The most noteworthy thing about Trump’s “Go ask China” comment at his press conference, wasn’t that he directed it at an Asian-American reporter, who, as it turns out, grew up in West Virginia; it’s that his overt racism still seems to shock people.
Stop saying you’re shocked. Shock is a word that is used to describe an unexpected event that surprises us. Unless this is your first day covering this president – or, for the matter, your first day on the planet – nothing that comes out of Trump’s mouth should shock or surprise you. Disappoint, outrage, horrify, embarrass, humiliate, yes, all are far more fitting words. But shock? Don’t make me laugh. To say you’re shocked is to do a disservice to the word shock, and to give the most depraved individual to ever set foot in the White House the benefit of a doubt he does not remotely deserve.
If there’s anything that should shock us – yea, repel us – it’s that apparently more than a third of the country approves of what he’s doing and the language that he uses while doing it. Calling Mexicans rapists and locking up children in detention centers under conditions that would be unlawful even for the most ardent criminals is the very definition of the term depraved indifference. Yet Trump brags about it and his supporters eat it up. Indeed, the more red meat he serves up to them, the louder they cheer. This is the first politician in American history to eschew the dog whistle for the bull horn and succeed.
And that last point needs to be driven home. It breaks my heart to realize just how many of my friends and family members have been seduced by Trump. But it breaks my heart even more to realize just how many of them agree with him. Hell, they practically worship the ground he walks on. I’ve heard of attending a funeral to pay your respects to a departed loved one. But how do you pay your respects to a departed soul?
Somewhere in hell, Jim Jones is saying, “Damn!”
There are those who suggest that the way to beat Trump is to appeal to some of his “lukewarm” supporters. They’re not all racists, they argue; many of them are just frightened and they need to be reassured, coddled, if you will. If Democrats make the effort to reach out and reassure them, they will certainly come to their senses.
There’s just one problem with that “logic.” It doesn’t add up. I’m curious, what is it that frightens them? Is it the future? And what is it about the future that scares them so? Economic insecurity? Yeah, that’s the reason some are peddling. Plain old economic insecurity. Decades of manufacturing-sector job losses in the Rust Belt states have hardened the hearts of many a good folk. Something had to eventually give, right?
Except the closer you look at their “fear,” the more it becomes obvious that the motivating factor behind it has little to do with economic insecurity and everything to do with social unrest. And that unrest was fueled by the realization that one day, thanks to an ever-increasing pluralistic and multi-cultural demographic shift, they will be in the minority. Imagine living in a country where you’re surrounded by people who don’t look or sound anything like you, and who outnumber you. That, my friends, isn’t just your run of the mill fear; it’s flat-out racism. We’ve just been sugarcoating it because it makes us feel better.
As I wrote some years ago, not all dictators have funny mustaches, and not all racists wear hoods on their heads or belong to the Ku Klux Klan. That’s an important distinction because before we go back to normal – assuming that’s even a possibility – we have to be willing to look in the mirror as a nation and acknowledge what deep down we’ve always known: that racism is America’s original sin. We were born a slave nation in which a quarter of the inhabitants were not even considered fully human. Is there any other structure you can think of that can stand with such a faulty foundation?
Small wonder the Founders used words like “a more perfect union” to describe the Republic they had just built. Even they weren’t foolish enough to believe the sauce was ready. But America’s lack of perfection at her inception is no excuse for the continuation of behavior that should’ve died with the ending of the Civil War. That a black man can still be shot in broad daylight for the high crime and misdemeanor of jogging in a white neighborhood, and that it could take three whole months before the police in that neighborhood arrested the people responsible for that shooting, is abhorrent to the very principles of a decent and moral society. What’s even more disturbing is that there is a very real possibility that these men will be acquitted. Hell hath no fury like a white majority threatened.
Barack Obama believed in our better angels. Men like Trump prey on our worst demons. So stop saying you’re shocked because he told an Asian-American reporter to “go ask China.” We’re way past the point of being shocked. The sad truth is that Trump was never the root cause of racism in this country; he’s merely the most egregious example of it.