Excuse us, Trump’s America — your white sheet is showing

June 15, 2020 7:00 am

Abdul Mohmed stands with a group of protestors after a campaign rally for President Trump on Oct. 10, 2019 in Minneapolis Credit: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Later this summer, on Aug. 27, Donald Trump will deliver a speech accepting the Republican Party nomination for re-election in Jacksonville — named for a genocidal slave-holder — on the 60th anniversary of the day the Ku Klux Klan and a mob of fellow-traveling white folks beat peaceful civil rights protesters with ax handles.

Later this week, Trump will host a shindig for his slack-jawed myrmidons in Tulsa, where 99 years ago more than 300 black people were murdered by a white mob. The rally was going to happen on June 19 — Juneteenth — the commemoration of the day in 1865 when the last enslaved people found out they were free, but rescheduled to June 20th because, he said, his “African American friends and supporters reached out to suggest that we consider changing the date out of respect for this Holiday [sic].”

Trump had never heard of nor could he spell Juneteenth, but somebody in his campaign shop realized that holding a Caucasian throw-down at the site of an historic racial atrocity on the day black people commemorate emancipation was overkill.

Simply holding the rally in Tulsa sends the message, the same way Ronald Reagan launching his 1980 presidential bid with a “states rights” speech in Neshoba County, Miss. — where three young civil rights activists were murdered by white supremacists in 1964 — sent the message: White Lives Matter Most.

The mass killings of black people there in 1921 was ostensibly ignited by rumors of some black boy saying (or doing) something to some white girl, but the real reason was white folks’ envy of Tulsa’s “Black Wall Street,” with its large and affluent black middle class.

You see, Robert E. Lee may have surrendered at Appomattox 155 years ago, but the white South won the war.

America is ruled by 21st Century Confederates (many not from the South), large and in charge, trying to make you scared of black people and brown people and people who don’t name-check Jesus all day and people who believe everyone should have a living wage and decent health care and maybe a modicum of dignity, too.

These 21st-Century Confederates talk about “our American culture” and “our American history” and “law and order” and, after all, if those protestors would just behave their sorry hoodlum selves, respect the police, leave Jeff Davis’s statue alone, and stop looting Target, everything would be fine.

Then they tell you there’s no systemic racism in America.

Indeed, the 21st-Century Cons of the Trump administration insist upon it — repeatedly and loudly.

Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser; acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf; cable news idiot Larry Kudlow, who doubles as Trump’s economic adviser and who assured us in February that the coronavirus was “contained, pretty close to airtight;” as well as Attorney General and autocrat-enabler William Barr all pooh-poohed the very idea that American institutions are rife with racism.

We can’t even get an anti-lynching bill through the U.S. Senate. Rand Paul blocked it.

As for the police, well, there are a few “bad apples,” as Trump called them, but wasn’t it a “beautiful scene” when the Minneapolis police tear-gassed people protesting police violence?

Fun fact: The cops in America started as the slave patrols of the early 18th Century.

They progressed to policing former slaves post-emancipation and, on through the 20th Century, often acquiescing (sometimes participating) in lynchings and now, in the 21st Century Confederacy, continuing to police black bodies they see as some kind of threat or merely in what they deem the wrong place.

Jogging in Brunswick, Ga., say, or playing in a park in Cleveland, Ohio, or sleeping in a bed in Louisville, Ky.

Black lives have not mattered to the police — or to an awful lot of white folks, for that matter — for centuries. The “Christians” who imported Africans and sold them like livestock in the markets at Charleston and New Orleans and Richmond and St. Augustine constructed an elaborate ideology of slavery complete with pseudoscience that “proved” black people were some kind of missing link between apes and fully-realized (i.e. white) humans, and a theology that “proved” black people were descendants of Ishmael (illegitimate, son of Abraham and a slave) and cursed of God.

Or maybe they’re children of Ham, son of Noah, who “uncovered his father’s nakedness” one night when Noah had gotten hog-whimpering drunk (Genesis 9:20) and therefore cursed of God.

Either way, the operative part is “cursed of God” — white people thought white skin was much prettier than black skin; obviously white folks were God’s favorites.

The 21st Century Confederates don’t put it so crudely, but that’s what they mean. When Fox News says “American culture,” they mean white; the America Donald Trump wants to make “great” again, is white.

Traveling to Dallas for a meeting on law enforcement reform, the 21st-Century Confederate-in-Chief recently said he can solve our racism and policing crisis. Somehow, he failed to invite Dallas’s police chief, Dallas’s sheriff, or Dallas’s D.A.

You’ll be shocked to hear they’re all black.

Trump insisted that he can cure racism “quickly and very easily.” So he began, naturally, by defending America’s Confederate heritage, lamenting the statues of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee (men who tried to destroy the United States to preserve the right to own human beings) pulled down by protesters, and refusing to countenance renaming Fort Benning or Fort Hood or Fort Bragg, all named for Confederate generals who, in addition to taking up arms against the United States, were lousy military officers, barking that they’re part of “a great American Heritage and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom.”

Trump doesn’t think the police should have to stop putting suspects in a chokehold, either.

So far, Jacksonville’s Mayor Lenny Curry, committed to removing the city’s Confederate monuments, has escaped a Twitter scalding from White House.

He’ll catch enough hell from the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and all those other citizens of the 21st-Century Confederacy who cherish their heritage of hate.

But the Republican National Committee decision to schedule the acceptance speech on the 60th anniversary of Ax Handle Saturday shows they’re trolling African Americans, progressives, and Joe Biden. They’re not even being subtle about it.

It’s another in a long line of deliberate insults, less a dog whistle than a cannon blast.

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Diane Roberts
Diane Roberts

Diane Roberts is an 8th-generation Floridian, born and bred in Tallahassee, which probably explains her unhealthy fascination with Florida politics. Educated at Florida State University and Oxford University in England, she has been writing for newspapers since 1983, when she began producing columns on the legislature for the Florida Flambeau. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Times of London, the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Oxford American, and Flamingo. She has been a member of the Editorial Board of the St. Petersburg Times–back when that was the Tampa Bay Times’s name–and a long-time columnist for the paper in both its iterations. She was a commentator on NPR for 22 years and continues to contribute radio essays and opinion pieces to the BBC. Roberts is also the author of four books, most recently Dream State, an historical memoir of her Florida family, and Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America. She lives in Tallahassee, except for the times she runs off to Great Britain, desperate for a different government to satirize.