Trump is having his cake and eating it too on race

Watching Donald Trump play the “race card” is fascinating. On the one hand he is appealing to his white supremacist base by using “dog whistle” racist comments, that is, by appealing to race while not using the word race itself. Racism is as racism does. It is only non-whites that he has railed against. You haven’t heard him tell any white congress people to go home to where they came from. He hasn’t told white congress people who represent majority white poor districts that their districts are unfit for human habitation. You haven’t heard him say or tweet that white immigrants are rapists. You haven’t heard him call places from which white immigrants come “shithole” countries.

Like all of his ilk he has little experience of African Americans and their lives. He presumes that African Americans all live in poverty with the exception of the entertainment and sports stars that he has met. He believes that most of them live in “shithole” countries or rat infested inner cities perhaps in buildings owned by his son-in-law. People of color are less than human and the conditions in which they live are the fault of their own laziness, culture, and politicians. In fact people of color don’t just “live” they “infest” as he has said many times, in many contexts.  This association of otherness with metaphors of disease has been used throughout many countries, at many times to justify the second class citizenship imposed on people of color. The blaming of non-white poverty on non-white behavior is a cornerstone of white superiority. His dog whistle racism is about solidifying his support among his base so you don’t hear similar things about the white poor who are the majority of the poor in this country.

At the same time by not mentioning race specifically he has been able to claim that his opponents are the ones who introduce race into the conversation of his racism. This is “blame the victim” at its finest and George Orwell’s “doublespeak” come to life. The authoritarian government in Orwell’s book 1984 says”War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength,” and now pointing out racism has become racism itself in the world of Trump. He goes further and claims that African American “leaders” like Elijah Cummings, Al Sharpton and even John Lewis, have not been able to improve conditions for black folk. He of course doesn’t mention the white institutions and politicians that keep them in poverty. He alludes to “corrupt” politicians (presumably but not exclusively black) who perpetuate their poverty. He doesn’t mention that he has done diddley-squat to help black folks specifically and doesn’t intend to do so. He takes credit for falling unemployment rates among African Americans when they actually began coming down under Obama. It is too soon to see the effects of his economic policies as they haven’t worked their way through the system yet, but they won’t create jobs and may in fact lead to recession. With his typical hyperbole he claims to have done more for African Americans than any other president. I guess he forgot about Lincoln freeing the slaves.

He is using race to get white support by not mentioning it and to get get nonwhite support by mentioning it. As the alien immigrant Mr. Spock would say, “fascinating.” His racism is that savage beast inside him yelling to the crowd and giving them license to release their own. According to recent polls most Americans realize that he is racist, though his supporters and enablers publicly deny it. The real question is not whether he is racist or not, he is, but what do we do about it.

 

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