I find the notion that we must know what’s in a man’s heart to know whether he’s a racist absolutely ludicrous. Words can give us an idea but actions are the true test. The late Maya Angelou, one of America’s most inspiring women, said it best – “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time”. President Trump’s statements about the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA, once again, revealed his true beliefs about race and fairness in America. Yet, the country’s response to his words and actions isn’t new. Collectively, we somehow won’t believe him. We ask whether this is the last straw. We ask whether the GOP will finally see the party imploding and take action. Now there’s a new question.
The country is now seriously asking the question “is President Trump a racist”?
I sat dumb founded throughout the media coverage of Charlottesville, VA. I cringed at the thought that former Klu Klux Klan leader David Duke could say that the events in Charlottesville would “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump” and I would hear nothing from the President. I thought about the “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” that the President condemned. I thought about how that statement walked the finest of lines, never mentioning white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, white nationalism, or domestic terrorism. What was most troubling was that none of this was breaking news. President Trump has shown us who he is before. We just didn’t believe him the first time. Or the second time . . . or the time after that.
If we’re honest, we’ve known all along that the “very fine people ” President Trump said were participating in the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA were, in fact, the white supremacists and Neo-Nazis propped up by his presidential campaign and his actions since occupation of the White House. They are a part of his base and he won’t abandon his base.
As I looked at footage of the people marching with torches, chanting what any reasonable and rational American would consider racist and incendiary, I asked myself who they really were. Where do they live, work and shop. I thought about why President Trump believed that these people were the same as the students, residents and others in Charlottesville that opposed this type of hatred. I asked myself if the guy I saw openly carrying a weapon in the local big box warehouse is a member of one of these groups. And I know that they walk among us every day. They live where we live. They work where we work. They have softened their look to blend in with the rest of us. They carried Donald Trump to victory in November 2016.
And then I asked myself why I believe our actions say who we are.
Let’s say you enter into a relationship with a married person. Throughout the life of that relationship the married person never trusts you to be a faithful partner. You see, through your actions, the evidence would be clear – your failure to stand firm in opposition to an intimate relationship with a married person would make you complicit in the betrayal of someone. Surely, the married person may feel justified by his/her actions but may not see any justification for your actions. You’re both in an adulterous relationship. Would you be surprised if the other person did not trust you? Should the other person be concerned about what is in your heart or what’s evidenced through your actions? Are you an adulterer or is it just the other person?
Republicans across America flirted with the idea that Donald Trump was what the nation wanted – what America needed. During that whirlwind romance countless Republicans failed to stand firm against what was clearly a relationship destined for failure. That makes them complicit in the undermining of American principles of fairness and equality. What do you think an analysis of that relationship should prove? Is it time they take a stand? Do we believe who they’ve shown us they are?
Likewise, President Trump has courted with – and failed to stand firm against – hatred, racism and bigotry and that makes him complicit in the betrayal of America. In my view, these actions show us who he is – what he’s made of.
Will we believe him?