EDITORIAL: The racism at the core of Donald Trump

SHARE EDITORIAL: The racism at the core of Donald Trump

President Donald Trump during a meeting with lawmakers on immigration policy at the White House on Tuesday. | Evan Vucci/Associated Press

If the federal government shuts down next week because Congress can’t agree on a spending plan, blame racism.

We never quite saw it that way before, never connected the dots. But on Thursday President Trump complained about the United States accepting immigrants from Haiti and “shithole” countries in Africa, and it became much more clear. The Republican Party is in the clutches of a racist.


Nothing else better explains the president’s insistence on building a physical wall along the Mexican border or his party’s refusal to grant permanent legal status to the so-called Dreamers, more than 700,000 young men and women brought illegally to this country as children. If an agreement on government spending can’t be reached because Trump insists on funding for his wall, or a hard-right segment of the GOP refuses to do right by the Dreamers, as Democrats are demanding as part of a deal, then racism will be at the heart of the impasse.

Trump’s wall is nothing but a symbol of racism. If Trump’s honest concern were simply greater border security, he would defer to the judgment of the experts who say that cyber-security measures and more border patrols would be far more effective than a physical wall. But the wall, like one of those statues down South of Ku Klux Klan founder Nathan Bedford Forrest, would say so much more.

In the same way, it boggles the mind that decent Republicans would continue to refuse, year after year, to end the legal limbo of the Dreamers, who could face deportation as early as March. Or does the GOP share the president’s disdain for immigrants of color — “bad hombres” — and yearn for more Norwegians?

Donald Trump is destroying our nation’s soul, one mean-spirited executive order or tweet after another. We become inured to the baseness. A social order like in “Lord of the Flies” begins to feel like the new normal. We hear what he called the countries of Africa — we won’t repeat the word again — and we think “That’s Trump” and go home to dinner. We wake up the next morning, realize more fully just how offensive our president was once again and wonder why we had to sleep on it. We worry we’re losing our own moral compass.

We are a nation of people whose ancestors, if not indigenous or brought here in chains, arrived in the United States from countries that somebody at some time derided as foul. They showed up poor and often illiterate, rough around the edges, and the bigots of an earlier day treated them like horse manure. It was expected.

Few American presidents, of course, were beyond reproach. Harry Truman quietly struggled with racist attitudes and Richard Nixon was a casual bigot in private.

But a transparently racist president? The last one might have been Woodrow Wilson, who delighted the KKK by screening “The Birth of a Nation” in the White House.

Until Trump.

It is telling that Trump got his start in business, working for his father, by discriminating against black people in housing rentals.

Every Republican congressman from Illinois should condemn Trump’s insistence on his racist wall. And every Republican with a sense of fairness should call on his or her party to quit using the Dreamers — who are Americans in every way that matters most — as pawns in a cruel game.

Almost daily, Donald Trump drags our country lower and lower. Every Republican should say, “Enough.”

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

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