"I'm not racist, I just love my country and I want to see Americans put first!" - How many times have we some variation of this from Trump supporters? Or what about the defensive/sarcastic "oh, I suppose I'm a racist now?!?" in response to a challenge about some incendiary comment from Trump's twitter feed? I have heard that one more than a few times.
And I do want to believe that many Trump supporters do not in fact espouse a virulently racist or sexist worldview. Who would want to believe otherwise? The alternative is to believe that your brother, or your coworker, or that sweet old guy down the block with the TRUMP/PENCE sticker on his truck is at core a seething, angry bigot.
But I am curious as to why more Trump supporters are not making an effort to speak out against racism and sexism and distance themselves from the white supremacist fringe groups that have publicly endorsed their candidate.
So I am sitting here asking myself why? Why not just roundly denounce racism?
Especially since Trump supporters often answer the charges of racism/misogyny by getting either wildly defensive (lambasting Hillary, Obama, and "the liberals") or clamming up with clenched teeth as if their honor was impugned by the mere mention such labels. Why not defend themselves of the charge of racism and sexism?
A few possible solutions/justifications come to mind immediately:
1- They are, but the media/Facebook ignores it because it doesn't fit the "narrative" surrounding Trump supporters as racist and misogynist. This is certainly very possible. A recent analysis by BuzzFeed found that social media promotes a narrative of division and outrage; in fact, they found that the less truth a story contained, the more "engagement" (clicks, likes, shares, comments, etc.) it created. So why share a story about Trump supporters standing up for the black community? The clicks aren't there for posts that aren't incendiary.
2- They are taking their cues from Trump himself, who never apologizes for anything. And since he doesn't feel the need to swear off the support of groups like the KKK, they figure they don't need to apologize for it either.
3- They feel that we live a post-racist world, one in which contempt for racism/sexism is a foregone conclusion and there's no need to defend themselves.
I am not sure which of the above three is correct, or if it's all three, or if it's some fourth or fifth thing that I haven't thought of. But what I do know is that I can refute #3. We DON'T live in world post-race, as this election has made clear. White supremacist and misogynist groups are still active; they are still running women and minorities out of public spaces (think Leslie Jones and Jessica Valenti), and many of them have unabashedly endorsed Trump.
Which brings me to my second refutation of point #3- any benefit of the doubt Trump and his supporters deserve has been gnawed away by the enthusiasm with which Trump has been embraced by such groups of deplorables.
Is it FAIR that this is the case, considering Trump and his supporters never asked for the support of people like David Duke and the KKK? Maybe not. But since when does fair have anything to do with doing the right thing?
All Trump ever had to do to put the "racist" label to bed is to denounce the white supremacists who support him; but he hasn't even done that, at least not very convincingly. When asked about David Duke's support last spring, Trump did not immediately denounce, and although he later blamed it on a bad earpiece (which, whether true or not, certainly gave the white supremacist camp the idea that he doesn't devalue their support), he didn't correct the misstep with a clear and passionate disavowal. In fact, he seemed more annoyed than anything, getting defensive and saying "I disavow, okay? Do you want me to do it again for the 12th time?" (it was the first). And recent disavowals, though handled much faster and more professionally than last spring's disavowal of Duke, still come from Trump's campaign rather than Trump himself.
A personal and passionate condemnation of racism, or an acknowledgement of the importance of all races, religions and sexes would elevate Trump's standing as a candidate and as a human being. So why doesn't he do it? Or what about asking the followers at his rallies to knock off the sexist and racist langauge? We've all heard the terrible things people have recorded at Trump's rallies, from the man shouting "JEW-S-A" at the press box, to the loud cries of "bitch" lobbied at Hillary, to the n-word and worse.
So why doesn't Trump ask his supporters to knock it off?
Similarly, why don't his supporters stand up against this behavior? In the videos we've seen of unruly racists at Trump rallies, there are usually plenty of "America loving" supporters looking on. Why aren't they saying anything? Some footage of the crowds standing up to racism and sexism in their ranks would certainly help dispel the charge that Trump's supporters are racist. Is it because they're afraid these elements are unhinged?
Probably. I think I might be. But since when is doing the right thing dependent on NOT BEING AFRAID TO DO IT?
Trump supporters: I know we don't agree on everything. But can we all agree that racism is bad? Can we agree that misogyny is bad? Can we agree that David Duke and the KKK are deplorable?
Then let's stand up and SAY SO.
Starting with you, Donald Trump.