President Trump may believe that stirring up racial hatred is good politics, but it is hurtful to America and its place in the world. We, as voters, need to recognize the deep immorality at the heart of Trump’s current re-election strategy— and how his words and deeds have contributed to the rising tide of white supremacist violence in America and elsewhere.
There is a very real terrorism threat in this country, as last weekend’s mass shooting in El Paso demonstrates yet again. By and large, that threat comes from young, white males, whose inchoate anger has been stoked by a president who undeniably believes that his power and influence is advanced by denigrating African-Americans, Muslims, or immigrants, both legal and illegal.
President Trump demonizes communities of color not just because he views them as inferior, but because he believes doing so will tap the latent racial sentiments that lie within all of us, allowing him to energize, for his own purposes, those who are most vulnerable to this kind of manipulation.
While some presidents have used racially-charged code words in the past, none has so intentionally used language to stoke division and to needlessly inflame Americans. In doing so, President Trump cannot escape his own personal responsibility for the blood that has been shed by so many of his fellow white supremacists. It’s no coincidence that the language that appears in many of the so-called “manifestos,” frequently published just in advance of such mass killings, read like a compendium of Trump’s tweets.
He attacks specific media as the “enemy of the people,” and those same institutions are targeted with explosives. Prominent Democrats, including former President Obama, are targeted as well, with letter bombs. The death threats against four new members of Congress, including Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, have come by the hundreds in the wake of Trump’s vile attacks on the four women of color. Trump is more than happy to put the lives of these women, and of their families, at risk because he believes it will motivate his followers. In doing so, he reveals the deep darkness at his very core.
Trump, who is quick to denounce even the slightest act of violence perpetrated by a Muslim extremist, appears all but mute in the face of the rising death toll from white supremacists, like the shooters in recent attacks in El Paso, and Gilroy, Calif. Americans today are far more likely to die at the hands of a white supremacist than any other type of extremist. Trump may mouth scripted words in the aftermath of such massacres, but his true feelings are exposed almost daily in his divisive tweets.
Trump isn’t the first president to tap racial tensions as a candidate. But, once elected, even presidents who may have harbored racist views, recognized that, as the leader of the whole nation, they had an obligation to keep racial division at a minimum, for the good of the country.
For decades, social pressures and occasional healing words from the White House, helped to keep racial animosities in check, so much so that it was possible to elect the nation’s first African-American president in 2008.
Trump’s willingness to race-bait on an almost daily basis threatens the progress we had made and reminds us that racial tensions continue to exist in America, waiting to be inflamed at any time by a demagogue who cares nothing about the damage he wreaks on society.
Empirical research has thoroughly documented the degree to which Trump’s election as president has led to a surge in hate crimes across the country, including for race, ethnicity, and sexual preference. It’s been dubbed “the Trump Effect” and research has found that the rise in hate crimes has increased the most in those counties where support for Trump is the highest. In other words, hate crimes have increased because perpetrators believe such violence has become socially acceptable under this president.
President Trump’s supporters would do well to re-examine their own thoughts on race and bias of all kinds and recognize the degree to which they may be falling victim to Trump’s overtly divisive appeals. They might want to consider if they truly believe that stoking racial hatred is good for the country. If not, they might want to reconsider their support for an overt racist who is willing to divide our nation and put the lives of our fellow Americans at risk, for his own political gain.