“There should be no bitterness or hate where the sole thought is the welfare of the United States of America. No man can occupy the office of President without realizing that he is President of all the people.” –Franklin D. Roosevelt
The man in the White House today does not realize he is President of all the people. He also harbors bitterness and hate toward American citizens of color, and regardless of how else you feel about him, his racism is his greatest failing. There is no doubt about this. Donald Trump has provided ample evidence of his racist nature. In just the last week, these three things have been reported.
- Two years after the fact, Trump defended and happily reiterated his comments that there were “very fine people” on both sides at the rally in Charlottesville where white supremacists protested the possible removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, where violence broke out, and where one of them killed a young woman with his car. And Trump did so by arguing about what a great general Lee was, conveniently forgetting that the South lost the war with the slaveholding treasonous Lee commanding the losing side.
- After the first day of the National Football League draft, Trump tweeted a congratulatory note to Nick Bosa, the player who was picked second overall in the draft, a white player with a history of liking racist Instagram posts and who had himself posted several tweets that were construed as racist. Trump did not tweet any kind of congratulations to Kyler Murray, the first player picked in the draft, a black player who also won the 2018 Heisman Trophy. The President has the right to congratulate whomever he wants, but his choices are very telling.
- Since 1952, the President of the United States has been the one to present the National Teacher of the Year Award, but it was announced earlier in the week that Trump would not present it to this year’s winner, Rodney Robinson, an African-American man from Virginia. Trump did present the award the last two years to white teachers who were selected. Again, the choice to not present the award this year seems very telling, though after many news stories about the situation Trump did hold a surprise meeting with Robinson and other state winners in the oval office after the official ceremony.
These are just three examples from the last week, and it’s possible that they are completely coincidental and that no slights were intended. A lot of people, especially white nationalists who are still bitter about the South losing the Civil War, believe that Robert E. Lee was a great general, so perhaps that is what Trump has heard. But while he won a number of battles, sometimes against much larger forces, Lee lost the war. He was also a slaveholder and a West Point graduate who was offered a Union command, but committed treason by fighting for the Confederacy. The President of the United States should not be lauding those who have committed treason against the country. Nick Bosa has lauded Trump on Twitter and it’s possible that Trump just wanted to stroke the ego of someone who stroked his. His ego needs a great deal of stroking and he tends to reward those who praise him and punish those who speak out against him. Likewise, he may have been embarrassed after last year’s National Teacher of the Year, Mandy Manning, used the opportunity to deliver letters from immigrants and wore a number of pins promoting equality for all and perhaps that embarrassment was the real reason why he didn’t want to present the award this year.
Or it could just be that Trump is a racist who signals it all the time but won’t proudly proclaim it like the white nationalists who are killing African-Americans, transgender citizens, immigrants, Muslims, and others on a regular basis. Our headlines are filled with the heartbreak of those suffering from attacks perpetrated by those emboldened by Trump’s signals.
The stories about Trump’s othering of non-white citizens and immigrants is not new. It goes back decades to him being investigated for not renting properties to African-Americans. It shocked us when he started his campaign by maligning Mexicans as rapists. It continued with his views on Muslims. It has become so commonplace that it no longer shocks us, but it should. These are not the kinds of views that most of us expect in a leader. Granted, there are racists all over the country who are glad to see Trump lead in this awful way, but most individual Americans are not like that. While we may not all recognize our white privilege or the built-in systemic racism in our country, we do believe in equality for all and we do expect our leaders to hold those same beliefs and work toward making that a reality.