It really does scare me sometimes how eagerly people catch on to a false idea. I’ve seen it happen on both the political left and right. Among those that have come up recently, the most provocative seems to be the left’s certainty of President Trump being a white supremacist.
Before I go any further, let me assure my liberal readers that I am not a Trump fan. I voted for Gary Johnson in the last election, in part because I saw in Trump some of the same problems you did: his lack of humility, his divisive behavior and his carelessness in speaking publicly. Trump has certainly had much of the negative press coming to him, especially after he called the left-wing news media the “enemy of the people”, a point on which I strongly disagree with him despite how deeply flawed I think they are.
Who are they to question Trump’s integrity, however, when they make such a plainly unaffirmed accusation as calling him a white supremacist? And yes, they’re going beyond saying he has sympathies to white supremacy by actually labeling him a white supremacist. ESPN’s Jemele Hill put out a tweet a week ago saying “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself (with) other white supremacists.” GQ published an article this past weekend concurring that she “accurately describ(ed) Donald Trump as a white supremacist.”
An op-ed from six days ago by Washington Post’s Erik Wemple, while avoiding the term “white supremacist”, tries to present evidence that Trump is a racist, including Trump’s opinion that the Central Park Five settlement was a disgrace. All of it is circumstantial. Ta-Nehisi Coates, national correspondent for The Atlantic, spoke with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes around the same time, making a slightly better attempt at trying to connect the white supremacist label with actual evidence. He pointed to the 1973 lawsuit by the Department of Justice against the Trump family’s real estate business, saying “I think if you own a business that attempts to keep black people from renting from you… you might be a white supremacist, it’s just possible.” But the case to which he refers was settled without an admission of guilt from the Trumps, and therefore his allegation of housing discrimination is unproven. The rest of his statement is likewise based on circumstantial arguments.
What is a “white supremacist” exactly? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the term as follows: a person who believes that the white race is inherently superior to other races and that white people should have control over people of other races.
None of what I’ve read or heard about President Trump thus far proves in any direct manner that he fits that definition. Proposing to build a wall to shore up illegal immigration from Mexico, rescinding the DACA and blocking refugees from certain troubled Muslim countries are all actions that could just as well be undertaken by a neo-conservative president who has no white supremacist sentiment at all. It could simply mean that he seeks to protect his country from terrorism and discourage the violation of its laws.
I’d ask the news outlets and journalists whom I named, is what they are doing to Trump much different from what was done to Obama when he was president? Many believed him to have sympathies for black extremism.
Indeed the right-wing news media had ample evidence backing such a charge, or so they thought. There was the light-handed punishment that Obama’s justice department gave the Black Panthers for voter intimidation in Philadelphia back in 2008 – an injunction against one of the members forbidding them to brandish a weapon outside a polling place until 2012. There was the moment in Spain when he defended Black Lives Matter, in spite of the movement’s habit of destruction in the cities as well as their violent rhetoric against the police. That’s not to mention his past association with Reverend Wright, the controversial pastor of his old church known for his incendiary rhetoric against America and Jews, much the same type the black extremist group, the Nation of Islam, uses.
Now, am I going to use these facts to jump right into saying that Obama is a black extremist who believes that blacks are superior to, or should live apart from, whites? The answer is a two-letter word starting with “n” and ending with “o.”
The reason is simple; however much those things might tempt me – even persuade me – to believe that he is, they do not prove it. If I was to call Obama a black extremist, or say that he’s sympathetic to such a philosophy, while neglecting to present more substantial proof, it would seriously affect the integrity of my judgment as well as my journalism. His administration’s soft punishment against the Black Panthers may simply mean that they did not see evidence for further action. In Spain, Obama did denounce the violence by Black Lives Matter and their sympathizers. And his ties to Reverend Wright do not automatically make Obama guilty of the former’s ideological issues.
I will finally add that long before Trump took two days to directly condemn the neo-Nazis for their attack in Charlottesville, Obama took five days to lower the White House flag for the five military personnel murdered in Chattanooga, which many people saw as a display – or reaffirmation – of half-hearted patriotism on his part. But he also completely failed to lower the flag for the blacks killed in a Charleston church by a known white supremacist. Now why would a black, liberal president miss out on lowering the flag for that, when he immediately did so for the children killed in the mass shooting in Newtown? It all may just mean, instead of Trump having sympathies toward neo-Nazis, that presidents for various reasons do not always say what the people want them to say when they should say it.
Anyone who reads this article thoroughly will see that despite the title, it is not a defense of Trump. Rather, it is an indictment of the left-wing news media’s whimsical reaction against Trump by smearing him with a false label. If they want me to take their story seriously, they will have to show me an authentic video, audio or document demonstrating that he is beyond any sensible doubt in bed with white supremacy.