today, although America still experiences plenty of violence—mass shootings, for instance—it’s not the kind that fits Trump’s narrative. So instead of exploiting incendiary events, he has to create them.

Read the rest here.

 

Trump Has Found His Ticket(s) to Relection

Greenville

Trump has been waiting for a moment like this.  After watching some of his rally last night in Greenville, North Carolina, it is clear that the president thinks he has found his path to re-election in 2020.  Trump hopes to ride his racist criticism of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Talib, and Ayanna Pressley to a second term in the White House.  Last night he attacked these women relentlessly.  When Trump disparaged Omar, the crowd chanted “send her back.”

Trump will paint the entire Democratic Party as socialists who share the same views at the so-called “Squad.”  He will mention these four women every night.  He will convince his Fox News listeners that the Democratic presidential candidates are cut from the same cloth.  He will convince people that Democrats hate America and pose and immediate threat.

Of course this entire strategy is built on fear and ignorance.  In 2016 Trump learned that fear-mongering and appeals to anti-intellectualism work.

His appeal to white evangelicals will be the same as 2016.  In fact, this appeal will be more effective in 2020 since Trump has delivered on Supreme Court justices and Israel.  We can only hope that educated evangelicals who voted for Trump in 2016 will see the moral degradation of his presidency and abandon him in 2020.

Does Donald Trump Want Frederick Douglass to Go Back to Where He Came From?

frederickdouglass01

Some of you may remember that Donald Trump thinks Frederick Douglass, ex-slave-turned-abolitionist, is still alive.  Douglass is not only alive, but he is doing “an amazing job.” (I am not sure if any corrected him on this. For the record, Douglass died in 1895).

So I wonder what Trump would think about this passage from Douglass’s “What to a Slave is the Fourth of July”:

“What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?

I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.”

How unpatriotic.  Look–if Frederick Douglass does not love this country he is free to leave.

Yup.

It looks like Trump is going to use his Twitter feed to attack Douglass after he is done with Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Talib, and Ayanna Pressley.  Like the women of “The Squad,” Douglass hates America.  This is why he uses such disgusting language.

And while he is at it, Trump should also target William Lloyd Garrison.  I hear he is getting more and more attention lately.  He burned the Constitution. HOW UNPATRIOTIC!  WHEN WILL GARRISON APOLOGIZE TO THE COUNTRY?

Gerson: Trump is the Real Threat to Religious Liberty

Omar

Here is Gerson–an evangelical, former Bush speechwriter, and Washington Post columnist–on Trump’s response to recent statements by Minnesota representative Ilhan Omar:

By all the evidence, Trump is an anti-Muslim bigot. At one campaign event in 2015, a member of the audience stated, “We have a problem in this country, it’s called Muslims.” And he went on to ask, “When can we get rid of them?” Trump responded: “We’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.” Imagine a normal politician on the left or right being asked about the possibility of getting rid of all the Christians, or getting rid of all the Jews. They would likely use such a moment to clarify that they aren’t, in fact, insanely prejudiced monsters. Trump used such a moment to affirm the instinct of mass deportation and to promise a range of other anti-Muslim actions.

Could this have been a slip of the tongue? No, it wasn’t. Trump has a long history of animus — raw animus — against one of the Abrahamic faiths. He has said, “We’re having problems with the Muslims.” And: “There is a Muslim problem in the world.” And: “The United Kingdom is trying hard to disguise their massive Muslim problem.” And: “Islam hates us.”

Read the entire piece here.

How Long Will Americans Tolerate This Man as Their President?

Today I watched Representative Ilhan Omar’s speech on Islam, religious liberty, anti-Muslim bigotry at the Council of American-Islamic Relations.

Here is the controversial part of the speech:

Here’s the truth: far too long we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen. And frankly I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it. CAIR was founded after 9/11, because they recognized that some people did something and then all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties. 

I do not take Omar’s remarks here in a sinister way.  Yet, Donald Trump chose to interpret them in that way.  Here is his tweet:

Trump’s decision to post this video with the burning 9-11 towers doesn’t surprise me.  Trump is an idiot and he is never going to change.  But there are no doubt millions of Americans who are praising Trump for this tweet.  They represent much of what is wrong with America right now.  Some thoughts:

  1. The Omar quote Trump used here is woefully out of context.  Let’s also remember that her entire speech focused on the difference between patriotic American Muslims and the Muslim extremists who attacked the U.S. on 9-11.
  2. Let’s also remember that Trump claimed that he saw “thousands” of people in Jersey City “cheering” as the World Trade Center “was coming down.”  As we now know–this did not happen.  It was yet another example of Trump’s embrace of a politics of fear.  And then there was Trump’s comments a few hours after the World Trade Center fell.  Instead of showing compassion for the lives lost in this tragic event, Trump was on the radio bragging that his building on Wall Street was now the tallest building in New York City.  (In actually, is the 32nd tallest building in NYC).  So let’s consider the source and the hypocrisy evident in this tweet.
  3. One can condemn both Trump’s tweet and Omar’s February 2019 tweet about Jews.
  4. This tweet is yet another appeal to Trump’s anti-Muslim white evangelical base as we get closer to the 2020 election.  Expect to see much more of this garbage. Strongmen use fear to stay in power.
  5. In this tweet Trump exploited the families of those killed on 9-11 for political gain.  Sadly, this is politics as usual.  Despicable.
  6. The New York Post seized on Trump’s words, thus further degrading public discourse in America: NY Post

I still believe that a President should set the moral tone of a nation. (Wow, what a crazy idea!). Trump is a deeply immoral man who is incapable of leadership.  Even if you think Omar should have been more specific in her condemnation of the 9-11 terrorists, we should not stand for this kind of gutter-politics from the President of the United States.

What saddens me the most, of course, is that white evangelicals played a major role in getting this man into the White House.  I know not all white evangelicals who voted for Trump like this kind of rhetoric.  I have met dozens of them on the road over the last year.  But let’s not pretend that these voters don’t share responsibility for the mess Trump is making of our country.  White evangelicals gave Trump this platform.