A certain presidential candidate, known for his racist, sexist, and otherwise outlandish rhetoric has recently won his third primary.
And if it wasn’t disturbing enough that people in KKK robes showed up to support him at the Nevada primary – an action which may or may not have been a poorly executed protest – one of the country’s most notorious white supremacist leaders unofficially endorsed this candidate today saying that anything other than voting for him was ‘treason to your heritage’.
Now, I have a general policy of not giving space to hate groups – which thrive on the attention generated by their shocking acts, but this is getting too serious to ignore.
But, here’s the thing – it’s not the idea that a particularly distasteful candidate might actually become president that I find so alarming. It’s the fact that he genuinely has so much popular support.
Donald Trump is making it acceptable to be a racist again.
Of course, racism has long been alive and well in this country. It never really died the quiet death we hoped it would. Through the activism of 60s and the “colorblindness” of the 90s, we just shoved it into the closet, hoping it would never spill out again.
In 1925, the KKK had “as many as 4 million members,” a number which shrank dramatically following the civil rights movement. The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates the group at 4,000-5,000 members today.
Of course, I still think the number of members is about 4-5 thousand more than I’d hope to see in my country – but that membership become even more disturbing when you consider that there are normative social pressures likely to prevent people from expressing their believes.
That is, our country is full of closeted racists.
Racists who aren’t closeted any more.
Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that 74% of South Carolina Republican primary voters favor “temporarily barring Muslims who are not citizens from entering the United States.”
Furthermore, a recent poll by Public Policy Polling found that in addition to barring Muslims, “31% [of Trump supporters] would support a ban on homosexuals entering the United States as well, something no more than 17% of anyone else’s voters think is a good idea.”
Again, 0% would be a better figure here.
The New York Times also reports that, “Nearly 20 percent of Mr. Trump’s voters disagreed with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in the Southern states during the Civil War.”
This is profoundly disturbing.
I’d almost prefer to blame this all on Donald Trump. If we can only stop him from winning the Presidency, then all our racial problems will be solved.
But here’s the thing: Trump is the symptom, not the disease.
A significant number – a significant number – of white Americans seem ready to re-don their white robes. Americans who otherwise are not entirely unlike myself.
I find that terrifying, and I’m hardly the most at risk.
It is not enough to wave our hands, to hope that the Republican establishment comes through with blocking a Trump nomination. We have to recognize that there is a growing racist sentiment – or, perhaps, a growing willingness to express that sentiment.
My greatest concern is not that Trump will be elected – it’s that even after he is eventually defeated, this profoundly, openly racist faction of Americans will continue to grow.