The Rhetoric and Reality of Donald Trump’s Racism

Next month, Jamestown will mark four hundred years since the first slaves set foot in North America—a year before the Mayflower’s Pilgrims landed in Plymouth Harbor. There were only “twenty and odd,” according to an early account from John Rolfe, Virginia’s first tobacco planter and the widower of Pocahontas. The slaves had been captured in Angola and herded, with hundreds of others, onto a slave ship bound for Veracruz, in today’s Mexico. British pirates seized them in a raid on the high seas while searching for gold and silver. In Jamestown, the pirates exchanged their human loot for provisions. Jamestown became ground zero for slavery in the Americas. Among that first generation were Isabella and Antony, who worked in the household of Captain William Tucker. They were allowed to marry, according to historical accounts in Jamestown. In 1624, their son William was the first recorded birth of an African-American in what became the United States.

On Tuesday, President Trump visited Jamestown, which is also marking four hundred years since settlers there founded the first representative assembly in the Western Hemisphere. In 1619, twenty-two representatives of local settlements and plantations met in a small wooden church to create a new legislative body, the House of Burgesses. Jamestown was ground zero for democracy in the Americas, too. Four hundred years later, the theme on Tuesday was not the celebration of democracy but the stench of racism that has increasingly pervaded Trump’s Presidency. Most recently, the President, on Twitter, attacked four congresswomen of color and Representative Elijah Cummings, an African-American politician who represents Baltimore. Cummings is the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, which recently subpoenaed the personal e-mails and texts of Trump, his inner circle, and his key associates. The President says he is simply attacking his critics, but his remarks repeatedly smack of racism.

As he left the White House, en route to Jamestown, Trump told reporters that he was “the least racist person” in the world. “What I’ve done for African-Americans in two and a half years, no President has been able to do anything like it,” he said. “Unemployment at the lowest level in the history of our country for African-Americans—nobody can beat that. You look at poverty levels. They’re doing better than they’ve ever done before.” (This is statistically true, but some experts question if Trump is solely responsible for it.) Trump added, “So many things: opportunity zones, criminal-justice reform. President Obama couldn’t get it done.” The biggest beneficiaries of his Presidency, he insisted, are African-Americans. He claimed that the White House had received more letters, e-mails, and phone calls about his stance against Cummings and, as he put it in tweets over the weekend, the “disgusting, rat and rodent-infested mess” in Baltimore than on any other subject. “We have a large African-American population and they really appreciate what I’m doing,” he said, “and they’ve let me know it.”

In Jamestown, a different Trump said the right words on racism in a carefully scripted speech; the President, for once, did not deviate from the teleprompter. The arrival of those first slaves, he said, “was the beginning of a barbaric trade in human lives.” On this day, he said, the United States also remembers “every sacred soul who suffered the horrors of slavery and the anguish of bondage.” He acknowledged that after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, it took another eighty-five years, and a civil war, to outlaw slavery, and then another century to “extend the blessings of freedom to all Americans.” He quoted Martin Luther King, Jr., and lauded African-Americans who “built, strengthened, inspired, uplifted, protected, defended, and sustained our nation from its earliest days.”

The African-Americans in Virginia’s democracy today didn’t buy it. The Black Caucus in the Virginia legislature boycotted Trump’s appearance in Jamestown. “It is impossible to ignore the emblem of hate and disdain that the President represents,” the lawmakers said, in a statement. Trump’s “repeated attacks on black legislators and comments about black communities” make the President an “ill-suited” choice to “commemorate a monumental period in American history. . . . The current President does not represent the values that we would celebrate at the 400th anniversary of the oldest democratic body in the western world.”

One elected African-American to attend Trump’s speech was Democratic Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, but he too took a swipe at the President. The two commemorations, he said in an essay posted on Medium, “far supersede the petty and racist actions of the current occupant of the White House.” He added, “The bigoted words of the current President will thankfully soon be swept into the dustbin of history. Our democracy, born in Virginia, will live on.”

In the middle of the Trump’s speech, a lone state assemblyman, Ibraheem Samirah, stood up in the audience and shouted, “You can’t send us back. Virginia is our home.” He unfurled three signs that read “Go back to your corrupted home,” “Deport hate,” and “Reunite my family and all those shattered by systematic discrimination.” Samirah is Palestinian-American. In a subsequent tweet, the Democratic lawmaker wrote, “I just disrupted the @realDonaldTrump speech in Jamestown because nobody’s racism and bigotry should be excused for the sake of being polite.”

A poll released by Quinnipiac University on Tuesday also contradicted Trump’s claims of support among African-Americans. Eighty per cent of African-American voters said Trump is racist. Fifty-five per cent of Hispanics agreed. Among all Americans, a simple majority—fifty-one per cent—said the President has racist views. (In a striking split between the genders, fifty-nine per cent of women described Trump as a racist, while fifty-five per cent of men said he wasn’t.)

Trump’s hypocrisy about race was reflected when he returned to the White House from Jamestown, two hours later. Pressed by reporters about just who among the African-American community had called to express support for his badgering of Cummings and Baltimore, Trump replied, “A lot of people,” but offered no names. The President was then asked what was the driving strategy behind his recent rampage of Twitter attacks on members of Congress of color. In what may be the most telling indicator of his Presidency, he said, “I have no strategy. There’s zero strategy,” he said. “It’s very simple.” Or maybe simpleminded. And a tragic comment on the four hundredth anniversary of the most abominable practice in our democracy.

Rating
( No ratings yet )
admin / автор статьи
Like this post? Please share to your friends:
Truth Day
Leave a Reply

;-) :| :x :twisted: :smile: :shock: :sad: :roll: :razz: :oops: :o :mrgreen: :lol: :idea: :grin: :evil: :cry: :cool: :arrow: :???: :?: :!: