Opinion | Trump’s a racist — vote him out

Demonstrators+gathered+in+December+2019+outside+the+David+L.+Lawrence+Convention+Center+to+protest+President+Donald+Trump%2C+who+visited+Pittsburgh+to+speak+at+the+annual+Shale+Insight+Conference.+

Caela Go | Senior Staff Photographer

Demonstrators gathered in December 2019 outside the David L. Lawrence Convention Center to protest President Donald Trump, who visited Pittsburgh to speak at the annual Shale Insight Conference.

By Devi Ruia, Senior Staff Columnist

At the first 2020 presidential debate, President Donald Trump refused to condemn white supremacy.

Chris Wallace, the debate moderator, explicitly asked Trump multiple times if he condemned white supremacy and the Proud Boys, a white supremacist group. Instead of condemning any of it, he told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by,” and claimed that violence was coming from the “left wing.” Trump’s comments galvanized the Proud Boys, who added his comments from the debate to their online logo.

Had Trump actually wanted to condemn white supremacy and the Proud Boys, it would have been very easy for him to simply reply “yes” to Wallace’s question. If Trump had misspoken, like some defenders of him have claimed, it would have been easy for him to correct himself, especially after seeing how the Proud Boys interpreted his comments. Considering he’s a man who’s constantly on Twitter, it would have taken no effort at all for Trump to tweet out “I condemn white supremacy in all forms” after the debate. But he did not do so.

Instead, when Trump was asked about his remarks by reporters the day after the debate, he claimed he didn’t know who the Proud Boys were, though he gave no indication of that at the debate. Kayleigh McEnany, Trump’s press secretary, also claimed he has always denounced any form of white supremacy, which is simply untrue. Denouncing white supremacist leaders and groups has never been something Trump has done easily, if he does it at all. He has a long-standing record, both as president and before, of perpetuating racist rhetoric, ideology and policies.

Trump is a virulent racist who has gotten a pass for far too long. He never should have been elected in the first place, and he should not be reelected in November. If someone cannot strongly denounce racism and white supremacy in all forms without hesitation, they should not be president.

At this point, you cannot be an anti-racist and a Trump voter. Personally, I don’t really believe that 2016 Trump voters were anti-racists either, but I do firmly believe that people can evolve. I hope that 2016 Trump voters now recognize that Trump’s rhetoric was not an “out there” campaign strategy. This is who he is, and he has shown us that time and time again. The damage of his words and actions to people of color cannot be ignored because you like his economic policies. Trump is a racist, and if you vote for him, then you are saying that you’re okay with his racism, either because you feel the same way or because you are privileged enough to not feel the consequences of his behavior or care about how it impacts others.

Trump did eventually condemn white supremacy and the Proud Boys, two days after the debate during a Fox News interview with Sean Hannity. He only did so following tremendous backlash from many individuals, including other Republicans. It should not take 48 hours for anyone, much less the president, to condemn white supremacy. Not to mention, this is not the first time Trump has declined to condemn white supremacy by stating he did not know who or what he was being asked about.

David Duke, the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, told his followers that voting for anyone but Trump in the 2016 Republican primary would be “treason to [their] heritage.” When Trump was asked about those remarks, he at first declined to condemn Duke and the KKK. Trump claimed he knew nothing about Duke, and declined to disavow Duke’s support of him until he had “research” on the groups in question. No one — especially not a presidential candidate, which is what Trump was at that time — should have to do research before condemning anyone in association with the KKK.

As disgusting as Trump’s initial delays in condemning white supremacy were in 2016 and last week, they are hardly surprising. Trump’s shown time and time again who he is and what he believes in.

When white supremacists marched on Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 and killed counterprotester Heather Heyer, Trump said there was blame on “both sides.” Trump said immigrants from African countries were coming from “shithole countries.” He told four congresswomen of color to “go back” to where they came from, despite the fact that all four are American citizens. He called the Black Lives Matter movement “discriminatory.” He instituted a travel ban for predominantly Muslim countries. When Trump announced his presidential bid, he called Mexian immigrants “criminals” and “rapists.”

Trump was one of the biggest proponents of the racist “birtherism” movement that claimed former President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States and promoted a similar birther lie against Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., after Joe Biden named her as his vice president pick. Trump and his father were sued by the Justice Department in 1973 for discriminating against Black individuals in their apartment complexes. Trump is a racist and he has been for a long time. He has stoked violence and emboldened white supremacists time and time again. He was not fit to be president the first time and he certainly does not deserve a second term.

I know that many Trump supporters would and have attempted to combat Trump’s racism by saying, “Well, Joe Biden is racist, too.” This is often done in an attempt to equate the two candidates and allow voters to feel as though both candidates are equally terrible. But this is absolutely not the case. Biden is obviously not a perfect person with a perfect past. He’s someone who I may disagree with on many things. At least Biden is someone who apologizes for past missteps, like the 1994 Crime Bill. He’s someone who can unequivocally say racism and white supremacy are horrible, and that we should do everything we can to work to solve those issues.

Biden is someone who actually has policies that will help communities of color and work to create change. A vote for Trump is not the same as a vote for Biden. A vote for Trump is either saying you are a racist or that you are privileged enough to not care about his harmful rhetoric and dangerous policies regarding race. A vote for Biden is a vote against a president who can’t even disavow white supremacy when the question is fed to him.

Trump has shown time and time again that he is a racist. He has shown that he is dangerous for our country, especially for Americans of color. He can’t even unequivocally condemn white supremacy or hate groups without taking 48 hours to think things over. It is ridiculous that he’s been our president for four years, and he should not be able to keep that job for four more. Voting for Trump is giving a rubber stamp to his harmful and unprecedented rhetoric and policies. It’s time we stop letting an outspoken racist avoid electoral consequences. Let’s vote this racist out.

Devi primarily writes about politics for The Pitt News. Write to her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter for more hot takes @DeviRuia.

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