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Editor's note: Ian Buruma is the author, most recently, of A Tokyo Romance: A Memoir. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN. |
The recent mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, carried out by a young white man who had posted a hate-filled anti-immigrant screed shortly beforehand, has called attention to U.S. President Donald Trump's own rhetorical affinity for white supremacy. Trump has consistently insulted Mexicans, African Americans, and other people of color. He referred to Haitian and African immigrants as coming from "shithole countries." Last month, he told four new members of Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar, to "go back" to where they came from. All four Congresswomen are, of course, American citizens. All but one (Omar) were born in the United States.
Trump's Republican supporters deny that he is a racist. Who knows? But he is clearly appealing to his followers' darkest instincts, which are angry, vengeful, bigoted, and prejudiced in ways that can only be described as racist. By stirring up hatred, Trump hopes to mobilize enough voters to be reelected next year.
The president is careful not to incite people openly to commit violence. But many violent people feel licensed by his words to do so. This makes Trump's behavior dangerous and contemptible, and he must be held to account for it. He deserves to be called a racist. Some of his critics go further than that. They argue that race should be the central issue of the 2020 elections. Because Trump relies on angry white voters, diversity, anti-racism, and the elevation of people of color should be the counter strategy.
This course would be morally justified. The question is whether it would be the most effective way to vote the scoundrel out, which should be the main aim of anyone who sees Trump as a danger to the republic, let alone to people who are targeted by angry racists. There is room for doubt.
Some people do not actually mind being called racists. At a rally of the French National Front in 2018, Trump's former advisor Steve Bannon told the crowd to wear the word "racist" as a badge of honor. But many Trump supporters do not think of themselves as racists and resent the allegation. Quite a number of these people, often from the white working class, voted twice for Barack Obama. The Democrats need to get some of these voters back into their fold, especially in pivotal Midwestern states.