If Donald Trump’s victory proves anything, it’s that subjugating people of color is a time-honored tradition in American culture that maintains itself through normalization. It started off as chattel slavery, transitioned into convict leasing, manifested as Jim Crow and hid behind mass incarceration. When the N-word is no longer acceptable, racists rely on thug. When there’s no Civil Rights Movement to demonize, or Black Panthers to accuse of anti-white violence (with no evidence of such), racists call Black Lives Matter domestic terrorists. Nobody would accept the Ku Klux Klan or Neo-Nazis with their strong language, frightening uniforms, and violent history. So you throw on a suit and tie and call yourself Alt-Right while preaching the same ideology.
Meanwhile, many white Americans will try their hardest to convince you that what you’re seeing isn’t real and all the history you’ve studied and reports you’ve read came from the leftist media agenda. You should pull yourself up by the bootstraps( just like Trump didn’t), and you should take personal responsibility (like Trump seldom does) because that’s the American standard unless you’re a white male running for president while bashing Mexicans, calling to ban immigrants from Muslims countries from entering the country, and proposing New York’s stop-and-frisk to continue randomly searching people because their dark skin makes them suspicious. If you disagree, you’re divisive, not Trump.
Let’s be real. Trump is a racist. So are many of his supporters, along with their parents, and their parents before them. Racial apathy and hatred are passed down from generation to generation like a family recipe, and Trump has memorized the ingredients for normalized bigotry. First, you find (or manufacture) a problem. Second, you blame darker skinned people for it. Third, you add a dash of fear and anger while promising to protect white people from the “others” you’ve portrayed as immoral savages. Once you’ve followed these steps, you can do whatever you want to the people you’ve demonized and the majority of your supporters won’t even flinch, especially when you denounce anyone who criticizes you via Twitter.
For example, Trump started his campaign calling undocumented Mexicans rapists. Trump supporters like to say he only meant “the illegals,” but if his statement was really about immigration, he would’ve mentioned other nationalities who also sneak across the border. If he was really concerned about rape, he would’ve focused on how often women are raped by American citizens. Instead, he singled out Mexicans, called them rapists, and then said he would build a wall to protect our borders from the people he portrayed as sexual deviants. Then he wants Congress to pay for the wall with the hope that Mexico will reimburse the expenses, and that’s not his entire immigration policy. Trump proposed an End Illegal Immigration Act that uses mandatory minimum sentences for anyone caught in the country after being deported. So in other words, if you want to return to America without a visa, Trump’s plan will make sure you remain in an American federal prison for at least two years. He’s less likely to succeed at building a wall, but we’ve already seen mandatory minimums for drug possession. Expanding them into immigration policy isn’t impossible.
So if Trump wants to keep people out, why would he propose to keep people in for a mandatory time period? According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website, the majority of its inmates in private prisons are sentenced criminal aliens who may be deported upon completion of their sentence, and seven out of 12 federal private prisons are located in southern California and southern states. Out of that seven, four are located in Texas. Two out of those four federal prisons in Texas are owned by the GEO Group, a private prison corporation that donated to Trump’s campaign to the tune $150,000. When Trump won, the Geo Group and Corrections Corporation of America(CCA), who also runs federal private prisons in the south, both surged in the stock market the next morning. This came on the heels of the federal government declaring a phase out of its private prison contracts, but Trump will likely make sure that doesn’t happen. The Geo Group and CCA have supported “tough-on-crime” policies like the “three strikes” law to keep their occupancies high, along with immigration policies like Arizona Senate Bill 1070 which allows law enforcement to arrest someone who cannot prove they entered the country legally when asked. They supported these laws because leniency would hurt their business, so it comes as no surprise that they support a president who not only wants to target undocumented immigrants but make sure they are locked up for a set amount of time, especially if most of the federal private prisons are in the very states where you are mostly likely to find anyone from a country south of our border.
Remember the convict leasing that started after slavery? Well, it’s still big business, and Trump’s all about that. When he supports stop and frisk, which was found unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment because it discriminated against black people and Latinos, it’s not because he wants to keep our streets safe. It’s because he wants to round up dark people. When the Fraternal Order of Police endorses him then calls him to reverse or amend the ban on racial profiling for all Federal agencies, and Trump’s New Deal for Black America involves investing in local and federal police, they’re not trying to keep our streets safe. They want to round up more dark people. Trump’s mandatory minimum sentences have nothing to do with keeping our borders safe. It’s about rounding up more dark people, and it will only increase profits for companies like CCA and the GEO Group, along with bolstering our world-leading prison population.
