Saturday, January 13, 2018

Trump: Racist, or just Disrespectful?

Hearing the unsaid.  Seeing the invisible.

I liken it to an old phrase: "Gay-dar", that ability to discern sexual orientation through subtle clues.  Some see it.  Some are oblivious.

Click. I said it first, now the Washington Post.
Let's take another look at the "Shit hole" comment.

Yesterday this blog observed two ideas in conflict with each other.  One was that Trump's preference for immigrants from Norway over ones from "shit holes" like Africa and Haiti was inherently and obviously racist, and that Trump was just saying what a lot of people think is objectively true, that third world poverty is a "shit hole."

The blog received comments from several sources:  

"Trump was disrespectful, but not racist." 

They saw no racial animus in what Trump said.  Fox News hosts make the same point. Jessie Watters: "This is how forgotten men and women in America talk at the bar."

People who do not consider themselves racist and people who do not experience racial anxiety over their status, can observe Trump's messaging and be blind to the embedded affirmations of traditional hierarchy based on race.  It is possible even Trump is blind to it.  He says repeatedly the he is "the least racist person on the planet."  Yet  he unwaveringly communicates race hierarchy messages, coded as disrespect for black victims of crime, for black NFL players protesting, for black Congresswomen wearing hats, for blacks coming from shit hole countries.

Race remains an unresolved problem in AmericaWe have a white persons party and a party of diversity.  Democrats receive about 37% of the white vote.  Race privilege and hierarchy is a sub-text underlying the differences between the two parties.  

Trump moved the subtext (as expressed by Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan, Gingrich) up to overt signaling, more in common with late-George Wallace in his 1972 campaign.  He stopped calling for segregation and began condemning Black Panthers and agitators and college professors and white liberals.   He pointed the wedge not between black and white--that was too overt to succeed in the north.  He pointed the wedge between whites who supported diversity (liberal, culturally sophisticated elites, college students, professors, journalists) with their black and brown allies, versus working class cultural traditionalists. This obscured the racial subtext, and it divided peopleon the basis of culture, not skin color.  Skin color was now "incidental."

Not all Republicans are racist. They resent the charge.  The resent even the hint of it as subtext.  The people who wrote me saying Trump is simply disrespectful but not racist are themselves not racist and likely are oblivious to a racist subtext. They have other reasons for voting Republican.  It is like "gay-dar." A person uninterested in the signals never sees cues that other see clearly.

But the racial subtext is meaningful to a great many and it is there for people who want to see it.  A great many white people do.

This blog has attempted to warn Democratic candidates that a majority of whites (55%) feel that they are the victims of racial discrimination.  They feel they are struggling, Trump points out a villain: the people below them on the hierarchy of color, people jumping the line and stepping ahead of them.

Trump does not argue the crime rate numbers or the economics of immigration.  The warm up acts for his rallies are the families of people killed by a person in the country illegally.  They weep and are angry.  A dark skinned man did that to our family. Everyone is against murder. The crime is real and shocking.  Is it racist?  The audience hears what it wants to hear.

Democratic candidates have a dilemma.  

They must confront the subtext of racial prejudice amid the complication that many sincere people do not perceive Trump's racial message, so they resent being told something is happening right before their eyes when they don't see it.  Democrats also must confront the fact that social justice--and the tenets of their party--endorse acceptance of diversity, yet some of the traditional supporters of their party feel racial anxiety.  Those people do notice the subtext and they agree with Trump that white people are the aggrieved, neglected group.

Somehow, a Democrat needs to acknowledge the unseen and unheard.  Black lives matter, brown lives matter, all lives matter. Everyone struggles.


Scott Hays said...

Racism is racism, and we cannot excuse (let alone accept) racists and the racist values they promote or hold simply because they are unaware of their racism. It is our responsibility to call it out and educate our brothers and sisters, even if it makes them uncomfortable. That includes those who erroneously believe that white people are aggrieved or neglected.

Rick Millward said...

Trump's statement was not about the issue.

Racist language is a way to express frustration over everything he's experiencing. Racist talk gives the ignorant bigot a vent for his anger and momentary relief from the pressure they feel. Racist jokes, the ever so slight innuendo, all serve to make the person feel for that instant that he is superior to someone and in control of his situation.

No one who understands the fundamental fact that "race" is a myth can be racist unless they are so deliberately. The rest are simply ignorant. Our public school system must try harder to teach our young citizens about DNA, and erase this myth, but it's an example of the power of familial and cultural conditioning that this perverse fallacy persists.