Before this, there was racism

No matter how poorly read or misinformed you are, the racist tenor of the Trump campaign was impossible to miss.

While millions of Americans blow up Facebook over concerns that Donald Trump and his Grand Old Party will rob them of their health care, I’ve been feeling a bit smug. I suppose it’s human nature to focus on the latest outrage, but I’m that rare bird who never got past the first one.

Mark me down as sad, angry and scared about health care, but also incredulous that so many of you are just now renewing the call to arms.

Through it all, it’s been easy for me to keep my rage on the boil.

Granddaughter Zoe walks in my wife’s  footsteps. My family’s growing ethnic and cultural diversity is a point of pride.

When Trump announced during the campaign that he would build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, then went on to demonize Latinos and win the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan, it was game, set and match for me, with each successive outrage becoming little more than an I-told-you-so moment.

Am I prescient? Of course not, I just didn’t dismiss the first clue: never trust a racist.

It should have been obvious that a political party led by a man who would make it trés chic to discriminate based on skin color, would have no regard for decency or compassion. It would be just a matter of time before different policies would emerge that had an impact on everyone, including folks of a paler hue.

Because I’m an introspective kind of white guy, I’ve often asked myself if I’d feel the same strong sense of revulsion for racism if not for the fact that I have four Latino brothers-in-law. I’ve asked myself if I would feel less contempt for bigots if I didn’t also have a granddaughter and daughter-in-law who are that rare combination of minority — Latina and Jewish.

My conclusion? I don’t think so.

True, having people of different ethnicities and cultures in my family is a point of pride, and I get a kick out of thinking what my family will look like 100 years after I’m gone. But the real key is that no matter what the color of their skin or what they profess, I don’t believe my kinfolks deserve better than anybody else’s, and I believe we ALL deserve access to quality health care.

Sadly, not everyone in America has the same vision for their family.

So yes, by all means, cultivate your rage against the injustice of what Republicans are doing to your health care. Beat your chest now that your Make-America-Great-Again president is throwing you onto the scrapheap, right alongside those minority citizens who were already there.

But at the end of the day, remember that at its root, it’s all about making more money for the white men you voted for, men already rich beyond your wildest dreams. And of course it’s also about dismantling the signature achievement of the 44th president, who suffered from a pre-existing condition you just couldn’t abide, that of being a black man.

Racism is the stain that is responsible for so much that is wrong with America. I used to think most Americans had shoved racism to the back of their closet and treated its vestiges with a growing sense of shame. But Donald Trump brought racism out of the closet, quickened its pulse and won election to the world’s most powerful office with flagrant discrimination as the hallmark of his campaign. Everything since is just béchamel on the same stinking turd.

There are plenty of reasons to fight racism, but it would be foolish not to acknowledge that some people seem incapable of getting past the color of their own precious skin. For them, I offer one last reason to fight, and it’s no less true today than when it was written by German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller back in 1946:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

 

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2 thoughts on “Before this, there was racism

  1. I love that niemoller quote. I use it all the time when wrapping up lessons on discrimination and tours at the Holocaust museum. Because it’s true–we have to help each other or we should all be taken apart piece by piece.

    Liked by 1 person

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