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President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump express their condolences to the family of shooting victims Jordan and Andre Anchondo. The Anchondos’ 2-month-old son was orphaned in the Aug. 7 El Paso mass shooting.

Voices / Viewpoint

Trump’s words inflame, incite violence and hatred

How can we live together in a country where about 40 percent of the population accepts and welcomes the rhetoric of homophobia, racism, sexism, religious bigotry, and xenophobia?

Nancy Braus is a regular contributor to these pages.

Putney

I have been thinking deeply about what is making so many millions of white men (and, even stranger, white women) support Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant, racist agenda.

Trump seems to push these violence-prone white men to act in a way that maybe they would have otherwise considered but not followed through.

And of course, no surprise, the shooter who killed 22 people and injured 24 at a Walmart in El Paso on Aug. 3 is a build-the-wall Trump supporter, who likely traveled to El Paso because it is a very multiracial city.

As these stories of Trump-supporting mass murderers accumulate, every day we have more clear evidence that words stoking hatred and violence have an effect.

Words matter.

* * *

Recently, a relative questioned the Black Lives Matter sign at the end of my driveway in rural, mostly white Putney. Since I have spent years thinking about how white people need to lead the fight to end white racism, my answer was just that: I consider it a lifetime commitment to do whatever I can to be clearly anti-racist.

However, the conversation did make me think: What else can white people do to change the dialogue, to make it crystal clear that hating black- and brown-skinned people is absolutely unacceptable and leads the most unstable supporters to the terrorism of mass shootings that we are witnessing?

We can decry the most recent, vile, hate-filled rants by Donald Trump, which are terrifying in their intent. It seems crystal clear that Trump is, with no subtlety, riling up a well-armed racist white base in ways that will lead to violence.

One recent example: A member of the Trump “base” beat up a 61-year-old non-violent protester outside a Trump event.

This in a country where anyone, including the most disturbed person, can get their hands on a semi-automatic weapon.

Especially as Trump targets legislators of color with this rhetoric of violence, it will be only a matter of time.

* * *

In the past few weeks, it seems as if Trump is showing us how he plans to attempt to stay out of prison by getting enough racist white voters out in 2020 to take the election again.

Every day, there is another comment that is so beyond the pale that for many of us, it does not feel like this is even a real thing.

How can an American so-called president insult all those who are poor and live in Baltimore? And how is that type of monstrous speech acceptable to 90 percent of the Republican party?

Trump and his supporters always respond to being called racist by responding that the non-white person is the racist, including Elijah Cummings, who been working as a respected member of Congress for decades.

In addition to the cruelty and hatred behind the statements, members of the Trump administration have done everything in their power to disempower non-white people.

These terrible acts include opening concentration camps for legal asylum seekers from Latin America, appointing an essentially all-white, often overtly racist administration, and using a “justice” department to demolish the civil rights division.

And Trump’s buddy Mitch McConnell has refused to even consider bills to clean up our election process from purges of non-white voters and to protect non-white voters from being cheated out of their Constitutional right.

* * *

Even more amazing is the denial of many Trump supporters that they themselves are racist.

I am so sorry, but if you actively support a person who insults people who do not look like him and his family of trashy plastic-surgery victims, and you actively support his rants against black people, non-white immigrants, and cities that are majority black, you are a racist.

Personally, I actually have no Trump supporters in my life. Even my (only) relatives who were lifelong Republicans have given up on this bunch of racist haters.

I think I am voicing the frustration of many millions of Americans who are wondering how we can live together in a country where about 40 percent of the population accepts and welcomes the rhetoric of homophobia, racism, sexism, religious bigotry, and xenophobia.

The level of sadness, fear, and rage that the Trump era has engendered in those who are caring, kind people who want to live in a compassionate, diverse country continues to grow. I have no answers about how white people can most effectively stand up for our brown-skinned friends, co-workers, and fellow citizens.

I just know that it is long past the time for silence, for playing eight hours a day of video games, for taking a pass at your duty to go to the polls in 2020, for pretending the problem of racism will fix itself.

Some of the most brilliant scholars of history in the United States have been pondering how to make our country move past the existential problem of racial hatred.

Trump and the current Republican party have set our country back decades. We have one opportunity to move past this moment, and we can’t blow it in 2020.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #523 (Wednesday, August 14, 2019). This story appeared on page D1.

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