My president is racist. It honestly pains me to even type that. I hate it. I never imagined having to say such a thing. Before the last year the thought of having to do so was honestly, kind of absurd. It was never that I thought racism was dead. Thankfully I have never been naive to the fact that racism still exists, even if less overtly expressed. I grew up in two multi-racial households, most of my friends in my neighborhood were black. I never had the privilege to just look the other way. When they were hurt by racism, I hurt for them. I saw the damage that racism could still inflict upon the sense of self-worth and dignity of minorities firsthand in a supposedly enlightened society. So I knew racism was alive and well in 21st-century America.
Yet still I hoped that I would never have to acknowledge that my president himself was racist. No one wants to believe that the leader of their country – the person who is supposed to represent the values and interests of ALL their citizens to the world – is racist. I prayed that, when push came to shove, whatever morally bankrupt conscience Donald Trump had would be elevated by the office he was entering. In that sense I was naive. I hoped for something that would simply never come true. The signs had been there all along.
There were the discrimination lawsuits from the 1970s, his advocacy to have five minorities falsely accused of rape in Central Park in the 1980s executed for a crime they did not commit, the comments amount Mexicans being criminals and rapists, the belief that a judge, because of his race, could not fulfill his obligation to be an impartial arbiter of the law, the false birther conspiracy about President Obama not being born in the United States, the Pocahontas comments, the comments that there were good people on both sides in Charlottesville. I could go on further, but you get the point (If you want a complete list click here:The Definitive List of Trump’s Racist History). It was all there. It was all so obvious.
Even with all of that, I still did not want to say that he was a racist. I know part of me just didn’t see value in saying such a divisive thing, even if it were true. I caught myself thinking multiple times, “We’re already divided enough, why state what is already obvious when it will only divide us further?” Maybe part of it was also the false belief that if I did acknowledge such an egregious truth it would diminish my pride in America. In retrospect, I honestly don’t know what was truly the driving force behind the my reticence to call his behavior unequivocally racist. Yet until his comments the other day about “shithole countries” I had not been willing to say it aloud.
On that account, I failed. I failed my fellow citizens. I especially failed the minorities within this country who have been discriminated against and had their subjugation denied for far too long. I failed America. In my hesitance to call out the president for what he truly is, I lied to myself. I made myself believe that for the good of the country it was better to not speak the truth than let the lie go unquestioned. I failed to speak truth to power, and for that I am sorry.
I have come to realize that sometimes you just have to call a square, a square, and be done with it. There is no sense in denying a truth that is abundantly clear. If someone makes an unfortunate comment once, maybe they just made a mistake. If someone has a 40-year history of racist actions, they are what they are. There is no value in denial. We owe no deference to a lie, even if it is hard to accept. I have come to realize, that the truth – no matter how unfortunate it may be, no matter how poorly it may reflect upon you – is always better than the perpetuation of a lie. In the truth there is freedom, in a lie only constraint. You can never heal what you never reveal.
We have an obligation to the truth, and the brutal and honest truth is that Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States, is a racist. It is a fact that I cannot deny, that I refuse to deny any longer, and that I denied for too long. Yet the acknowledgement that Donald Trump is a racist, does not diminish (as I falsely believed) the pride I have in America. He is but one American in a country of over 300 million. While there may be many others across this nation who share his views about minorities, there are even more who do not. The majority of us truly believe that self-evident truth that, “all men are created equal.” We must remain vigilant in its defense, which means being honest with ourselves. It is undeniable that race is still an issue in this country along which rivers of division flow. However, it also undeniably true that it is impossible to build a bridge of understanding across those rivers if we simply deny that the rivers exist at all.