Telling It Like It Is

Charles Blow has used two of his recent columns in the New York Times to address racism; more specifically, the racism exhibited by Donald Trump and his base.

Although there has been a great deal of ink (or, more properly, pixels) devoted to analysis of the most recent eruption by our Vesuvius in Chief, Blow’s observations are so incisive, so devoid of the unnecessary niceties (typically employed by writers trying desperately to be fair to people undeserving of their solicitude), that they deserve wide distribution.

In the first column–written before the “shithole” eruption–Blow makes an important point about racism and the people who will continue to support Trump no matter how often he betrays his promises to them:

Trumpism is a religion founded on patriarchy and white supremacy.

It is the belief that even the least qualified man is a better choice than the most qualified woman and a belief that the most vile, anti-intellectual, scandal-plagued simpleton of a white man is sufficient to follow in the presidential footsteps of the best educated, most eloquent, most affable black man.

As President Lyndon B. Johnson said in the 1960s to a young Bill Moyers: “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

The entire column is well worth reading–and pondering. Among other things, it explains Trump’s pathological fixation on erasing anything and everything that Obama did.

Trump supporters love to describe his most vile pronouncements as evidence that he “tells it like it is.” But it is Blow who actually tells it like it is, in the wake of Trump’s “shithole” episode.

He begins with a definition:

Racism is simply the belief that race is an inherent and determining factor in a person’s or a people’s character and capabilities, rendering some inferior and others superior. These beliefs are racial prejudices.

Blow then points out–as many others have- that Trump fits that definition, that he’s a racist,  a white supremacist, a bigot. (In the same issue of the Times, David Leonhardt provides an exhaustive list of Trump’s blatantly racist statements.) But– as Blow also says– pointing that fact out is the easy part. The need to make his tenure as short as possible is equally obvious.

Most importantly, this November, voters must

rid the House and the Senate of as many of Trump’s defenders, apologists and accomplices as possible. Should the time come where impeachment is inevitable, there must be enough votes in the House and Senate to ensure it.

I am going to bold these next paragraphs, because his point is really important–and because it is insufficiently appreciated:

And finally, we have to stop giving a pass to the people — whether elected official or average voter — who support and defend his racism. If you defend racism you are part of the racism. It doesn’t matter how much you say that you’re an egalitarian, how much you say that you are race blind, how much you say that you are only interested in people’s policies and not their racist polemics.

As the brilliant James Baldwin once put it: “I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.” When I see that in poll after poll a portion of Trump’s base continues to support his behavior, including on race, I can only conclude that there is no real daylight between Trump and his base. They are part of his racism.

When I see the extraordinary hypocrisy of elected officials who either remain silent in the wake of Trump’s continued racist outbursts or who obliquely condemn him, only to in short order return to defending and praising him and supporting his agenda, I see that there is no real daylight between Trump and them either. They too are part of his racism.

When you see it this way, you understand the enormity and the profundity of what we are facing. There were enough Americans who were willing to accept Trump’s racism to elect him. There are enough people in Washington willing to accept Trump’s racism to defend him. Not only is Trump racist, the entire architecture of his support is suffused with that racism. Racism is a fundamental component of the Trump presidency.

A commenter to this blog recently protested when I wrote that racism had motivated the majority of Trump voters. I based that statement on research that has emerged since the election, but my youngest son points out that we really don’t need academic researchers to tell us what we all know. Trump’s campaign was unambiguously racist, therefore, those who voted for him fell into one of the only two possible categories: either they responded positively to his racism, or his racism didn’t bother them enough to make them vote for someone else.

As Blow says, there were enough Americans willing to accept Trump’s racism to elect him.

As my son says, you are what you are willing to accept.

Just telling it like it is.


  1. Yes. It’s true. Our racism, as a nation, is profound and has been with us before we WERE a nation. Half the colonies were founded on slavery and its inherent racism that defined black people as chattel and inferior human beings. That animas has been passed on to subsequent generations.

    Some have achieved the intellectual leap of overcoming our original sin as a people. Some have not. It’s one of those things that takes WORK. And too many of us are just intellectually lazy. Imagine what our TV commercials and entertainment, for example, would look and sound like if we used our brains more than we do.

  2. Thank You. In line with todays piece, I noticed that an IN candidate for Senate is bragging that HE would be good for the Trump program. And so it goes on.

  3. Vernon,

    Spot on. We are a racist nation and have been since our founding. We used slaves (brown skin) and committed genocide against Native Americans (red-skins).

    The worse part is both political parties are guilty of racism. This is a people issue so most of our institutions are racist.

    We need to build a wall to block out brown immigrants, but no wall is needed along our northern border. Just mention that obvious point and people laugh.

    #MAGA means make America white again.

    However, the real question is who does racism serve the most?

    Who uses our bias and fears against us and why?

  4. Now is not the time and Trump is not the person, no matter what his position in life is, to worry about niceties or being politically correct (polite). Now is the time to be direct and brutally honest about who and what Donald Trump is and concern ourselves with who and why those who follow and support him have the power to keep him in office. They are our enemies, they are NOT our political opposites.

