Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Racism And More Important Things

You knew it would happen. Having unjustified faith in good sense, I did not.  The Washington Examiner has reported

In just three days, the short video of reporters yelling questions to President Trump about whether he is a racist has become C-SPAN's most-watched clip on YouTube involving the Trump White House.

In the video from Friday, Trump signed a proclamation honoring Martin Luther King Jr., and left the room as reporters demanded to know if he was a racist. That question was prompted by Trump's reported comment that America shouldn't let in people from "shithole" countries.

"Mr. President, will you give an apology for the statement yesterday?" one reporter asked.

"Mr. President, are you a racist?" April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks asked. "Mr. President, are you a racist?"

Shockingly, the President, already turning away from reporters, refused to answer.  Next up from Ms. Ryan when the opportunity presents itself: "Mr. President, when did you stop beating your wife?" Conversely and constructively, it might be "when will you be releasing the tax returns you promised the American people?"

The question wasn't stupid, worthless, or offensive simply because it was certain that it wouldn't be answered. Some questions need to be asked even if they surely will bring no reply. However, critical is a venue in which ignoring the question makes clear that the respondent is actively avoiding answering. This was not one of those instances.

Admittedly, by getting so many views, it becomes ipso facto a good question by the Law of the Free Market. (Success being its own justification, if it feels good or gets you what you want, do it. )  In a commentary having a lot to do with President Trump and nothing (directly) with April Ryan, Charles Blow explains

I find nothing more useless than debating the existence of racism, particularly when you are surrounded by evidence of its existence. It feels to me like a way to keep you fighting against the water until you drown.

The debates themselves, I believe, render a simple concept impossibly complex, making the very meaning of “racism” frustratingly murky.

So, let’s strip that away here. Let’s be honest and forthright.

Racism is simply the belief that race is an inherent and determining factor in a person’s or a people’s character and capabilities, rendering some inferior and others superior. These beliefs are racial prejudices....

Understanding this, it is not a stretch to understand that Donald Trump’s words and deeds over the course of his life have demonstrated a pattern of expressing racial prejudices that demean people who are black and brown and that play to the racial hostilities of other white people.

Obviously, Donald Trump throughout his life has demonstrated a pattern of racial prejudice which exploits and encourages racial hostilities of other white people.  Given his extensive history of racially biased remarks, including (probably) "laziness is a trait in blacks" and (inarguably) "look at my African-American over here," the burden of proof lies with persons arguing that Trump is not a racist, in the traditional, contemporary, or any other, sense.

Nevertheless, it is less clear that he is a "racist" in the traditional and accurate meaning of the term as defined by Blow (who believes Trump is a racist)- a belief that race is an inherent (emphasis mine) and determining factor in an individual's character and capability. It also is not terribly important. More significant, as Blow understands, is

the extraordinary hypocrisy of elected officials who either remain silent in the wake of Trump’s continued racist outbursts or who obliquely condemn him, only to in short order return to defending and praising him and supporting his agenda.

Recognizing and acknowledging the racial component in the President's actions is more important than proving that Trump is a "racist."  Opposing his extremist agenda and calling out the members of Congress (hello, Senators Flake, Corker, Graham, and others) who obliquely condemn him while supporting his agenda is more valuable.

The media can continue to idolize Senators Flake, Corker, Graham, and others who concede the emperor has no clothes yet simultaneously enable and embolden him. Or it can continue to debate whether Donald J. Trump is a racist and prove he is. Still, both the loyal opposition and the media have a role to play, and shouting "are you a racist" to the President is not a good start.

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