Muftic: Words matter in racial conflicts, a President Trump could put oil on the fires
The horrifying events of last week, videos of police killing of black men with excessive force in Baton Rouge and Minnesota and the sniper murders of five white police officers in Dallas dramatize the violent racism infecting our country that has surfaced once again. How the leader of our nation sets the tone with words either puts oil on the fire or cools the flames.
Donald Trump’s divisiveness and willingness to tolerate racist supporters and to get a rise from his audiences with his name calling of others than white males make him unsuited to lead this country. Instead of the fair and even handed response of a Barack Obama to the violence in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Dallas, imagine for a moment a President Trump. We can expect more hatred and violence in this country than we already have. Racial hatred begets racial hatred and retaliation begets never ending retaliation.
Trump shoots from his lip with a stream of consciousness and his base of supporters include white supremacists. He at minimum lacks sensitivity to the issue of race relations or he feigns ignorance, as when he pretended he did not know David Duke personally ( a leader of the KKK) so he could not condemn his support. Postings by such race hating groups show their leaders encouraging their members to vote for Trump. This is not new news; it has been reported frequently and often in the press for the past six months. Trump has a history of retweeting tweets from such racist groups either out of ignorance of the source, or not caring, and, worse, because he agreed with the contents. However, his oratory and his past are giveaways of where his heart lies. Saying quietly through spokespeople or in his own words that he does not welcome white nationalist groups’ support is hardly sufficient. I cannot remember his flamboyant oratory ever soaring to the same passion disavowing hate groups’ support. Yet at the same time he called with vigor for Muslim bans or anti- immigrant wall building, characterizing Mexican undocumented immigrants as criminals and rapists. He was the most outspoken birther voice in America in an attempt to delegitimize President Obama by claiming he was born in Kenya and not in Hawaii. Those should be clues of his racist and divisive persona that have been on record since 2011.
Here is the problem: words matter. Trump’s blessing of “political incorrectness” is a code permitting many to be speaking openly about their hostile attitudes toward minorities that before were uttered under their breaths. Their words encourage others to repeat them aloud, too, making slurs acceptable in certain quarters of society. Failure to condemn racists and disrespecting minorities not only fails to still the violent waters of racial conflict, it gives tacit permission for those attitudes to flourish. Failure to be even handed and calming in the face of racial violence or police attitudes and actions toward minorities would make this country an even more dangerous and tense place.
In times of such raw racism and strife this summer, imagine how a Donald Trump would emerge as a champion of racial harmony. I cannot, for one, imagine it.
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