President Trump has failed yet another test – seemingly the simplest, most basic test of any American president. It was the softball of softballs. It was a test that many small children can pass with flying colors.
Trump has failed to convincingly condemn white supremacy and Nazis. It took him days to even say the words “white supremacists.” Since then, he has reprimanded both sides for their violence. He equivocated, then delayed, then apologized, then reverted back to equivocation and blaming both sides.
It's hard to comprehend how he – or anyone – could get this so wrong. I believe there have been many Presidents in the past who were sympathetic to white supremacists. And there are certainly many politicians still in office today who are as well. They harbor racist and white supremacist attitudes and they serve those interests in covert, subtle ways. But they are at least smart and aware enough to pretend otherwise.
Trump is not.
And for that, I am most grateful. Thank you, Donald Trump.
When Obama was in office, many of us were able to convince ourselves that we were now “post-racial.” Now that a black man had taken the highest office, we could all breathe a sigh of relief. Racism is over!
Donald Trump – beginning with the obviously racially-motivated suggestion that Obama is not a U.S. citizen to the dog whistle of “Make America Great Again” and now his failure to condemn Nazi white supremacists – has made it all too clear that we were wrong.
The truth is, racism was never dead in our country. Not even close. Regardless of what wars we fought, what laws we passed, or who held which office, racism has always been a foundational element of American life from before the Declaration of Independence to today. It was never gone. Electing a black man just made it possible for us to pretend it was.
Donald Trump has now made pretending impossible. We now must all re-consider whether we should let Confederate statues stand. We must ask ourselves again what's behind all that police violence to black men (especially considering the police were able to so deftly resist violence to a crowd of enraged, weapon-carrying white men with torches and Nazi bands around their arms). We must ask ourselves what “Make American Great Again” really means. What did that slogan signal silently to millions of Trump voters? Why was it so appealing?
Most importantly, we must look ourselves in the mirror and ask “Am I a part of this? In what ways are my actions – and inaction – contributing? What will I tell my children and grandchildren of my response when they hear of the Nazi rallies that happened in the summer of 2017? Will I let myself be lulled into complacency, yet again, a few years down the road once this uproar has quieted down, morphing from the more overt forms we saw in Charlottesville back to the more covert forms we've seen over the last 50 years?
Thank you, Donald Trump, for helping us remember.
Your failure on the easiest of moral questions reminds us of how far we have to go. Yet, it also raises awareness and inspires action among many who – until this weekend – had their ears plugged and backs turned. Through your egregious breach of decency, you have now made that impossible. The nation is now clearer than ever that this must be addressed. This isn't going away until we do something much more meaningful than we have in the past. We are now closer to genuine action and progress than ever.
All because of you.
Thank you, Donald Trump.