Trump supporters I’ve spoken with ask how he’s a racist in a rhetorical fashion, assuming the question can’t be answered. They’ll even say nobody called him a racist until he ran for president. These are the arguments of a dumbed-down public that people like Trump prey on daily. Anyone can conduct research and find that the Department of Justice sued Trump for racial discrimination in the 1970s for refusal to rent to black tenants and that he remedied to prevent further discrimination as part of the settlement agreement. The same supporters will tell you to give Trump a chance, but anyone can find that Trump called for the deaths of the Central Park Five for a rape they didn’t commit and to this day still thinks they’re guilty despite DNA evidence and a confession from the culprit contradicting their coerced confessions; evidence that he wouldn’t give five innocent men a chance at moving on with their lives. So why give him one, when much like racist white rioters from the early 1900s in Omaha, Nebraska or Tulsa, Oklahoma, Trump doesn’t care about the facts as long as someone dark is punished? And as much as Trump supporters like to believe that Trump is unfairly given a racist label, he never stopped giving us a reason. No president in the history of the United States had his citizenship questioned before Barack Obama entered the Oval Office, and Trump pushed harder than anyone for proof of his birth certificate. That was the ultimate message that a black man didn’t belong in the White House because of his African ancestry.
So how does Trump get sued for racial discrimination, use racist rhetoric against innocent kids and the preceding president, support a systematically racist criminal justice system and push xenophobic immigration policy but still become the president of the United States of America? He followed the same American tradition passed down from Andrew Jackson to Richard Nixon. Steve Bannon co-wrote Trump’s inauguration speech and compared it Jackson’s, the same president who built his military legacy on hunting down free black people and natives. During his campaign, Trump preached law and order just like Nixon, the same president who declared a War on Drugs designed to attack black people as his political opponents and used anti-black and anti-Semitic language. These are Trump’s influences, and all three presidents have something in common. They won, and campaign strategists like Lee Atwater figured out that dog-whistle racism is a winning strategy in the United States:
“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.’ -Lee Atwater.
Does anyone think Kellyanne Conway didn’t study this and use it to her advantage? She may be the first woman to run a successful presidential campaign, but her campaign just modified old strategies and “alternative facts.”
So what has Trump done as president to follow in Jackson and Nixon’s footsteps? Well he hasn’t hunted down black people, but if he repeals a federal ban on racial profiling, law enforcement can do that for him. So far there are no tapes of him using racial slurs available to the public, but he does intend on cutting funding for the Justice Department in the: Community Oriented Policing Services, Violence Against Women Grants and the Legal Services Corporation, and the Civil Rights Division among others. One look at the new White House website shows that his top issues do not include racial or gender equality, but it does mention deporting “illegal immigrants” as an effort support law enforcement. Recent reports say Trump is about to sign off on the Dakota Access Pipeline that natives protested for the sake of clean water, the same natives who had attack dogs sicced on them. This is only a logical progression considering Trump at one point invested in Energy Transfer Partners, the company overseeing construction of the pipeline. This is not a good start for a president who claimed his administration was for the people, unless his administration is designed to benefit people like him under the guise of patriotism and “total allegiance to the United States.” When you expect total allegiance from all Americans, but don’t show allegiance to all of America, that’s a request for submission, not loyalty.
Subjugating people of color has been the American way for quite some time, and that’s exactly how Trump and a number of his voters like it. That’s why after President Obama won his election based on change, Trump just won promising to make America “great” again. Greatness is defined as white supremacy in the Trump administration, and patriotism requires submission to it. No one who hopes to live a life of good faith would knowingly support that, so he continues to normalize bigotry until it’s easy for people to swallow. While some of us are fighting that normalization, we must realize that American racism is already normal for our country. It existed before Trump was born, and he learned it and used it to his advantage, but he didn’t invent it. Perhaps the true solution is to expose Trump’s modified Southern Strategy as normal but toxic, and the seek the normalization of equality. The ACLU and the Women’s March are good legal and organizing avenues, but if we hope to reach Trump’s audience for a better America with a new normal, we’ll need access to minds and hearts where American racism has already gained a century head start.
Fight back, my friends.
Update: Trump signed the executive orders for the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines.
Donald Trump-Gage Skidmore