Racism is a slow-growing disease that has been infecting our nation’s soul for more than 200 years. But the election of President Donald Trump has rendered it a full-blown, acute and life-threatening illness — one that erupted as a festering boil for all the world to see this weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Trump and his rhetoric on the campaign trail galvanized a grotesque underbelly of America that hates all but white Americans, worships Nazis and seeks a racial cleansing of America. The president is uniquely to blame for unleashing these destructive forces on our nation and emboldening them to turn public events ugly and deadly.
Given Saturday’s violent protest in Virginia, we should expect America’s leader to wield a sure and sharp scalpel to lance this nasty boil by swiftly and explicitly condemning racists and bigots for hatred, violence and death on American soil. But instead of a verbal surgical strike of the kind Trump is famous for — swift, laser-like and eviscerating — Trump’s initial response was as about as effective as a surgeon with a plastic butter knife.
On Monday, Trump finally condemned the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists, saying, “racism is evil.” He added that it was an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence,’’ and has “no place in America.’’
But it was far too little, and way too late.
President Trump looked the other way while Charlottesville descended into utter chaos. It took a car plowing into and killing a counter-protester and the deaths of two state troopers to get his attention — and about 48 hours for a valid response.
While Trump was slow to decry the racism, bigotry, murder and domestic terrorism that occurred in Charlottesville, he was certainly quick to call out a black business leader for disagreeing with him.
On Monday morning, Trump swiftly and sharply criticized an honorable black man who had resigned from the Trump’s American Manufacturing Council. Kenneth Frazier, the CEO of Merck, resigned prior to Trump’s speech, saying, “I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”
That set off a Trumpian Twitter tirade against the widely-respected CEO.
The resulting outcry was a nightmare for the president. Americans could not avoid or ignore Trump’s ugly double standard when it comes to white people and people of color.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Trump’s racist double standard. Just recently, a man who called Black Lives Matter participants “terrorists” was offered a job in Trump’s administration. But when it came to real domestic terrorists — white supremacists — Trump didn’t do or say much of anything.
White supremacists took his silence and his pause as an endorsement of their views — and their violence. When our nation’s top leader looked the other way, when he took days to finally identify them as “repugnant,” they were emboldened.
Trump can’t afford to make the same mistake again. It’s time for real leadership.
The battle in Charlottesville was not about a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. It’s about the future of our nation.
The fact that the governor of Virginia declared a state of emergency in Charlottesville is a wake-up call for a country that hasn’t witnessed racial unrest like this since the violence of the 1960s.
Trump needs to exert control over white supremacists in America — not hand control to them. He needs to learn the lessons of history, a history tainted by racism and intellectual justification of discrimination.
Consider President Andrew Johnson, who gave amnesty to Confederates. Johnson sidestepped responsibility as the nation’s leader, using states’ rights as a cover to allow forces of evil and racism to grow, intimidate and harm people of color in Southern states.
Is this where we are headed again? Is this what we want for our children?
The death and destruction in Virginia is a sign of a deeper, more insidious national problem. No longer out of sight and out of mind, racism is our nation’s gangrene, slowing eating away at America, body and soul. We must cut off the diseased limb — shut down the haters — to save our country.
Donald Trump did not create the raging monster of racism, but he did capitalize on it — he fed it and helped it grow, and now it’s claiming lives in our streets.
He has a fundamental responsibility as our Commander in Chief to decry, denounce and defeat the dark forces of white supremacists and neo-Nazis. And all Americans who care about the future of our nation must demand nothing less.