Don’t Worry Says President Trump.
When President Trump left the hospital after testing positive for COVID-19, he told America – “Don’t Be Afraid of COVID!” That was little solace for the families and friends of the more than 200,000 that have died from COVID-19. While he may not worry given he has access to the best medical care America has to offer, he neglects to remember that for most of America, they lack his immense privilege. “Don’t worry,” he says, to the people who suffer from the continuing aches, pains, brain fogs and other problems from COVID-19. “Don’t worry.”
It’s almost the same response he gave during the recent debate, on September 29, 2020. President Trump was asked to condemn white supremacy when moderator Chris Wallace asked, “But are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities as we saw in Kenosha and as we’ve seen in Portland.” While the President responds “Sure, I will do that,” he fails to actually do it. A back and forth on the stage followed.
“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”
Seven words, before he deflected to ANTIFA, and the left.
Seven words, which buoyed a base filled with hatred and lifted a white supremacist narrative to center stage.
Seven words, and he made clear that not only will he not condemn white supremacy, he will promote it.
These words mean the same as the words to the sufferers of COVID. “Don’t worry.” This was not a misstep or an accident on the part of the President; this was intentional. It was direct.
The President refused to issue any form of condemnation. We need look only to the Proud Boys to see how they received his message. Across multiple social media platforms, in news reports and interviews, in feeds and threads online, many Proud Boys members felt a sweeping sense of validation, for their organization, and for their beliefs. According to some news reports, “Trump’s Proud Boys debate shoutout energized the entire far right”.
We must label this very clearly. Black lives depend on it. An organization designated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as an “extremist group with ties to white nationalism”, felt validation. Further, the far-right movement, many members of which actively promote and propagate white supremacy, feel energized.
All of this resulting from the failure of the President to simply say, on a national stage, “I condemn white supremacy.” Condemnation would have taken fewer words and had a direct and clear negative impact on far right and white supremacist currents in our political climate.
This is not the rhetoric of a candidate who seeks to lead all people of our country. These are not beliefs reflective of who we should strive to be as citizens and as people. How do we explain this to our students? How do we hold accountable a President who is complicit in the white supremacist narratives and systems tethered in our democracy?
How do respond to a President who says “Don’t worry” to the sufferers of COVID-19, and propagates white supremacist rhetoric on social media, at rallies, and on national stages broadcast into homes worldwide?
How do we lead our students in understanding the seriousness of the pandemic, de-centering white cultural norms and perspectives in the classroom when they continue to dominate the highest elected office in our democracy?
How do we protect our students in the face of the deep-seated fear and hatred towards Blackness that has fermented in fragile white spaces since our country’s very founding?
How do we practice anti-racism in our classrooms while just outside racist ideologies are tolerated and circulated on national platforms?
We cannot allow contemporary white supremacist rhetoric to become our country’s norm. We cannot allow open racism to reign unchecked. We cannot allow the Presidency to remain an office of white supremacist norms and racist ideologies.
The person elected as President is meant to reflect the ideologies and platforms of the majority of citizens. This office should represent what we hold dear – our values, our morals, our priorities. This person should lead with authority and decisiveness in the face of a pandemic, with compassion for our most vulnerable citizens at the heart of each action.
The sitting President is a threat to our very democracy. He is a danger to Americans in general and Black people specifically. He is a threat to Black futures. He reflects the hatred that has for too long stolen the dreams of Black people throughout our history. We cannot allow him to continue in this office. We cannot allow him to stifle the dreams of our students and the lives of their parents. We cannot condone white supremacy a moment longer.
We condemn white supremacy and militant groups across our country. We condemn their actions, their beliefs, their representatives, their supporters, their members, and their very existence.