June 12, 2016

It's Not Honesty, it's Racism

I saw something on a social media page today questioning why people are calling Donald Trump a racist; the thinking is he's not racist, he's just being honest.

A brief refresher: Since May, Trump has made increasingly outrageous comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who has the Trump University fraud case in his court. He's now said he's done talking about it, but according to Trump, the Indiana-born judge, the son of American citizens,
happens to be, we believe, Mexican... (and later, Trump noted) I have a Mexican judge. He's of Mexican heritage and he should have recused himself...
I'm sure you've heard the comments from people who are simply appalled (even if most are not driven to action) by Trump's comments. You know what I'm talking about, right?
  • Paul Ryan Calls Donald Trump's Attack on Judge 'Racist' but still backs him
  • One of the worst mistakes Trump has made, says Newt Gingrich
  • Trump was not speaking about Curiel's heritage, says RNC Senior Advisor Sean Spicer
Here's a great read on comments made be a bunch of noted Republicans, Trump supporters all, including Mitch McConnell, Reince Priebus, John McCain, Bob Corker, Jason Chaffetz and others. Some say we have more important things to worry about, some say they're worried about their own campaign. Priebus even said he didn't know enough about the judge to judge the comment - from which I can only infer that that he didn't care enough to defend his party's standard-bearer, or else that he believes what Trump believes about federal judges with funny-sounding names (which would be ironic, wouldn't it?)

So, if what Trump says is simply honesty, let's make some more honest comments and see how long they'll be tolerated as honesty versus something else entirely.

  • These are members of Congress with Hispanic-sounding names: Pete Aguilar, Xavier Becerra, Joaquin Castro, Ted Cruz, Henry Cuellar, Carlos Cubelo, Tony Cardenes, Mario Diaz-Balart, Bill Flores, Luis Guiterrez, Jaime Herrera Beutler, Ruben Hinojosa, Ben Lujan, Bob Menendez, Loretta Sanchez, Jose Serrano, Juan Vargas, Filemon Vela, and Nydia Velazquez. They might "happen to be, we believe, Mexican" as much as Judge Curiel is Mexican, maybe even more so. Should they all recuse themselves from any discussions on immigration, wall-building, trade, the drug war, farming, and education (because of that pesky English as a Second Language stuff)?
  • And heaven forbid Bernie Sanders manage to steal the nomination from Hillary Clinton - we'd have a Jewish President? Obviously that would be a problem, even though his name doesn't sound funny like the Notorious RBG, Ruth Bader Ginsburg? I can't imagine she could be impartial an unbiased should a case involving a Jew come before the Supreme Court? 
  • And clearly, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor would need to recuse herself as well, right? And what about Elena Kagan - what kind of name is that? Can she be trusted?
  • And what about a case of an African American? Down sits Clarence Thomas. And the Catholics on the bench, they must step aside on anything having to do with contraception, certainly - it would be impossible for them to maintain self-control and respect for the law, without letting their religion get in the way, right? 

People who have known him for years - not just his children - say that Trump doesn't have a racist bone in his body.  And they might be right; I don't know and will likely never know if that is the case. 

But what he does have, in spades, is a racist vocabulary that is designed to inflame the most extreme of his supporters, including many in the Republican party across all jurisdictions, and he knows as well as I do that when he suggests that Curiel is unable to be impartial because he "happens to be, we believe, Mexican," inflammation is exactly what will happen. That's what he wants, it's what he needs, and it's what he gets.

To pretend that his comments on Curiel (and others he has made) are merely 'honest' is disingenuous at best, and dangerous at its core: we've already seen what happens when racism is denied, excused, and explained away by white defenders of honesty.  And is that really what we want to be when we are made Great Again?