Sunday, August 11, 2019

Racism Is The Ugly Face Of The U.S. & Always Has Been

Our Declaration of Independence declares that all men are created equal, and our Constitution requires equal treatment under the law for all citizens. Unfortunately, the United States has never been able to live up to those ideals and promises.

One reason we have failed is the racism and white supremacy that has existed since before the nation was officially founded. But we were getting better. Bit by bit, the nation has been doing better with each generation in trying to live up to the ideal of universal equality. We are not there yet, but we were making real progress.

Then Donald Trump moved into our White House, and things starting going backwards. Although he is loath to admit it, Trump is a racist and white supremacist -- and he wants to move the country back to a time of white privilege and minority subservience. The racists and white supremacists are still numerous, and they have been emboldened by Trump's hate-filled actions and words.

We must act to remove Trump and his cohorts from our government, and rein in the atrocities committed by his avid followers. To this end, I give you below a part of an excellent op-ed by Michael Gerson in The Washington Post:

This evil — the evil of white supremacy, resulting in dehumanization, inhumanity and murder — is the worst stain, the greatest crime, of U.S. history. It is the thing that nearly broke the nation. It is the thing that proved generations of Christians to be vicious hypocrites. . . .

During more than 300 years of routine horrors — the slave ships, the brandings, the separation of families, the beatings, the lynchings, the constant flood of humiliation, the racist ads for soap and toothpaste, the anti-black riots, the segregation of buses and pools and schools and suburbs, the sundown towns, the kangaroo courts, the police dogs and water cannons, the church bombings, the cruel and petty tyranny of whites, reinforced by the most prominent politicians in the country — during all of this, none of the descendants of Europe were able to stamp this evil out. As James Baldwin said in 1963, “The only people in the country at the moment who believe either in Christianity or in the country are the most despised minority in it.”

Racism is the fire that left our country horribly disfigured. It is the beast we try to keep locked in the basement. When the president of the United States plays with that fire or takes that beast out for a walk, it is not just another political event, not just a normal day in campaign 2020. It is a cause for shame. It is the violation of martyrs’ graves. It is obscene graffiti on the Lincoln Memorial. . . .

And all of this is being done by an ignorant and arrogant narcissist reviving racist tropes for political gain, indifferent to the wreckage he is leaving, the wounds he is ripping open.

Like, I suspect, many others, I am finding it hard to look at resurgent racism as just one in a series of presidential offenses or another in a series of Republican errors. Racism is not just another wrong. The Antietam battlefield is not just another plot of ground. The Edmund Pettus Bridge is not just another bridge. The balcony outside Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel is not just another balcony. As U.S. history hallows some causes, it magnifies some crimes.

What does all this mean politically? It means that Trump’s divisiveness is getting worse, not better. He makes racist comments, appeals to racist sentiments and inflames racist passions. The rationalization that he is not, deep down in his heart, really a racist is meaningless. Trump’s continued offenses mean that a large portion of his political base is energized by racist tropes and the language of white grievance. And it means — whatever their intent — that those who play down, or excuse, or try to walk past these offenses are enablers.

Some political choices are not just stupid or crude. They represent the return of our country’s cruelest, most dangerous passion. Such racism indicts Trump. Treating racism as a typical or minor matter indicts us.

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