Monday, February 29, 2016

Angry White People

No one wants to talk about race or racism these days, and yet everyone does. Sometimes it is subtle, as when someone uses coded language, like how the country is changing. Other times, it is blatant like the birther movement against President Obama or when David Duke came out in support of Trump. He told his followers that not voting for Trump “is basically treason to your heritage.”
Duke claims he did not endorse Trump, and Trump claims he doesn’t know who David Duke is. For those who don’t know, Duke was the grand wizard of the KKK and later a one-term Louisiana state representative.
All the white supremacist groups are supporting Trump including the League of the South, the organization I had a brush with and wrote about in my post “Reconstructing the South.”
Watch this video of neo-confederates protesting ethnic cleansing of… wait for it… white Americans. Listen to how the protestors place their hopes on Trump to bring their issues to the national stage. White supremacists love Trump.
Trump, famous for his brashness, mega-ego, and risky business deals, is working on closing his next big deal: being elected the leader of the free world.
He sidestepped questions about supremacist support, because their support is another step toward that end.
He also quoted Mussolini in a tweet: “Better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.” When questioned by MSNBC commentator Chuck Todd, about whether he wanted to be associated with a fascist, Trump responded, “No, I want to be associated with interesting quotes and people.”
When Mussolini and Duke are those people, one has to wonder how low he will go, but just look to his supporters to find the answer.
They are tired of being politically correct, and they dream of deporting immigrants, excluding people of color and Muslims, legislating women’s reproductive rights, keeping gay couples from marrying, and living in a country of only white Christians.
In the meantime Trump initially refused to disavow David Duke and his supremacist ideas. The GOP establishment is livid. A few have spoken publicly about voting for Hillary Clinton if Trump becomes their candidate. Yet they used racism as a political recruiting tool since Nixon. But this blatant show, this naked truth, is too much to bear.
Violence is another of Trump’s tools to rile his base. In a rally in South Carolina Time Magazine photographer Chris Morris was choked and slammed onto a table by a secret service agent for stepping outside the media pen. There are very strict rules concerning the media at Trump campaign events, because Trump wants to control media access to his base and rally attendees. It isn’t the first time someone was attacked at a rally and one can be certain it won’t be the last.
Violence is something else his base craves. They have attacked Black Lives Matter protesters and Muslims who attended rallies. Their fervor is palpable.

This past weekend we saw the film Race about Jesse Owens and the four gold medals he won at the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany. I love seeing movies like this one that document our history, our true history, but they always leave me teary and depressed. The promise of reaping a rewarding career based on being a national hero never seems to materialize for athletes of color who rose to athletic prominence before the Civil Rights movement.
President Roosevelt never invited Owens to the White House after the Olympics and the dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City to honor his feat of winning four Olympic gold medals was diminished because he was not allowed to enter the hotel through the front door. He and his wife had to ride the service elevator.
So anything that Nazi Germany believed about Aryan supremacy was mirrored at home, and was perhaps even worse, because in Germany Owens and his black teammate Mack Robinson (Jackie Robinson’s older brother), who won a silver medal, were allowed to room at the Olympic living quarters with the other athletes.
Sadly, Jesse Owens struggled to make a living after becoming a national hero. The film said Ohio State, his alma mater, gave him a job as a janitor after he graduated. That is not a fact repeated on his Wikipedia page, but in this case, I tend to believe the film because his daughters were consulted on the making of it.
Did Ohio State believe they were doing right by offering him a menial job on the campus his athletic feats brought to the world stage?
When I hear Donald Trump denying any knowledge of who David Duke is (he finally disavowed him), I feel anger and sadness, because our country has changed so little since 1936. Civil Rights never reached the true spirit of the law. Systemic racism still exists because a large portion of America has amnesia, denial of, or fervor for the different experiences of race in our country – the white experience and the experience of people of color.
I hoped Trump’s numbers would drop when he skirted the David Duke association in interviews and acted as if he did not hear the words “KKK” and “Ku Klux Klan” in a phone interview this past Sunday. His numbers remain strong. In fact they have risen nationally.
Even more people now believe he speaks to their fears and concerns.
The GOP establishment is freaking out. How to stop him? But they created him.  They resuscitated Jim Crow and now they are paying the price. They should lose this election, soundly, for tapping into hatred against President Obama; for feeding the growth of the Tea Party; for speaking out against immigrants and Muslims and women and LGBT individuals; for pushing for deregulation and corporate welfare. They turned against humanity and this is the result: irrational anger, hatred, violence, racism, and discrimination.
I’m disgusted with the lowbrow attacks the GOP candidates are waging against one another using middle school sexual innuendo and name calling. But what do they have left when their base is angry, white, ignorant, and hateful?
Until we take responsibility and hold our country accountable for its history and the legacy it has left us, nothing will change and the hatred and discrimination targeted at minorities will grow wildly and dangerously as it did in Nazi Germany so many years ago.

What will angry white Americans think after they elect Donald Trump (or Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio) and he enacts everything he has threatened: building the wall, shutting down legal immigration of Muslims, letting even more guns into society? Will they still believe he is the answer to all their ills? Or will they regret electing the one person willing to act on their hatred and anger?

Jesse Owens, 1936 Olympics