America’s first and most destructive existential struggle is back with a roar, although it never left. Our president’s monstrous spew leverages ancient American hatred, that has the potential to tear our country apart, as it has from the our very earliest days. The hate caused us to dement human rights our constitution was meant to espouse, launched us into a bloody civil war and threw millions into bondage, either in actual chains or through the reign of terror called Jim Crow.
America’s struggle with race is so damn complicated. Many of us spent the fifty years since the 1960’s Civil Rights movement pretending it wasn’t a big deal, that the worst is behind us. Yet, stark evidence of racism’s tight grip on America occasionally lurches into plain sight. Eric Garner, Laquan McDonald, Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
These incidents have become infamous because killing was involved. But there are so many others that just involve basic humiliation by law enforcement, store managers or just about anyone who has an ounce of power over a person of color. Need more proof? Head to Google and enter “black while” and see what you get.
Up until President Donald Trump’s campaign of hatred, the unspoken agreement among polite (and mostly white) society was that racism was frowned upon, and corporations, governments and philanthropic organizations were working to end it all. Race was, and continues to be an unpleasant topic for the polite, since it exposes the lie of American meritocracy.
By admitting that one group of Americans are treated as second class citizens, we have to admit that not everyone will achieve the American Dream. And then we have to admit that most Americans will never be wealthy, and many will never get a great education, have great health care or retire in comfort when they’re 65.
The racism of Trump and his core supporters is a cover for so many of America’s ills. According to them, if we didn’t have blacks and browns in America, we’d have plenty of jobs, lower taxes, less crime, no immigration problems. A complaint older than America itself, even slavery was once considered part of the White Man’s Burden. A lie told again and again: Slaves were grateful for what they got since they know they wouldn’t do much better on their own. Swap out slaves for “minorities” and you’ve basically got the modern Trumpist argument.
Now that Trump has brought racial hatred out into the open, liberal America is twice challenged. First, we must confront the hatred directly, with real solutions that solve real problems for people of color. But second, we must admit white hypocrisy and obfuscation on race. Sure, we whites have black and brown friends, but how come we support government policies forcing millions of people of color to languish in poverty in our largest cities? Why did we allow Detroit to collapse? Why is Chicago actually two cities and two realities? How did law enforcement become a cradle of white supremacy?
There is no cavalry to rescue us from Trumpian racism. Mueller’s testimony next week won’t save us, and there won’t be an impeachment trial. We might find a temporary respite through the ballot box, and only then if we manage to organize like we’ve never done before. But individual political candidates are imperfect and usually driven by their own egos. The change we need is one of national character.
If America is going to be free of racism and the bile of Trumpists, then we must dig down deep and address the reality of why we disadvantage the 40 million African-Americans and the 43 million Latinos living in our country. If we truly believe that our nation is a meritocracy, then why are unemployment rates for African-Americans and Latinos consistently higher – often double – than that of whites?
Unless Trump is defeated at the ballot box in 2020, the concept of American meritocratic, democracy is headed for doom. But at least Trump and his supporters have exposed the racist bulwarks of much bigger American problems. If we’re going to keep America from electing another Trump ever again, then we need to really address why most black and brown Americans lack the same opportunities as their white brethren.