    Trump is a sociopath with “malignant narcissism” overtones, his racism is but a part of his makeup. We have watched him in the news for more than 30 years; why are so many people surprised at who he is as president? To quote Lance Dodes, M.D., from the book “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump”; “…we are a culture that admires success in wealth and power, regardless of how it is achieved. People with sociopathic qualities who are able to achieve high status and power precisely because of their manipulations and cheating are, therefore, sometimes seen as not only psychologically healthy, but superior.”

    Trump’s appointees are all part and parcel of White Nationalism on one level or another; they watched as we watched his entire campaign’s blatant racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslims, anti-LGBTQs and his degrading a physically disabled, but highly qualified, journalist. We saw a high number of sexual abuse charges against him disappear…more than once; the current accusations about porn stars will also disappear. If it takes repeating his “shithole” comment ad nauseum, then so be it; no one has yet denied it is a blatant racist term as they try to deny he used it.

    Racism has been the base of the Republican party for many years; it took election of President Obama to bring it into the open. It took Donald Trump to give his approval of using whatever racist tactics available to bring us to the point we are today.

  5. “The worse part is both political parties are guilty of racism.”

    Todd; that statement contains more truth and is more vitally important than maybe you realize. The Republican’s blatant support of the current administration’s blatant racism and bigotry may not be a damaging as the Democrat’s cowardly inaction to address the situation and seek solutions to the problem. This cowardice is how and why people will believe Trump’s accusations that the Democratic party is stopping DACA…and maybe he is telling the truth with that statement.

  6. I swear, we are reliving history… Nazi history. The coming days may well give all of us the opportunity to answer the question of whether we will stand with the oppressed against the threat of arrest or hide mute in our cellars as our neighbors are marched off to some processing camp before being tossed over the boarder.

  7. Theresa is correct. We must see Trump’s racism in the context of a larger megalomania that is on a political journey to fascism.

  8. Are you saying that MORE than half of 45’s supporters could be put in a “basket of deplorables?” I guess those who criticized Hillary for that comment might have meant that she was downplaying the racism, xenophoia, and ignorance of the other half of his supporters.

  9. What has struck me just now is that in 150 years we are still a racist nation that thinks that people with brown or black skin are beneath us white folks. My god, that could mean that this trumpism crap could be a fight we have to fight for another 150 years! Are we up for it or are we going to stop that train right now?

  10. I know I was raised in a racist culture and that my mother did what she could do help me be better than that. Being better for me means to be aware of what awful assumptions, fears and wrong beliefs have been fed to me, are fed to me constantly by my culture and to always, always be on guard not to act on them in my speech or by my actions. I may never achieve truly being not racist, but I can behave honorably and respectfully in moment after moment to my fellow human beings, apologizing and trying again when I fail. I may never truly achieve being truly not racist, but I believe my example makes it so that my children are closer to that goal than I am. It’s a process of correcting a huge, deep, horrible cultural wrong, and what I can do is work moment after moment to do better than the ways I inherited. I’ll never say I’m not racist. I don’t think I deserve to yet. Not with the world the way it is.

  11. I’ve started losing ‘friends’ over exactly this. People only like Telling It Like It Is when it’s not directed at them.

  12. I that that a more expansive and inclusive description of racism here and now as the foundation of the Republican Party is “entitlement”. That along with Russia and the Republican Broadcasting Network explains Trump. It also explains what attracts his supporters. They are not entitled by any accomplishment save wealth for a few so worship political power as the only path available to them to ego gratification.

    I deal with them every day of Facebook and other blogs and see no better explanation of their behavior.

    All of which begs the question: is there any path to reunification?

    I don’t see it. Our only hope and therefore our exclusive plan, and thank God it’s available, is to outvote them in virtually every race in 2018 and ’20.

  13. When will people say what the true crux of the problem is? It’s the browning of America and the fear of the “right” that the “browns” will take over the country. The need to downplay any success by people of color, especially being elected President and in charge of the country. How dare any “brown” person to think he is good enough to do that! I don’t think Donald Trump is a racist in the true meaning of the word. He has distaste for anyone, white or brown that he deems beneath him. It’s the “right” , white members of Congress, and Trump’s base who are the real racists. They will support Trump no matter what, due to their fear of people of color.

  14. But healing the racial divide seems to be more difficult today; Blacks and other dark-skinned people, beginning with Americans, are backing away from overtures of friendship…or even simple neighborliness. How do we overcome this when we understand why they don’t trust us? And I certainly don’t blame them for their feelings when the ugliness of racism and bigotry is running this country.

  15. I read the following and thought “Birds of a Feather flock Together”. So let’s connect some dots.
    The leader, Henry Bolton, of Britain’s anti-immigration, pro-Brexit U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) says he ended his relationship with his girlfriend (Jo Marney) after she made racist remarks about Meghan Markle, Prince Harry’s fiancée. It came after Marney, 25, described American actress Markle, who is biracial, as a “dumb little commoner” and said “her seed with (sic) taint our royal family” in text messages to a friend published by The Mail on Sunday newspaper.

