I have watched and listened to Donald Trump as he has splashed about in the shallow end of the pool of potential 2012 presidential candidates, and one thing stands out: he is arrogant and unabashed in presenting himself as “the voice” of the “angry white man.”
He is troubling the already rough waters of American racism.
His attack on President Obama has been personal, which is not unusual for politicians, but the quality of his personal attacks has been different. He has pushed the “birther” argument, feeding into the fear and belief of way too many white Americans that President Obama was not born in the United States, and now he is challenging the president to present his academic transcripts, saying that President Obama didn’t deserve to get into Ivy League schools.
Trump said he has friends who have kids who had the grades but didn’t get into Harvard, reflecting the belief of many Americans that African Americans only got into Ivy League schools, or indeed, college period, because of Affirmative Action.
Other potential presidential candidates have skirted the arguments made by racists privately who resent President Obama’s presidency. Trump is arrogant enough to say those things out loud.
Just last week, Republican Congresswoman Marilyn Davenport from Orange County, California, circulated a picture of the Obama family in which they appeared as apes. When there was an outcry, she objected, saying it was a “joke.” She later apologized but refused to resign. She should.
Rush Limbaugh, ever the mouthpiece of and for racists, attacked President Obama’s choice of church he and his family attended on Easter. Apparently, Limbaugh thought it was racist that the family attended Shiloh Baptist Church, an African American congregation. I am sure Limbaugh’s listeners are full with the hateful vitriol that Limbaugh served them.
The president, for his part, has handled these attacks gracefully. As an African American myself, I know when I hear the euphemisms for racism, and how it roils me. Trump and others would like nothing better than to have President Obama lose his cool, show some anger, and become the proverbial “angry black man.” That would do them good, allow them to say, “See. I told you.”
Trump, on the other hand, has been churlish as criticism has come his way, resorting to calling people who challenge him names, and talking about their failures as people and as professionals. In that, he follows a disturbing tendency of too many candidates who resort to name calling when they are not getting their way.
Trump would pooh-pooh what I am saying, saying that I am playing the race card. I am, but that same card has been being played from the time the president took office, and even before. There are a lot of people who never embraced the idea that this country chose a person from America’s historic underclass to live in the White House, not as president, and they have been strategically plotting and planning to get him out from the day he took office.
The president’s policies were bound to come under attack, but these attacks are made all the more powerful because they are being fed by racism, mostly under the carpet, but in the case of Donald Trump, out loud and on Front Street. His arrogance, based on his color and his wealth, is palpable.
When President Obama was elected, idealists thought America had hit a new stride; the country was “post-racial,” they cheered. It was a nice thought, but naive. This country was built with blocks of racism; maybe the whole world was. That African Americans in this country have managed to push through some of that racism is a tribute to our strength as a people, but the fight is not over yet. The sick hatred that made this country sanction racist behavior and policies has not gone away.
Just ask Donald Trump.
Were Trump to be elected president, what would this country look like? How would “the blacks,” as he referred to African Americans, fare? I shudder to think of it. But many others smile at the thought.
That would be a candid observation.