Anyone that pays attention to Donald Trump for prolonged periods of time notices a definite pattern of behavior when it comes to racism and racist groups that follow him. Many argue that Trump is not a racist. I suppose that is more out of self-preservation. If I can successfully argue that he is not a racist then I can successfully argue that I am not a racist if I follow him.
I drew an immediate parallel in my mind to our daughter’s religious education. See, like everyone else, we are doing these lessons virtually now instead of on Sunday. It’s actually beneficial because it means mom and dad have to go through it with her. In our church’s case, we are focused primarily on the Gospel readings each week and deriving some kind of lesson out of that.
For those unfamiliar with the Catholic church, the readings are established for every Catholic around the world. They are the same no matter where you attend mass. The readings tend to build on each other and are aligned thematically. The general theme of the last couple of weeks has been that what you do is more important than what you say. Faith is a belief. Racism is a belief. It is impossible to prove or disprove a belief from the outside. One can only look at a person’s actions and statements and judge for themselves.
There are those that believe Joe Biden is also a racist. Again, anything is possible. All we can do is go by past behavior and past statements. There have been some troublesome quotes from the past. The key is that they mostly come from the distant past. There is always the capacity for growth and change in each individual. We also have to match that up with what the person actually does.
Trunp’s political life has been a lot shorter than Biden’s, so we will begin with David Duke’s endorsement in 2016. It started with Trump hemming and hawing over whether he would accept his endorsement. As it turned out he did. When he was pressed after the fact he pretended not knowing who David Duke was. He couldn’t say because he just wasn’t familiar with him. How do we know he was pretending? He was on record (video recording) talking about David Duke years earlier.
We move to Charlottesville. That whole situation is a keen study in expert maneuverability. He started off condemning white supremacy but quickly retracted. He then opposed extremism on all sides and said their were fine people on both sides. He then pretended to be unfamiliar with the words and actions of those that were protesting the removal of Civil War statues. Remember, those were the ones with tiki torches and shouting “Jews will not replace us.” One of them killed a counterprotester. No counter protesters murdered any of the “fine people” on the other side.
It happened again this week during the debate. When asked whether he would condemn white supremacy he again hemmed and hawed. He starting off saying yes, but something kept him from making a full-throated and clear condemnation. He quickly shifted the conversation to Antifa and Black Lives Matter. He finally equivocated and said he didn’t know who he was supposed to condemn. Joe Biden suggested the Proud Boys. Trunp could not tell them to quit. He told them to stand by.
Then, yesterday he used his patented maneuver and said he didn’t know who the Proud Boys were. The president of the United States should know about every major group as a general rule. Furthermore, one that watches cable television as much as him couldn’t avoid hearing about them. Even if we ignore all of that, the fact that he has used this tactic numerous times before is the dead giveaway.
He does this every time one of his former subordinates goes to jail. I hardly knew him. He was with us for a short time. I think he fetched us coffee. He wasn’t involved in any major decisions. He said this about two of his campaign managers, a foreign policy advisor, and one can imagine him saying it about his children and son in law when they finally run into legal trouble. It’s clearly his dodge.
He came down the escalator spewing racist bile against Hispanics. He spewed racist garbage about the Central Park Five. He and is father were sued by the Nixon administration for prejudicial practices in their properties (let that one sink in, when the Nixon administration says you are racist then that’s saying something). He’s called other countries “shithole” countries. He’s the author of the Muslim ban. I could go on and on and on and on and on.
The denial of the Proud Boys was not a repudiation. He doesn’t know them. How could he say anything bad about them? Clearly though, he is happy with the result. That’s when his behavior and words become a distinction without a difference. Sure, no one can possible KNOW that someone else is racist. It’s like knowing that someone has a love for God and Jesus in their heart. We can’t KNOW such a thing. We can only go by what they say and what we see.
What we see is a man that will never refuse the support of racists. What we see is a man that will use racists for his own purposes. What we see is a guy that will say things that embolden racists. Sure, you can claim you are the least racist person we know. Yet, when you have racists doing your bidding, racists that rejoice at what you say, and when you never give a full throated repudiation of racists, it’s pretty clear you are probably a racist. If you aren’t a racist then you don’t seem to mind praising them and using them. At the end of the day, I’m not really sure there is a real difference there.