Unpacking the Notion of Racism by Association

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Have you ever been in a group of people who, when you leave the room, shortly thereafter bring down the volume on their conversation?

That happened to me recently. I could still hear them through the closed door. No, they weren’t talking about me. They were taking advantage of my absence to talk freely about something involving race. No ’N’ word. Nothing vile. More like casual commentary on how overblown racism is.

I confess my eyes filled up. I felt my difference in that moment. I didn’t fully understand why I should be proud instead of hurt until I watched that moment in the recent gubernatorial debate in Florida where Andrew Gillum said to his opponent, Ron DeSantis, “I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist. I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist.”

Those two sentences crystallized so much for me.

I don’t want people who desire a racist conversation to think I’m a comfortable companion in that dialogue. And it seems I’ve reached that goal. To put it in Gillum parlance, I’m happy the racists don’t believe I’m a racist. Yes, it’s more than OK to be that person.

For over two years now I’ve had people from all areas of my life express anger at the idea that their allegiance to Donald Trump means they’re racist or misogynistic or homophobic. Some have ditched me on social media. Others have told me to my face. Still others simply pulled back, their stony silence telling the story.

Well, now I feel like I have a better understanding of the nuance here. But do they? It is not that many of them are outwardly racist. It has been a slow drip-drip-drip narrative from the right-wing media they’re consuming.

“I am not a racist.”

You support a President who is, or at least he sounds like one from what we have on video clips and in Tweets. Maybe it’s just that the racists among us have a special radar and they believe he’s one of them. So maybe you’re not racist and we’re making that assumption by association.

“I like him. He’s a successful businessman and he’s just what we needed.”

White supremacists have expressed their glee that he is President. When they do so publicly, he doesn’t condemn them or try to distance himself.

“He can’t control who supports him.”

He could tell David Duke he’s an asshole. He could. And live with the fallout.

“But why should he?”

Because it’s the right thing to do. Maybe there would be one less emboldened white person walking up to people in public and yelling at them for speaking Spanish to each other. Or one less white person coming out with a shotgun because a lost black boy knocked on his door to ask for directions.

“Those examples are few and far between.”

Actually they’re not. We’re experiencing a steady drumbeat of this. Maybe widen your exposure to other media?

“Like Obama wasn’t a reverse racist.”

Really? We’re going with nonsensical what-about-ism? You didn’t like his politics. Fine. But I can’t recall one instance where President Obama stood before hopped-up audiences on a regular basis and stoked fear of the “other.” Not one.

“Well, if Trump’s good in Franklin Graham’s book, he’s good in mine.”

That’s our measure of a President now? Last I looked we had freedom of religion. Since when are we a Christian nation? Most Americans do not aspire to that. And it’s not like our President is a model of Christianity.

“I have no problem with gays getting married. President Trump is not anti-gay.”

Have you met the Vice President and the Attorney General? They are hostile to gay rights. As for the President, his view on this shifts depending on the moment.

“You are picking on Trump. He can’t catch a break.”

Repeating what the President says is not picking on him. Reporting on what he does is not picking on him. He wanted this job. Maybe he didn’t realize it came with accountability. If he says he doesn’t read, not books and not his Presidential Daily Brief, then I believe him. If he says he doesn’t care about the feelings of Christine Blasey Ford because he won, then I believe him. If he tells the entire world while standing next to Vladimir Putin that he believes Putin over his own intelligence agencies, then I believe him. If he sees violence in Charlottesville and says there’s blame on “both sides,” then I believe him. If he tells crowd after crowd, night after night, that the press is the enemy of the people while those in attendance turn to the press corps and flip the finger or spit or worse, then I believe him. I believe he believes all of that. But he doesn’t like the way that plays on TV. He’s the President. It’s a democracy. We get to be privy to what he says and does. Deal with it.

Every day I try to be a better person than I was the day before. Sure, I jump to conclusions and have biases. Yes, I’m stubborn and (proudly) angry. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to back down from holding this narcissistic, low-intellect human accountable for his words and actions on behalf of, or in detriment to, my country.

If, unlike me, you’re proud to stand with him, then live with the consequences. Because guess what?

The racists believe he’s a racist.

Originally published at unfetteredexpression.com on October 27, 2018.

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