Saturday, October 5, 2019
For readers, this title might suggest yet another foray into the many controversies about Donald Trump’s racist tendencies. However, it is not. This article is not about Trump’s treatment of other people, but about how other people have treated Trump, racially speaking that is. Looking at the facts, it is clear that Trump has been, and continues to be, racially persecuted.
Although some might argue that he is simply getting his just deserts for fomenting racial angst, it leads one to wonder why such comments are excused or overlooked. It is indeed an odd spectacle to watch critics of Trump’s racism respond with racial epithets and color-coded jokes. This excused racism must be called out and abandoned for what it is, a counter-racial strategy that is itself tinged with discrimination.
Cheeto, Agent Orange, Orange Julius, and Orange Man are some of the epithets that are used to poke fun at Trump. These characterizations and the many others hardly illicit any protest. Even late-night comedy shows have featured segments that have taken liberties with Trump that would be unimaginable if said about an African-American or Latino politician, or anyone else for that matter. The Late Show host, Stephen Colbert, is known for making jokes about Trump, and in one episode proclaimed, “We have no idea what the color of his skin is.” Jimmy Kimmel has dubbed a book about Trump as “Fifty Shades of Orange.” These and an abundance of other such attacks proclaim open season on Trump, specifically on his color and appearance.
These characterizations are blunt showings of racism by practically any definition. Of course, there are competing definitions of “racism,” but most would seemingly include invidious discrimination based on skin color or physical attributes. Yet these are the exact sort of attacks being launched against Trump. So why the double standard? How can Trump be taken to task about his racist postures when his critics are lobbing back insults that have similar flavor?
Although peoples’ anger and hatred of Trump may excuse this type of joking, there are discrete dangers involved. This sort of counter-racism is just as harmful as the racism that instigates it, and it goes without saying that such talk would never be accepted if the comments were directed at Kamala Harris, Elijah Cummings, or any other non-white member of congress. Yet such conduct continues unabated when it comes to Trump.
Perhaps one of the overarching insights of this phenomenon is that hatred is indeed blinding. For many Americans, Trump represents the epitome of race-hatred, and because of that he is an obvious target of criticism. Yet when that crosses the line into textbook discrimination, it is still a bad thing—even when it happens to an overprivileged, spoon-fed swindler from the dominant racial class.
Although some might counter that some of the joking has to do with the fact that the “color” being discussed is not really his at all. Instead, the jokes are rooted in the premise that he does things to achieve the color he has. While this might seemingly justify the epithets, it does nothing for people who really are that color. Whether through hair color, freckles, or other skin colorations and attributes, there are people who have an “orange” countenance. So, even if Trump’s color may be the bud of a joke, it might not be so funny for people of similar hue.
Attacks on Trump that are couched in racism should not be more acceptable than any other brand of racism. The fact that hatred helps to excuse these attacks should be alarming. It suggests, as a baseline proposition, that society must be vigilant to protect those who are hated or despised the most. Failure on this point can lead to moral breakdown, for as we are witnessing, hatred of Trump has birthed some of the very attitudes for which he is hated. Trump’s brutal immigration policies alone have ignited all sorts of visceral reactions from the American public.
Some might view this as giving Trump a dose of his own racial bigotry, but society must take care not to fall into the trap of condoning racism simply because we despise a person or group, such as immigrants or even a corrupt president.
We must be careful not to allow the hatred to propel us into becoming what we despise.
-- by SpearIt, Professor of Law, Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law