By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
NNPA News Wire Columnist
The other day a friend of mine, after hearing the latest rants by Presidential candidate Donald Trump, asked whether we are better off with open expressions of racism than having such expressions silenced. I found the question quite interesting and provocative. It spoke to the nature of race in the contemporary United States and the emergence from the swamp of what one might call reconstructed racism.
It was only in late 2008 – early 2009, that the mainstream media heralded the coming of an alleged post-racial U.S. Yet within a few months of President Obama’s election, it was clear for all to see that this was far from the case. The rise of the Birther movement, questioning the citizenship of the President; the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates; and the uptick in racial terror against those of us of color, all pointed to something very ugly on the scene. It, therefore, did not take very long for us to arrive at a situation where, Islamophobia has become the acceptable means through which Whites can be racists, where political candidates are making the most outrageous and inaccurate arguments about the current status of race in the U.S., and where a Supreme Court Justice seems to feel quite comfortable implying the inferiority of African Americans in academia.
To the question that was posed, I responded that, yes, it is better that there are these open expressions. It is not “better” in the sense that this is the preferable climate. Certainly, we should all wish to exist in an anti-racist environment. But it is better that we know what the actual terrain is in which we are operating lest we fall prey to significant illusions.
What demagogues, such as Trump, have accomplished has been the facilitation of a discussion that was only slightly beneath the surface. Trump, Cruz and other right-wing provocateurs did not create this situation. The illness was already in the system. It only needed an opportunistic element to unleash it. Trump and the others provided that element. They were willing to be outrageous in their rhetoric. They were willing to say what many (particularly older) White people thought. They have been able to dismiss critics by either bullying them or simply ignoring them.
The underlying illness of racism is integrally linked to the dramatic economic and demographic changes underway in the U.S.A. Trump and other right-wingers have seized on this and played to those fear born of ignorance. They have also played to the fact that too few political leaders are pointing to a positive direction out of this overall crisis.
Yet there is one other aspect to this situation. The fact of the matter is that when Trump and others like former Congresswoman Bachmann, began their rants, some years ago, those who knew better did not take it seriously. They were allowed to get away with the most provocative language when it came to President Obama, language that was as inaccurate as it was racially incendiary. Yet, most of the mainstream media and mainstream political figures either sat silently or, in some cases, encouraged this dangerous rhetoric.
There is a scene in the famous comedy “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein” where Count Dracula has recreated Frankenstein’s monster, with the help of a corrupt scientist. At a certain point, the monster awakens and goes berserk. The corrupt scientist believes that she can stop the monster only to be thrown out a window by that creature.
To the mainstream media and the Republican Party leadership I have an announcement: the monster has been unleashed. Watch out for windows.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.