Many of you probably saw the news reports–or the video–of the man on a Ryanair flight who engaged in a rant during which he called a black woman seated next to him an “ugly black bastard.”
You may have missed reports of his subsequent apology, which included his assertion that he “is not a racist.”
A man who subjected a fellow passenger on a Ryanair flight to a racist tirade has apologised publicly for the first time a week after the incident, claiming that he is not a racist and lost his temper “a bit”.
Then there was the fine fellow who tried to enter a black church in Kentucky, was unable to gain access, and settled for shooting two African-Americans he’d never met who were shopping in a nearby Kroger store.
A white man with a history of violence fatally shot two African American customers at a grocery store in Kentucky and was swiftly arrested as he tried to flee, police said Thursday. They said it was too soon to say what prompted Wednesday’s shooting, responding to an earlier account from a witness that when confronted with another white man during the incident, the suspect said: “Whites don’t shoot whites.”
It’s always comforting to attribute these senseless, horrific acts to “disturbed” individuals, and obviously, these are people with significant mental/emotional problems. But if we ignore the impetus for these acts, we risk even more civil disorder and tragedy. In the wake of the recent rash of pipe-bomb deliveries to people that Trump has identified as “enemies,”and the horrific shooting attack on Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue, we need to heed the recent warning by a columnist for the Guardian:
Political violence in the United States has tended to come in two forms. The first consists of simply unhinged acts, like John Hinckley Jr shooting Ronald Reagan in the hope of impressing the actress Jodie Foster, or Timothy McVeigh hoping to bring down the government with a bomb. The second is more systematic and sinister: the violence used to keep down groups who threaten the social and political order. This is the violence of strike breakers and the KKK. It is the violence that killed Emmett Till, an African-American teenager who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 after allegedly wolf-whistling at a white woman.
A key feature of the second type of violence is that it has often been perpetrated by private individuals while serving the interests of public authorities. This is why the authorities encourage it. Till’s killers walked free because Mississippi’s court system would not convict them, understanding that their act reinforced white supremacy at a time when it was under threat from desegregation. This was violence of the people, by the people, for the government.
As the writer noted, America currently has a president who “frequently and vividly” talks to enthusiastic supporters about the desirability of a violent response to those who oppose him.
As Paul Krugman recently reminded us, this use of invective and demonization didn’t start with Trump. It’s a strategy the right has been using for decades. By promoting culture war issues, and religious and (especially) racial antagonisms, they’ve been able to distract working-class voters from policies that hurt them. Trump is simply the blunt instrument of a strategy that has been cynically pursued for many years.
That doesn’t make him any less dangerous, however. Nor does it excuse the shameful efforts currently being made to excuse his proud embrace of Nationalism–to pretend that the omission of the word “White” somehow modified the clear meaning of that embrace.
Former GOP strategist Steve Schmidt cut through the lame efforts to soften and dismiss Trump’s message:
While discussing the racial politics of the Florida gubernatorial election, ex-Republican strategist Steve Schmidt argued Thursday that the whole party has been dragged down into a dangerous association with racists because of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and policies.
Schmidt asserted during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Deadline: White House” that Trump’s recent declaration of himself as a “nationalist” was a direct message to some of the most pernicious parts of the far right.
“When Donald Trump declares himself a ‘nationalist,’ the nationalists understand exactly what he means,” said Schmidt. “By the way, let’s stop calling them ‘white nationalists’ and call them by their names, which are ‘neo-Nazis’ and ‘Klansmen.'”
Whatever the motives of people who voted for Donald Trump in 2016, I agree with my youngest son that there are two, and only two, categories of people who continue to support him: those in full agreement with his overt and virulent racism, misogyny and anti-Semitism, and those for whom his bigotry–and his incitement of violence against the targets of that bigotry –doesn’t matter.
Those in the second category may deny being racist. Those denials are about as persuasive as the protestations of the bigot who demeaned his seat mate on Ryanair.