Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Racism and Trump

The deep and malevolent vein of racism that runs beneath American culture lies exposed.  Angered by having a competent black president, racists have emerged from the shadows on the heels of the presidential campaign.  They are not being coy: “Make America Great Again” is the most racist slogan in American political history.

It easily eclipses the anti-Catholic sentiments that tarnished presidential campaigns in 1884, 1928 and 1960, while sprinting well past the slimy lies endured by Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman in their day, as well as by Edwin Muskie, John Kerry and Al Gore in ours.

The U.S. is lacking in nothing, from resources to the strongest economy and the best military.  The only thing that Donald Trump and his followers want to make “greater” is to return a white man to the White House.

Such a hateful attitude grew out of a singular event that took place nearly 400 years ago.  In 1619, Virginia tobacco farmers imported slaves to work the fields.  There were free black men in this country, but Virginia moved quickly to curtain the rights of slaves, rapidly ensnaring anyone with darker skin in the process.

Other southern states followed suit, prevent blacks from voting, owning property and, of course, getting an education.

Emancipation in the 1860s as a result of the Civil War did nothing to change attitudes.  By then, the idea that a person with darker skin was somehow inferior was deeply ingrained into the American psyche, a concept backed by an 1890s Supreme Court decision creating "separate but equal" guidelines.  That concept is no different than the twisted claims of Nazis that German genes were somehow better than anyone else’s.   This plague of eugenics led to the inevitable Holocaust, and was only destroyed by more-recent scientific research into genetics.

Scientists have proven that all females of any color are descendants of one woman who lived perhaps 150,000 years ago.  All males have the same father.  This isn’t Adam and Eve; our progenitors lived thousands of years apart.

As such, color is merely an adaptation.  Darker skin protects against the fierce African sun.  In the same way, white skin is more beneficial in northern climates. Evolutionary studies have helped to explain the process.

In reality, humans come in multiple colors, the direct result of the mixing of genes across the millennia.   Color has nothing to do with intelligence, athletic ability, creativity, morals, ethics or any aspect that makes us individuals.

O. Henry
Americans and their British counterparts remain almost unique in their fixation on skin color.  I saw that first hand in an Embry-Riddle University classroom, where students in an English class read an old  O. Henry story.  The irony in the 1890s tale was that the protagonist had a black wife and was seeking a white cook.  Readers were naturally supposed to believe the opposite.

None of my international students understood the irony.  Their societies, with natives of all colors, had no concept of racism.  That’s equally true in India and China, countries with the bulk of the world’s population.

I’m not suggesting that all of Trump’s supporters are racists.  Some clearly like the egotistical, narcissistic businessman with multiple failed marriages and bankruptcies who faces thousands of lawsuits because of his business practices.   They want a “strong” leader, just the way Italians initially supported Mussolini, the late fascist whom Trump seems to most resemble.

However, racism remains the key component of his appeal.  After all, Trump is endorsed by the KKK and the American Nazi Party, exemplar homegrown proponents of racism. 

That hate-filled attitude is also an element in the widespread police shootings, too, although the NRA shares some of the blame for its mad effort to arm an entire country.  Under the circumstances, police have no way of knowing if someone they are stopping is carrying a weapon.  They would rather shoot first, which is understandable.  At the same time, however, color is clearly a factor whether or not bullets fly.

Nor can we expect an immediate change.  With almost four centuries of racist propaganda and a political candidate using coded messages to continue the drumbeat, racism will continue to pulse overtly through our country.
Dr. King

Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream that someday his children will be judged by their character and not the color of the skin remains merely a hope in a Trump world driven by overt racism.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His most recent book is Passover in Prison, which details abuse of Jewish inmates in American prisons, and The Sands of Time, a look at 100 years of Daytona Beach racing history.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at

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