Last week, amid the continuing clamor of Trump’s chaos presidency, the question of whether Trump had used the n-word became a media sensation.
Omarosa Manigault Newman, the president’s former aide, claims there is a tape of him using the vile racial slur. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she “can’t guarantee” that a tape doesn’t exist. Trump tweeted, “I don’t have that word in my vocabulary.” The press pursued the question as if this would establish for one and for all whether Trump is a racist.
Say what? Using the n-word has become unacceptable in civilized society, but its use is hardly the measure of racism.
In a brilliant article in The New York Times, Steven W. Thrasher puts this diversion to rest by arraying the many ways Trump has consistently and openly displayed his racial bias. His list included calling majority black nations “s—hole countries,” slandering immigrants as more likely to commit crimes, slurring Mexicans as rapists, and claiming that the white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., included “some very fine people.
Thrasher also details Trump’s penchant for insulting the intelligence of African-Americans — calling CNN host Don Lemon and basketball star LeBron James dumb, calling U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters a “low IQ person,” denigrating Manigault Newman as a “dog.”
We can’t allow Trump to dumb down racism, limiting the standard to whether one utters the n-word or not. There is more than enough repeated evidence of Trump’s bias that whether he used the word or not won’t change the self-evident conclusion.
Worse, Trump’s bias is now implanted in the White House. On the stump, he quite purposefully stokes up his audiences with racial slurs, providing powerful permission for his followers to echo his hatreds.
And throughout his administration, racial bias is expressed in the systematic rollback of programs to enforce equal rights and justice under the law.
Trump has encouraged the police to get “rough” with suspects, and his Justice Department has essentially gutted Obama’s initiative to redress systematic bias in America’s urban police forces. His judicial appointees are slowly rolling back affirmative action, furthering the perverse argument that affirmative efforts to overcome racial bias are somehow a violation of the Constitution.
From the Department of Education to the Labor Department and the Environmental Protection Agency and across the government, civil rights divisions have been weakened, their authority and budgets cut. Conservative justices gutted the Voting Rights Act, and now Trump’s Justice Department has weakened efforts to block voting reforms that discriminate against African-Americans, Latinos and the poor.
Republicans who increasingly are becoming the party of Trumpery overwhelmingly express approval of Trump’s “handling” of race. Weakening enforcement of civil rights is immoral. It is also pernicious. When the rights of African-Americans are weakened, the rights of Latinos, of women, of the young and the disabled are also undermined.
Just as the movement for civil rights led to dramatic advances for women, for the young, for the disabled, the abandonment of civil rights enforcement will be widely felt.
This puts a particular burden on Democrats and so-called independent voters. Unlike the Republican Party, the Democratic Party is a ship made of diverse planks. If blacks are abandoned, the ship will sink. If women are discouraged, the ship will sink. If Latinos are stripped off, the ship will sink. If women, people of color and the young are weakened, working people are weakened. We float or sink together.
Democrats have no choice but to stand strong against the rollback of civil rights and the stoking of racial fears that have become the signature of Trump’s presidency.
Some argue that Trump’s racism is longstanding, evident early in his career as a developer. Others suggest that the racial bias is instrumental, reflecting his political judgment that he prospers by dividing the country. The motivation doesn’t matter.
What matters is how we respond. My own firm belief is that Trump is wrong. Americans are better than he assumes. We have overcome slavery and segregation and are building a diverse society that is our strength. We care about equal justice and equal rights. We don’t want to be torn apart by those who hate or to be driven by our fears rather than our hopes. Whether he used the n-word or not, Trump is spreading poison.
The only question now is whether citizens of conscience will come together to counter it.
As teams gear up for the NFL season, President Trump is reviving his destructive
and diversionary attacks aimed at turning fans against players.
The league office stepped in it by unilaterally declaring that players who do not want
to stand during the national anthem should stay in the locker room. The NFL players
association had little choice but to force negotiations over that insult.
Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, is a decent guy. But he stuck his foot
in it, too, recently announcing that the Cowboys had to stand for the anthem and
couldn’t stay in the locker room – or else. The league wisely told him to zip it while
the policy was under negotiation. So it goes.
So much of this is a false narrative. Fake news.
Trump dishonestly insists that the players are disrespecting the flag. In fact, the
players kneeling during the anthem were expressing a silent protest not against the
flag, but against police brutality and the reality of structural racial inequality.
Kneeling before the flag in silent, nonviolent protest is not disrespectful to the Stars
and Stripes. Just the opposite. It is a sign of deference and respect, a call to honor
what the flag is truly supposed to represent.
Burning the flag is constitutionally protected but is a desecration. Burning a cross is
a desecration. It is violent. Kneeling before the cross, or during the anthem, on the
other hand, isn’t a desecration; it is a call for help.
Colin Kaepernick was and is concerned about blacks being beaten and killed by
police. He kneeled during the anthem to highlight how the values of the flag were
being ignored on the streets. He wasn’t disrespecting the flag; he was protesting
those who trample its values. He was being a patriot.
Now Trump wants to light the dynamite again. His politics prey and thrive on
division. He hopes to divide us one against the other while his administration rolls
back protections of consumers, workers and the environment, allows corporate
lobbyists to rig the rules, and lards more and more tax cuts and subsidies on
entrenched interests and the wealthy.
So, he purposefully peddles the false narrative that the players are disrespecting the
Jones, who is a Trump supporter, isn’t a bad man. Beyond the playing field, beyond
contracts, he has been a decent guy. He paid for the funeral of Cowboy great Bob
Hayes. But Jones has allowed himself to be turned into Trump’s pawn in this
diversion. The reality is that we would not have the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas were it
not for those protesting for their rights.
The victory of the Civil Rights Movement opened the way to a New South. The
nonviolent protests and resistance pulled down the old barriers and walls in the
South, clearing the way for the Cowboys and the Spurs and the Rockets of the New
South, where blacks and whites could play on the same team and wear the same
colors, where fans root for the colors of their team, not the color of the players’ skin.
Successful protests – at the cost of far too many lives – finally ended slavery and
apartheid in this society. We should be honoring the protesters, not distorting their
Kaepernick was right to protest what is going on in our streets. He has paid a heavy
penalty for expressing his views in a nonviolent and dignified fashion. One of the
best quarterbacks in the league, he has effectively been banned, a blatant conspiracy
that ought to constitute a clear violation of anti-trust laws.
Kaepernick stands among giants. Curt Flood in baseball and Muhammad Ali during
the prime years of his boxing life were also banned, but in the process, they changed
sports and the country for the better.
There have always been politicians who profit by appealing to our fears. There have
always been politicians who seek to divide us for political gain.
We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go to fulfill the flag’s values of
liberty and justice for all. The players expressing their views in nonviolent and
dignified fashion aren’t disgracing the flag, they are expressing its values.
Let us turn against those who would divide us and join together to make America