Reginald Dumas writes a weekly column for the Newsday.
In May 2017, I published the second volume of my recollections, titled Eleven Testing Years: Dissonance and Discipline. It deals with the time I spent in Africa and America in the 1960s and 70s. In the book’s prologue I looked at those two areas in early 2017, and made comparisons with the much earlier period.
On America, I said in part: “(T)he coming of Donald Trump … has helped shove that country’s racism, latent for decades but always present, to the surface of society. ‘Color,’ wrote (James) Baldwin (in The Fire Next Time), ‘is not a human or a personal reality; it is a political reality. But this is a distinction so extremely hard to make that the West has not been able to make it yet … And at the center of this dreadful storm, this vast confusion, stand the black people of (America), who must now share the fate of a nation that has never accepted them, to which they were brought in chains.’” I continued: “Barack Obama was right to say, in his last speech to the American people (on January 10, 2017), that the vision, ‘however well-intended,’ of a ‘post-racial America (following his first election as President in 2008) was never realistic. Race remains a potent and often divisive force in our country.’ And a CNN/ORC poll conducted (in late 2016) … found that 54 per cent of all Americans thought that relations between blacks and whites in their country had worsened under him; only 16 per cent thought they had improved.”
I also quoted a black Princeton University professor, Eddie Glaude, who savagely criticised Obama, and asserted that “black people have suffered tremendously on (his) watch … (T)he reality … is that very little has changed in (America). In fact, things have gotten worse.”
And I went on: “Under President Trump, they will get even worse; many, if not most, African-Americans think they have a very good idea of what his slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ really means for them. As Demos Action said in its media release of 9 November 2016, the day after Trump’s triumph, ‘race remains the organising principle of American politics, and racism is alive, well, and, in fact, popular.’”
Nothing I can see in 2018 America persuades me that those chilly words will soon warm up to the point of inapplicability; on the contrary, Trump’s recent outburst on “shithole countries” — all non-white, nearly all black — merely reaffirms what Obama said last year about the potency and divisiveness of race (not only in America, as our little country knows so well).
Trump didn’t stop at consigning Africa, Haiti and El Salvador to the outside latrine, however. He also, in the same thought pattern, wondered why America didn’t instead take more immigrants from Norway. There you have it: white, Nordic Norway, like its neighbour Sweden chock-full of blond, blue-eyed people, would, in the Trumpian vision, be infinitely preferable as an immigration source to the black, backward geographical expressions, called “countries,” of Africa and the Caribbean. (El Salvador is on the Pacific, but packed with indigent, unwelcome non-whites. The promised wall, if it ever materialises, would keep them out, too.)
Adolf Hitler would have been ecstatic at Trump’s racist sentiments. Nazi ideology elevated Aryans above all other races, and at the pinnacle of Aryan “superiority” shone the blond, blue-eyed ideal. It may be pure coincidence that Trump’s grandfather was a German, and that his father Fred was widely believed to be anti-black and a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan. But how far from the tree does the fruit usually fall?
And is there a religious aspect as well? On the US Memorial Day in 1927, Fred Trump was among those arrested at a KKK march in Queens, New York, protesting against alleged brutality by “Roman Catholic” NY police against “native-born Protestant Americans.” His son Donald is a Presbyterian; the Salvadoreans and most of the Haitians are Catholic. Fruit and tree, perhaps?
I am clear that Trump’s obsession with Obama has essentially to do with the latter’s race.
His unflagging attempts to belittle or undermine or destroy any and everything that Obama did or said have so far only succeeded in showing that Obama is a far better president than Trump will ever be. I suspect he understands that, but obviously cannot admit it.
That must be galling enough, but a black man better than he? A black man? The USA, still the most powerful and influential country in the world, is now led by someone who is both a racist (he describes himself as “the least racist” of people, a phrase which, while suggesting there are degrees of racism, ironically confirms his own) and an indefatigable liar, with an elephant-size ego hermetically sealed against common sense, reason and sensitivity.
We are in dangerous times.