You know this country is in remarkably disturbing times when the President of the United States calls white supremacists marching to the chant of Nazi slogans “nice people” while calling an American athlete kneeling in silent, non-violent, civil protest of racial injustice a “son of a bitch” who should be fired.
President Donald Trump’s perspectives on race and religion are clear as day. The man is a racist. Literally, even by the admission of his own party leader (see below). Along with his father, Trump was sued by the federal government in the 1970s for purposefully excluding African Americans from his New York rental properties. If that’s not enough for you, consider Trump’s desire to defend the racist, violent, Heil Hitler saluting white supremacists who killed a woman during the Charlottesville, Virginia march. Still not enough of an indicator? Let’s not forget that during his campaign kickoff he called Mexicans “rapists” and “drug dealers.” If you’re still not convinced, well, you’re probably a racist too then. But let’s try a bit more…… Trump is quick on the trigger to condemn Muslim terrorists within minutes of an attack worldwide but will go completely silent if a man with affiliation to white supremacists, like the man in the fatal beating on a Portland train, beats a Muslim American to death. Completely silent. Still not swayed? Well, take the swastika armband off your sleeve for a minute and consider the fact that Trump claimed in an interview that a American judge presiding over a lawsuit involving his fraudulent Trump University should not preside because he’s of Mexican descent. Even Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, could not defend such language and responded that such a perspective is indeed the “definition of racism.”
There is no mistaking that as Trump’s administration flounders and what little support he had when he moved into the Oval Office diminishes by the day, POTUS will continue to seek out his core base of deeply conservative, white rural Americans. You know, the same base that has a history of supporting segregation, the KKK and anti-immigrant perspectives. This is the place where Trump feels at home. Look no further than Friday’s campaign rally in Alabama where Trump, in typically meandering, almost incoherent style, railed on about the injustices of the country. What irks the president so much as he screams to his white audiences around the country? Freedom of the press, freedom of expression, freedom to protest, freedom of religion……..you get the point, basically any individual freedoms that are guaranteed in our Constitution. Yes, the very Constitution that define the freedoms we enjoy in this country are the very freedoms that Trump rails on about.
President Trump, who famously sought FIVE deferments to avoid serving in Vietnam, wants America to believe he is the great defender of American values. Yet he calls athletes who kneel during the National Anthem “sons of bitches” while defending marching Nazis as some “very nice people.”
Trump hasn’t a clue about the history of this country (recall he thought Frederick Douglas was still alive and wondered aloud what Rep John Lewis has ever done for the country) and the significant contributions that civil disobedience has made to “liberty and justice for all.”
Which brings me to why I have chosen these photos to reflect on Trump’s dictator like approach to civil protest. The protest that has brought the sports world into Trump’s crosshairs is not about the flag as Trump has tried to reframe it. It’s been stated over and over again by the original protestor, Colin Kaepernick, and reiterated by every player, team and owner, that it is a protest against racial injustice and the killings of African Americans at the hands of police nationwide. Which is exactly what the images, taken during a Black Lives Matter protest, seek to represent as well. Using the sports platform to protest civil injustice is steeped in US history. Muhammed Ali famously refused to serve in Vietnam NOT because he hates America, but because he saw the hypocrisy of a nation asking a black man to travel to a far off land to defend democracy when the very freedom he would give his life for was not even available to him at home. The same with Olympic Gold Medalist Tommie Smith who famously raised his fist in protest during the 1968 Olympics. Same with Kaepernick and the NFL players now. It’s not about the flag, it’s about the hypocrisy of standing to salute the symbol of freedom and equality at a time when freedom and equality in the streets and the justice system is not available to them.
To those who claim that Trump was right to demand at a speech in Alabama that ignited the weekend firestorm of protest that demonstrators should be fired by their teams and laws put in place to prohibit kneeling during the National Anthem, I ask you to consider the current case before the Supreme Court of Colorado baker Jack Phillips. Phillips creates wedding cakes and refused to make one for a gay couple. The couple sued on grounds of discrimination and Trump’s DOJ filed a brief in support of Phillips who says his freedom of expression is unlawfully restricted by forcing him to make a cake. Since Phillips expresses himself by creating the cake, the expression is constitutionally protected. Trump supports the right for Phillips to express himself and feels the government can not dictate restrictions on that freedom. Yet, that is exactly what Trump is trying to do by demanding that players, the employees of a private business (the NFL is a non profit), be fired for expressing themselves in a constitutionally protected manner. Never lose sight of the fact that the flag represents freedom, that our military fights to defend the freedoms found in the Constitution and those freedoms include the right to peacefully protest and express oneself.
So as you ponder Trump’s perspectives on protesting in America, remember that as he claims to be a staunch defender of America, he famously sought and received FIVE deferments from the Vietnam War. As his classmates from a military academy high school went off to serve and defend America, Trump cited bone spurs in his heel (among other reasons) to avoid serving and defending America. Let’s be real, shall we? Trump has no commitment to the flag or the military but seeks instead to carry on his well documented attacks on minorities, in this case to stem the constitutionally protected right by an African American to protest. Trump’s a racist. Pure and simple.
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