Ta-Nehisi Coates lays out in clear and concise detail how Donald Trump's history, as well as his present behavior, offers all the evidence needed to support the white supremacist label.
Over years and years, and almost every day in the present, Donald Trump has given the public plenty of reason to call him a white supremacist — up to and including his appalling defense of those who follow that ideology.
As the renowned journalist and public intellectual Ta-Nehisi Coates puts it in an important article in The Atlantic, Trump is in fact “The first white president” — someone whose very presence in the White House and “whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president.”
When ESPN anchor Jemele Hill called Trump a white supremacist on Twitter, one day before Congress passed a bipartisan resolution demanding that Trump fully and unequivocally denounce white supremacy and its adherents, the network publicly admonished her, for which it received widespread condemnation.
The White House’s response was typically brash and inappropriate, when press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during a briefing that Hill’s comments were “a fireable offense.”
Sanders labeled Hill’s statements as “one of the more outrageous comments that anyone could make” — because for the right, an accusation of racism is always worse than actually being a racist.
But as Coates made clear in his article, and in an incisive interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, Hill was exactly right.
Hayes noted that conventional thinking defines a “white supremacist” as “someone who wears a Klan robe, a person who proudly proclaims their belief in the inferiority of non-white people.”
Coates’ rundown of Trump’s history of vile, racially-coded and at times just flat-out racist words and actions offered strong evidence that the general public’s assessment of what makes a “white supremacist” is sorely insufficient.
I think if you own a business that attempts to keep black people from renting from you; if you are reported to say that you don’t want black people counting your money; if you say — and not even reported, just come out and say — someone can’t judge your case because they’re Mexican; if your response to the first black president is that they weren’t born in this country, despite all proof; if you say they weren’t smart enough to go to Harvard Law and demand to see their grades — if that’s the essence of your entire political identity, you might be a white supremacist!
And Coates drew a clear distinction between Trump and previous white presidents, noting the difference in how their whiteness informed their political ideologies and governing styles.
“I wouldn’t say George Bush is a white supremacist,” Coates remarked. “Now, I have a lot of problems with George Bush’s policies. I could make an argument for how they affect black people in a negative way, you know what I mean? But I wouldn’t argue that he is a white supremacist, I wouldn’t argue that Mitt Romney is a white supremacist.”
When Hayes pressed on the “essential core of what [Trump] is doing,” Coates responded concisely: “I don’t think he’s president without it.”
Coates recalled the infamous Willie Horton ad from George H.W. Bush, noting that it was a bad moment but that it was not “definitional” of the elder Bush’s existence.
But with Trump, “it’s the core of him. He began his career in birtherism. It wasn’t on the way, that was the thing that got it started, that was what kicked it off. You know, so I think in that sense, he’s different.”
Indeed, as Coates noted in his Atlantic article, while previous white presidents achieved victory through “the passive power of whiteness,” Trump instead weaponized his, with his black predecessor serving as a convenient target.
“It is often said that Trump has no real ideology, which is not true,” Coates wrote. “His ideology is white supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power” — something bolstered by the fact that white supremacists and neo-Nazis welcome Trump as one of their own.
ESPN may not have liked Hill’s comments, but it is simply not possible to argue with any sincerity that she was incorrect.
In his own words, Trump told the world that there are some “very fine people” who follow the toxic creed of white supremacy.
Only someone who found common cause with such a hateful worldview could make such a comment.