I stayed true to my promise last night to not watch the Republican National Convention, but from seeing the aftermath on social media and on all of the cable shows (yes, I even watched Fox “News”) it seems the GOP decided their theme was going to be “Make America Racist Again.”
The Republicans had various forms of racism on hand last night. Of course, they engaged in out and out race baiting as they exploited the sadness and loss of mothers whose sons were tragically killed by people who happened to be undocumented immigrants. This sends the obvious message that all immigrants are dangerous and gives credence to the ridiculous notion that building walls is a valid means towards protecting the public as if public safety was a priority for the Republican Party. Despite their repeated claims of this being a priority all evidence is to the contrary.
Let me give you an example. Hundreds of people are killed every week to senseless and preventable gun violence and yet the Republican-controlled Congress has not enacted one single piece of legislation that would address this in any sensible kind of way. Hell, they haven’t even enacted senseless legislation (though they do this on other issues!). They just pretend it doesn’t happen. Their only attempt was a failed effort in the Senate that was approved by the NRA – the “no fly, no buy” bill that would not have prevented a single one of the recent mass shootings. Other than that, the Republicans have treated the greatest threat to public safety in this country as just another common cold; something we will easily recover from if we drink enough liquids and just sleep it off. We entrust our leaders with our collective public safety and the Republicans have eagerly traded that in for high approval ratings from the NRA.
But that hasn’t stopped them from using every opportunity to bash people of color. Bellowing and cheering “Blue Lives Matter” (and they do!) while ignoring the original statement, “Black Lives Matter” is a not-so-veiled reminder that Black lives simply do not matter as much to them. Ignoring the rash of senseless killings and brutality committed against Africans Americans at the hands of law enforcement is a defiance of sensible concern for public safety.
Every single member of the law enforcement community that I have ever heard or talked with readily admits that they aren’t safe – no one is safe – when law enforcement is done unfairly and in a discriminatory way. The assassinations of police officers in Baton Rouge and Dallas are horrific and obviously worthy of condemnations (which BLM activists have repeatedly made), but to bifurcate our concerns for the welfare of life between Black lives and Blue lives unnecessarily infuses greater angst into an already adversarial relationship. Republicans too readily disregard the fact that our criminal justice system is innately racist in its arrests and sentencing of Blacks. An unfair criminal justice system is both a denial of public safety and a very loud and powerful dismissal of the value of black lives. Black lives matter AND Blue lives matter. We have to be able to say both and the Republicans didn’t just miss that chance, they intentionally played to a racist and xenophobic base of support in not doing so.
Perhaps the most glaring form of racism happened in the most talked about goof of the night: Mrs. Trump’s plagiarism of Michelle Obama’s speech in 2008. After a night full of subtle and not-so-subtle accusations towards people of color for many if not all of society’s problems the moment for inspiration was cunningly stolen from a woman of color! I was amazed at the way some in the media immediately afterwards cleared any and all blame away from Mrs. Trump, even though she claimed she wrote the majority of the speech herself. Some even tried to say that stealing the First Lady's words was actually a form of flattery! Of course, one can only imagine the savagery directed towards Michelle Obama if she had stolen the words from Laura Bush or Nancy Reagan.
But isn’t how this racism works? White-dominant society uses coded words like “law and order” (first started by Nixon in his successful effort to lure away blue-collar and southern whites from the Democratic Party in the early 70s) and then also use isolated tragic incidents to put forward a message that people of color are dangerous and a threat to “our way of life.” So, therefore, let’s go back to a time when a great society was a white-dominated society. In other words, that was a time when people of color “knew their place.” Yes, that was a time when America was truly great – for white people. Let’s make America great again is a code for making America overtly racist again.
And not only do we diminish people of color into dangerous threats to our way of life, we make them into one-dimensional caricatures by stealing the best that people of color have to give and make them our own moments of inspiration, which is exactly what happened when whoever wrote Mrs. Trump’s speech (and no, she did not write this herself) stole the inspirational words from Mrs. Obama. This has happened before however. Isn’t this exactly what happened with the invention of Rock ‘n’ Roll, which was a white stolen invention from Blues and Gospel music, written and performed almost exclusively by African American musicians?
No, this is not a conspiracy theory. This is the way racism works: demonize and dehumanize people of color while at the same time steal and take credit for their moments of inspiration for your own glory (and then deny it which the Trump campaign is doing at this very moment). Do not be mistaken, Democrats have racism in their ranks as well. But the Republican form of racism was in full view for the nation and world to see Monday night. If only we have eyes to see. I don’t want America to be great again. I would be happy if America would be honest for the first time and confess our overt and hidden forms of racism.