In the last few days, we’ve had a couple racist incidents at our high school. The first involved a group of students and former students holding a sign that said, “Welcome back to the farm n-word.” The next evening, one of our African American students found a note on her door that said, “Go back to picking cotton n-word. Black Lives Doesn’t Matter.” Another one of our African American students was called the n-word and told she didn’t belong here.
Suddenly, our high school—my high school—isn’t a safe place for kids. Was I simply ignorant of the problem? Probably, to some extent, but never before in my five years of teaching there had there been so many racist, highly publicized incidents happening in such rapid succession. As I prepared to discuss this with my classes, there were obviously a lot of approaches I could take—did I need to bring up the concept of white privilege? Show my students the numbers and statistics demonstrating that African Americans, Latinos, and other Americans of color are pulled over, questioned, charged, and convicted of crimes at higher rates than their white counterparts? Review the history of slavery and the civil rights movement?
I wasn’t entirely sure, but I knew that I needed to establish at least one concept very clearly: racism is wrong. It has no place in our school, nor in our society. Racism. Is. WRONG.
And in delivering that message, I had somewhat of an epiphany. We haven’t heard that from Donald Trump. And we haven’t heard it—not loudly enough, anyway—from leaders and politicians in the Republican Party. And it strikes me that this is precisely the reason we’re seeing this sudden outbreak of racism, not just in our school, but in our country.
Because it needs to be said. Clearly and loudly. Racism is wrong. No quibbling or arguing semantics. Just simply: racism is wrong.
And I call out Republicans here, because their candidate for President has called for a wall to be built on the entirety of our border with Mexico. He has called Mexicans “rapists and criminals,” said a judge wasn’t fit to hear his case—because he was Mexican–and gone out of his way to suggest illegal immigrants, from Mexico, are murdering and raping people left and right. He said in the last debate that there are some “bad hombres” here. Note: he’s not talking about white people. He’s talking specifically about people who have brown skin and speak Spanish.
Of course, that’s not all. Trump has also suggested we ban Muslims from entering the country and patrol their neighborhoods, as well as implying terrorist attacks wouldn’t happen if peaceful Muslims were more aware of what violent Muslims were up to. Again, targeting non-whites.
And for all Donald Trump says about how he loves the blacks and they love him, his views say something quite different. Time and again at his rallies he spouts off what is, essentially, a racist assumption: that all or most black people live in neighborhoods in our inner cities that are infested with drugs, guns, poverty, and crime. The implication, of course, is that these problems are black problems, painting the picture that black people are more violent and criminal than the rest of America. Oh, and he also didn’t initially disavow David Duke of the KKK, nor did his running mate, Mike Pence, in a recent interview. Even worse, notably, is the demonization of the Black Lives Matter movement by not just Trump, but by many other Republicans.
To be clear, I’m not saying every person of color is a saint, nor am I saying white people are racist. In truth, I believe most people are good people who try to do their best. But the idea that someone, based on being African American or Latino or Muslim is inherently worse or more criminal than others, is by definition racist. And that’s certainly what’s been implied by Donald Trump and many on the Right during this Presidential Campaign.
Now honestly, I don’t know what’s in Donald Trump’s heart. Maybe he bears no ill will toward people of color. Maybe he’s just put forward a lot of bad ideas about them. Or maybe his is a full blown, dyed in the wool racist. Who knows?
But what cannot be disputed is that Trump’s rhetoric and the Republican Party’s silence afterward has most certainly sent the signal to the worst kind of people in this country that racism is OK. That people of color are criminals who deserved to be surveilled, walled off, or locked up. That’s the implicit—if not explicit—message that Trump has been trumpeting, and it’s wrong. And this week, it blew up in our high school, where, because of their race, several of our African American students were targeted, harassed, and threatened. Called the most awful of all racist slurs, the n-word. In effect, Donald Trump and the Republican Party have turned the lights off, and all the racist cockroaches that used to be hiding in the cracks have crawled out, emboldened by the rhetoric they hear from the Right.
That’s not OK. And I think it’s high time the Republicans come right out and say so. Just say it Trump: racism is wrong. Just say it Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and Mike Pence: racism is wrong. Can you? And if not, why?
Because right now, to say that it’s obvious is wrong. It’s not obvious. It’s not at all clear the Republican Party repudiates racism. And I hope ordinary American citizens who consider themselves Republican think about this as well. A vote for Trump, or any Republican for that matter, is encouraging racism. It’s making our high school–my high school–unsafe for students.
Is that really the kind of country we want to live in?
So say it, GOP: racism is wrong. For the sake of our kids and their safety, just say it.
RACISM. IS. WRONG.