Why are we afraid to call Donald Trump a racist?
Several weeks ago the whole of Twitter and the Internet exploded in uproar, again. The outrage was regarding disparaging comments Donald Trump allegedly made in a White House meeting on immigration reform. I’ve recently written about the danger of performative outrage which you could read about here but this piece is not about outrage. Here, the outrage was absolutely warranted. The Washington Post reports “President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers […] in the Oval Office when they discussed protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to several people briefed on the meeting. ‘Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?’ Trump said, according to these people, referring to countries mentioned by the lawmakers.” Trump then allegedly went on to suggest that the United States should instead bring more people from countries such as Norway. This is blatant racism. There’s no other way you can slice, its pure and simple racism from a racist, xenophobic man. Trump of course denied the allegations on Twitter.
After Trump’s tweetstorm, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, who was in the meeting with the president, went on MSNBC to say Trump was not telling the truth. To those of us who have been cringeworthily following Donald Trump from beginning of his presidential campaign to his election and now a year into his presidency this comes as no shock. Those of us that is who have been frequent targets of his bigotry. However, for once mainstream News networks, political commentators and global leaders finally denounced Donald Trump and branded him a “racist.” Although not all, it seemed that this was what it took finally for most news outlets to see through Donald Trump’s bullsh*t and call him a racist. Don Lemon flat out called Donald Trump a racist. Anderson Cooper echoed Lemon’s take, calling Trump’s comments “not racial, not racially charged,” but “racist.” Even on the right-wing News network FOX the host of one of Trump’s favourite shows, Fox & Friends, criticised the president’s comment, saying he should “walk it back.” Donald Trump has been called many things since he announced his run for presidency: xenophobic, misogynistic, homophobic, ableist but rarely racist – at least not by mainstream White political commentators.
Most Black, Hispanic and other ethnic minorities and marginalised groups however have been fully aware of Donald Trump’s racism for decades. When Donald Trump referred to Mexicans as “drug dealers, criminals, rapists” it was seen by some as xenophobic because he was referring to the country. But it’s clear to see that Donald Trump disparaged Mexicans because they were not White. Long before Donald Trump announced his presidential campaign he has been one of the leading propagators of the “birther” conspiracy theory which falsely asserted that Barack Obama was ineligible to be President of the United States on the basis that he was not a natural-born citizen of the United States. And decades before his presidential ambitions in 1989, Donald Trump called for the death penalty of the falsely accused “Central Park Five” in the Central Park jogger case. The case details that five juvenile males, four African-American and one Hispanic, were apprehended in connection with a number of attacks in Central Park, Manhattan, committed by around 30 teenage perpetrators.
“Sh*t-hole gate” is a perfect example of how White privilege blinds White people. Any time someone brings up White privilege it sometimes causes some White people to shut off and not listen. “How dare you say I have privilege when I’m working-class and starving?” they might say. But White privilege is what allows you to not see Donald Trump as a racist because you’re not the target of his attack and not notice until he says something outrageous. White privilege is what made White working-class Americans elect Donald Trump and not see the intersections of race and class and how ethnic minorities suffer more because of the combination of their race and class. Anyone can have certain privileges, you can be a Black, middle-class male living in an affluent city and have certain privileges over a White, working-class woman living in a poor rural town. The hypothetical Black man has privileges in wealth and as a male over the hypothetical woman who lacks wealth and is oppressed as a woman. Most of us have some privileges but White privilege is why it took this long for some White people to finally admit that Donald Trump is racist.