    Marney also wrote that ethnic minorities were “pushing their way to the top slowly slowly. Next will be a Muslim PM. And a black king.”

    She also called black people “ugly.”

    When her friend accused her of being racist, she wrote: “Lol so what… Not wanting other races and cultures to invade your own culture doesn’t mean I hate their race. Just means I don’t want their cultures invading mine,” according to the Mail on Sunday.

    Bolton, 54, left his wife for Marney, a former soft porn model and self-described actor and music journalist, who he met soon before Christmas, according to the Mail on Sunday. Marney was suspended from UKIP after the Mail on Sunday told the party about her comments.

    Marney later apologized for her comments, claiming they had been “taken out of context.”

    One of the past leaders of UKIP was Nigel Farage. Some of you may recall the name of Nigel Farage – The following is from WIKI: In July 2016, Farage visited the Republican convention in Cleveland with his aide and office manager George Cottrell. >>>It get even juicier >> –

    Both Farage and Cottrell appeared on American television and engaged in discussions with Trump’s aides before Cottrell was arrested by the FBI on 21 federal counts of fraud, money laundering and extortion.

    After Trump’s victory, Farage said that he “couldn’t be happier”. Farage described Steve Bannon as “my sort of chap.” On 20 January 2017, the day of Trump’s presidential inauguration, US news channel Fox News announced it had hired Farage as a commentator. He has since provided political analysis for both the main Fox News channel and its sister channel Fox Business Network.
    The Republicans are doing their best to stonewall, cover-up and excuse all these racist Trumpisms. Finally, I heard on TV what I have been saying for months. The Republican Donor Class and thus the Republicans themselves see Trump as willing to sign any legislation or executive order they put in front of him. Trump is the ugly face of plutocracy and the Republican Party but the ends justify the means.

  16. One way to overcome racism is for color to disappear as in Brazil where the race is tanning out. We are slowly headed in that direction but millennials are resisting racism far better than my generation did, so I think we will see an acceleration in our tan-out move unless the current crop of neo-Nazis racists in high places resort to atomic war and/or gas chambers as better choices.

    If we tan out by, say, mid century, that doesn’t mean the social war is over when it happens. We will find new distinctions to war about, as is our wont, like class, economic status or the like to keep some ism alive. We humans seem to always find something to fight about and in our case we assume a fight is always just an inch away – see our humongous “defense” budget, a budget far out of proportion to the risk involved.

    Donald James Trump is by any reasonable standard a racist, of course, but he has company. Those who support his racist blather either openly or by silence are, if not racists, aiders and abettors of such social cancer, fearful of leaving the open trough of money for their states and districts and most of all – their reelection. Those of us who remain clear-headed and well-intentioned in the face of the daily atrocities we are now experiencing in our defense of democracy have a clear task awaiting us, i.e., to save our country from these would be (if not already) fascists by voting them out on November 6, 2018, and by robustly resisting their words and deeds by words and deeds of our own during this interim. Our democracy may well depend upon our success in resisting these fascists from within, and nothing is more important than retention and expansion of our democratic institutions. Nothing.

  17. Wait until the IN Republican senate primary campaign starts in earnest; listen to their positions on immigration and other issues. Their racism will be obvious to many, but how do we stop one of them from being elected? It worked for Trump and they are counting on those same votes.

  18. There are some pieces here of the Republican Party. First is the plutocracy and the donor class steroid capitalists, second is the bible thumpers (Mike Dense) and third the racists either covert or overt. The Plutocracy and donor class do not have the votes to place into office their puppets. So how to get out the vote – These people can and do appeal to the bible thumpers and racists with a variety of false flag threats for votes.

    Forget the encoded dog whistles of racism like Nixon’s Law and Order or welfare queens, Trump is like a railroad train whistle blasting out racism in the middle of night.

  19. Trump speaks & tweets controversy to keep the spotlight on himself. He seems to equate that attention, especially negative attention as power. He manipulates that power however manifested, into his next move. Looks like he’s locked & loaded to say anything, as long as it stirs the pot!

  20. As mentioned before, we are faced with incontrovertible evidence of a significant shift of millions of white voters who went for Obama but in 2016 voted for the Carrot Top. The studies cited by Sheila in today’s column do not make those numbers go away. In fact they don’t even present a very coherent case for the impact of racism they claim t discern. In no way do I believe or suggest that racism played no part in the 2016 result, just as it has in other elections in the past. I do believe however that trying to explain away the disastrous result in 2016 as merely a function of racism is to trivialize other important tendencies emerging in the electorate (in which, for example, white voters went for a black candidate in 2008 and 2012 and then shifted to a white racist one in 2016). If we do not take those other tendencies into to account as in retrospect the Clinton campaign failed to do, then we are risking another clobbering.

Comments are closed.