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A crowd gathered in Washington, D.C. in August to protest the events in Charlottesville, Va., and the Trump administration’s response.

Voices / Viewpoint

Not just a black issue

Every day there is a new outrage from Trump and his cadre of white supremacists. We must speak out and speak up.

Nancy Braus is a bookseller and a longtime activist.


The current explosion of overt and over-the-top racism on the part of the 35 percent who support Donald Trump and his administration is something I have spent many hours and much mental energy trying to understand.

Just as I never could wrap my mind around the extreme craziness of a centrist Democrat like Barack Obama driving these same people completely wild because he won the presidential election and had the audacity to have brown skin.

Anyone who is honest and has even a most basic grasp of history can see that, from the time when millions of Africans were brutally kidnapped from their homes, there has never been justice for black Americans. No voting rights, no rights to keep families together, brutal treatment by “owners,” no rights to ownership of possessions, no recourse for being beaten or even killed — and the list goes on.

The Civil War brought a brief moment of hope, but the cruelty and repression of Reconstruction meant more poverty and lack of rights for black citizens.

I will not go on to summarize the shameful treatment of people of color in the U.S., but this is what goes through my head whenever I hear the disgusting, stomach-churning racist remarks of Trump and his cadre of white supremacists.

When I look deeply inside my soul, I know on some level, as a white person, I have the same seeds of racism that are planted in all white people in this nation.

But here’s where I veer off the track: I have studied enough history to know with absolute certainty that able-bodied white Americans will never face the kind of daily indignities and systemic discrimination faced by people of color.

* * *

When I read what is happening right now, it sickens me.

The president of this country stated clearly that black athletes have no freedom of expression and that they need to be fired for expressing solidarity with those who have been killed and brutalized by law enforcement.

I stupidly thought that once videos clearly showed innocent black folks being killed in cold blood by police, this might change the legal consequences. I was wrong — law enforcement officers are still seldom convicted.

Many states in this country have removed felons permanently from the voter lists, even those convicted of nonviolent offenses, taking away the ability of many, many black men to vote.

Trump and his racist supporters in Congress are in the process of appointing far-right-wing judges who will continue the tradition of sentencing black offenders to longer and harsher sentences than they do for white offenders with the same charges.

And I never thought I would live to see a time when the president of this country would actually speak up to defend self-identified Nazis and Klan supporters.

* * *

Every day there is a new outrage from the people in charge, and even if I am not capable of original and brilliant new analysis, I feel that I need to speak out and speak up. I need to be part of the solution.

Black Lives Matter is not a black issue — it is an issue for all of us who want to live in a just country.

If you are as disturbed and angry about the direction this country is taking right now, please speak up every day. We need to step up our words and our actions, because whether we are successful in the short run or not, it is the right and the moral thing to do.

And I want to believe that the 35 percent of dead-enders who want to hurl us back into the 19th century will fail because the large majority of people who oppose these efforts will make it happen.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #436 (Wednesday, November 29, 2017). This story appeared on page D1.

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