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Writings from the Porch

November 2, 2016

Considering a Racist Agenda

Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.

–Satchel Paige

Growing up in Tennessee in the 1960s and 70s gave me some interesting opportunities to study racism, and I did study it. I won’t say I experienced it. I got beat up a couple times simply because I was small and white, but that hardly qualifies as experiencing racism in context of the times. No, I was an observer; I was a sensitive observer, but still an observer. My sensitivity was likely related to my having been raised in a home that was at worst neutral to racism, and at best squarely on the loving side of history. My father was particularly enlightened in this regard, and he demonstrated courage in expressing his convictions. Perhaps more importantly, he lived his life in a way that was a natural fit with the agenda of the Civil Rights Movement. I’m deeply grateful for his influence.

Racism is still a live topic. This is no revelation, but incredibly there are many voices who would have you believe otherwise. This deception is, of course, a perpetuation of racism. The same is true for those who would have you believe that the racism of Donald Trump is just a political assertion invented by liberals simply because Mr. Trump became a candidate for president. No, racism is racism. To deny racism when it is present is to perpetuate racism. That’s how it works.

Now I’m going to admit something: I grew up loving racists. I didn’t love them because they were racists, and I didn’t love their racism. But they were racist and I loved them. Still do. As Brother Will Campbell liked to say, “Love ‘em all, anyway.” (I think he was paraphrasing Jesus, but I don’t want to dive down that hole just now.) Simply stated, you don’t have to share my worldview for me to love you. And that’s why I can say that I love some people who support Donald Trump (I use “some” as an acknowledgement of my imperfection.)

Supporting Donald Trump does not in and of itself make someone racist, but supporting Donald Trump is (among other things) supporting a racist agenda. This should be a vital consideration. A racist agenda. Yes.

Recently The Crusader, a newspaper calling itself the “Premier Voice of the White Resistance,” provided an endorsement of Donald Trump, and in the process offered this analysis of his trademarked slogan:

“Make America Great Again” is a catchy slogan and we are beginning to see and hear it everywhere. But can it happen? Can America really be great again? That is what we will soon find out! While Trump wants to make America great again, we have to ask ourselves, ‘What made America great in the first place?’ The short answer to that is simple: America was great not because of what our forefathers did – but because of who our forefathers were. America was founded as a White Christian Republic. And as a White Christian Republic it became great.

This is, while horrifying, also refreshingly honest. As a historian I am perplexed as to what else could be the target of “again.” What could be the aim historically? What few talking points Trump supporters will toss out when attempting to explain the phrase simply solidify The Crusader’s argument.

One of the racists I love has long been a romantic for the 1950s. To this end, although he’s not really a baseball fan, he has a jacket honoring the New York Yankees of the 1950s. That was an incredible team. They were in the World Series in all but two years of the decade. They were tremendously successful. The best. And they were solidly white. The first African-American to wear pinstripes was Elston Howard in 1955, and he would be their “token” for many years. At that time there were no mediocre black players in the majors. The few who were in the big leagues—and there were very few—were exceptionally talented. Howard was exceptional, and he was also relatively slow (relative to predominant stereotypes). His manager, Casey Stengel, called him “Eightball,” and famously and very publicly bemoaned, “Well, when they finally get me a nigger, I get the only one who can’t run.” This statement created no waves at the time. It was considered funny. It was the 1950s, after all. Make America Great Again.

The chatter these days—and I guarantee some will respond to this writing in a like manner—is to meet a voiced concern with an accusation—ignoring the concern in the process. I’m not interested in getting in such a pissing match. Besides, if you are really convinced that Donald Trump is honest and upstanding, or at least less of liar than his opponent, you probably aren’t reading these words anyway. But I couldn’t sit back and watch this mess without adding my small voice.

If you are among those supporting Trump—and voting for him is supporting him and his values (Mr Ryan)—I will not rescind my love for you. That’s not how love works in my life. If you rescind your love for me, or, god forbid, unfriend me on Facebook, I can live with that circumstance. Contentedly. But I cannot and will not support a racist agenda. The fact that I could write a similar piece about a misogynistic agenda only increases my resolve.

This isn’t sports. If your team loses the big game on Sunday you still wake up Monday to a basically unchanged world. That’s not what happens in this one. Take care as to whom, and with what, you choose to be associated. There will be consequences far beyond politics.