This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on ATL Redline.
We don’t have reliable polls on exactly how many racists there are in America. There are reams of legal definitions out there pertaining to racism and discrimination, but actual racists tend to resist self-identifying as such. And racists are good at rationalizing away their own biases; nobody who ends up on @YesYoureRacist thinks they deserve to be there.
A racist supported by “shame”?
But with Donald Trump, we have a guy running for president whose entire platform, essentially, is racism. He’s racist towards Mexicans, he’s racist towards Muslims. He was racist towards Jews at a Jewish event, which takes some hutzpah. And when he’s not being racist, he’s being sexist.
This is not a controversial opinion. The mainstream media has been happy to call Trump a racist and a bigot. Other Republican candidates have even called him a bigot.
And yet the people who support this recognized bigot largely get a pass from a media obsessed with “understanding” them. The media, desperately almost, tries to give race-neutral reasons for Trump’s supporters. Here’s USA Today saying Trump supporters “are hankering for a bare-knuckle fighter.” The Chicago Tribune calls Trump supports “disaffected moderates” who are sick of the two-party system. And here’s this takeaway from GQ:
“[T]he grim undercurrent of his rise is SHAME. After all, if you believe we must make America great again, then you must also believe that America, at the present moment, sucks. And pretty much everyone at the Trump picnic believed that America sucks.”
Or… maybe, just maybe, everyone at that picnic is a racist. Why is that so unfair? Why do we feel the need to explain support for a racist in non-racial terms? We’ve seen the polls showing that Trump supporters overwhelming support biased policies. We’ve read the stories about Trump events turning violent on minorities. I think we’re dealing with something a little more potent than “shame.”
There are Republicans all across the map that are better poised to capitalize on Trump’s supposed non-racist strengths. Chris Christie is a bare-knuckle fighter who speaks without artifice. Rand Paul is a disaffected third party candidate in a two-party system. Mike Huckabee thinks America’s failings are moral. Mike Bloomberg is a successful businessman who wanted to make America rich again.
The one thing that Trump has that those other candidates do not is unabashed racism. It’s not a bug, as they say; it’s the central feature of his candidacy. For years, Republicans have been dog whistling at the racists in their base, letting them know they are there for them and agree with them without risking a “racism” charge in the press. All Trump is doing is swallowing his whistle and voicing his racism plainly.
There is no deeper angle here. There is no complicated story. If Trump’s supporters weren’t racist, they’d support some other guy. Some guy who believes in most of what Trump believes, without the, you know…actual racism.
Some of the media’s resistance stems from an inability to truly believe that there are so many racists left out there. We’re talking about anywhere from a quarter to a third of the Republican electorate. You’ll hear people say that Trump is appealing to “a few” supremacists. People—especially white people, but there are pockets in every group—like to think hardcore, inveterate, “I think there is a link between skin color and abilities” racists are a dying and isolated breed.
But those people have mistaken changing a taboo for changing hearts and minds. It’s no longer “politically correct” to say racist things, but in much of the country it’s still just fine to actually be racist. Or sexist. And until quite recently in the grand scheme of things, homophobia was cool everywhere except San Francisco and New York (and maybe a couple others…Austin?). Trump is the first candidate since racism became taboo to give the racists somebody to vote for who doesn’t make them feel bad for being racist.
And there are a lot of racists out there. In a way, we should thank Trump. He is baiting the racists into self-identifying. If you see a Trump supporter on your Facebook feed, consider acting accordingly.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Avvo.
Image courtesy of: a katz / Shutterstock.com
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