Trump’s Racism “is a tragedy in a man and a disaster in a president

by James M, Wall

Say this about President Trump: His unfettered outbursts of vulgarity show no signs of being planned. They just erupt from the man as a revelation of who he is.

In the film, The Best Man, Henry Fonda’s character, Senator William Russell, says to Joe Cantwell, a presidential candidate who exists in his own bubble, “you have no sense of responsibility toward anybody or anything. And that is a tragedy in a man, and it is a disaster in a president.”

We know we are living with a disaster, when President Trump, sitting in a White House conference immigration meeting Thursday, described immigrants from Haiti and Africa, as residents coming from “s—hole” countries.

In response, New York Times columnist David Leonhardt puts it bluntly:

No one except Trump can know what Trump’s private thoughts or motivations are. But the public record and his behavior are now abundantly clear. Donald Trump treats black people and Latinos differently than he treats white people. And that makes him a racist. 

There is nothing subtle about President Trump. In his narcissistic existence, he occupies a personal bubble where men dominate women and people of color are shoved aside into other bubbles of white-imposed inferiority.

Inside our president’s bubble nothing matters but Donald J. Trump.

This is not new to our politics, both fictional and real, but the inherent danger of such a bubble has reached a peak in our current White House.

The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, described Trump’s description of Haiti and Africa as “vulgar”.

The term vulgar is correct. It is also revelatory. Its use by a President in a meeting about legislation, gives this nation and the world nothing less than a portal into the emotional darkness and stunted intellectual development of the man this nation chose as its 45th president.

This man is blind to his own flawed personality. Did he not know, or did he not care, that he was exposing his own racial hatred mindset just days before Monday, January 15, when the nation he was elected to lead, will honor Martin Luther King, Jr., on what would have been King’s 89th birthday?

That day is now a federal holiday. Some background is in order if we are to grasp the meaning of January 15 for our present dark moment.

It is a day that evokes a past when hatred and racial bigotry locks people of color in a racial bondage a century after slavery was defeated in a bloody American Civil War.

Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated 50 years ago this coming April, for his leadership in the civil rights revolution that broke the back of racial segregation, a revolution that is still unable to root out the racial hatred that undermines our national character.

​T​he United States Congress ​established January 15 as a national holiday​ in 1983, in honor of ​the birthday of ​Dr. King​. The holiday is set on the third Monday of January, which this year marks what would have been his 89th birthday.

In light of the revolting Trump outburst, this year’s celebration demands an even more intense scrutiny of the mindset of a nation which continues to tolerate such an obvious negative bias towards people of color.

The Public Broadcasting System (PBS), is doing its part to remind us of the civil rights struggle that took the life of King. Scheduled, of course, before this week’s vulgar racist language from President Trump, the documentary set this week on PBS, should become a national teaching  moment.

PBS will air its opening American Masters production of 2018, Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart, this coming Friday, January 19, at 9 p.m. CST. (Check local listings.)

This documentary will examine the life of Hansberry (right), whose 1959 drama, A Raisin in the Sun, was the first Broadway production written by an African-American woman.

The documentary will include video clips from the film version of A Raisin in the Sun, and will show Hansberry’s impact on the nation through both her writing and her political activism.

 African American writer Langston Hughes’ poem, ​”​Harlem​​, inspired Hansberry to write her drama.

The Hansberry PBS program and the easily available DVDs of the film, A Raisin in the Sun, should lead schools, churches and other organizations to engage in a discussion of racism and its destructive impact on our nation.

In an earlier Wall Writings posting, I discussed the film under the headline: “What happens to a dream deferred?”, 

The plot of the drama and the film, follow the family of Lena Younger (Claudia McNeil) is a mother who has raised a family in a crowded apartment on the South Side of Chicago.​ Her son Walter Lee (Sidney Poitier), works as a chauffeur​. He​ ​is ​intelligent and ambitious​,​ but​ also often impulsive and​ ​angry​.

When the film first opened in 1961, it was the beginning of the 1960s, when a younger generation demonstrated, and spoke out for racial justice, and called for an end to the war in Viet Nam.

Hughes’ poem, ​”​Harlem​”​,​ describes in a prophetic​ fervor​​ a key question of the time, asking,​​ “what happens to a dream deferred?​”​​ Hughes’ poetic answer:​ “​Does it dry u​p​ like a raisin in the sun?​—​ Or fester like a sore— And then run?​–​- Does it stink like rotten meat?​–​- Or crust and sugar over— like a syrupy sweet​.–​- Maybe it just sags​— ​like a heavy load.​—​ Or does it explode?​”​

The original drama, the film, and Hughes’ poem, remain even more relevant in a time when an incumbent American President is a man who speaks and acts in a racist, impulsive manner. 

We still dream of a nation where the evil of racism no longer “stinks like rotten meat”, but dries up “like a raisin in the sun”.

It has been 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. It has been 89 years since he was born. The words and actions of African American leaders and artists like Dr. King, Lorraine Hansberry and Langston Hughes, remain with us, inspiring us and calling us to action of our own. 

We must not allow a leader like President Trump, with his cabinet, staff and congressional enablers, stop us from necessary action. 

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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6 Responses to Trump’s Racism “is a tragedy in a man and a disaster in a president

  1. Patricia says:

    I have written my Representative to promote an Impeachment Resolution now for Trump. Enough!

  2. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    Jim, Thanks for a great article, including your insights into Trump and his stable of lies, vulgarities and racism.
    Thankfully, Trump is a fluke and does not represent America, let alone American democracy and moral values. And, thankfully, he is NOT a supporter of Palestinian freedom and independence. He is “Grand Master of the Swamps” and walks hand-in-hand with Israeli occupation and apartheid.
    In contrast, it will be a great honor to celebrate this month the legacy of a truly great American Hero, Martin Luther King, and the vibrant African-American heritage and its contribution to and enrichment of America . In fact, in our recent American history, it was the story and the very role of MLK that made America great again.

  3. Helen Marshall says:

    Martin Luther King, Jr would also have been a strong opponent of Trump’s jingoistic threats against North Korea and his increasingly violent foreign policy; he devoted as much, if not more, attention to our wars and overthrows as he did to our segregated and unjust society.

  4. Kathy Matsushima says:

    Jim, thank you so much for this beautiful reminder of what we CAN celebrate this weekend. Jim Comey’s tweet today has it right. That is the kind of country we want to be. Keep leading us in that direction!

  5. Samir Atalla says:

    As long as black people and women struggle and celebrate every little inch of achievement the U.S. remains a racist country, with or without the presidency of Donald Trump.
    The question of “a dream deffered” applies so much to the Palestinian people who suffer mortally for the outright biased of the US Governments inspite of the declared “honest broker”.

  6. Rev Richard Toll says:

    jim…so well said so needed to be said and read by all of us. I have friends and relatives in Texas that are cheering the president on as though everything he says or does is great. A poll in the NY Times today has an extremely embarrassing article for christians. …Quote “and though he {Trump} lost support across all religions, more than half of protestants and evangelical christians approve of his job as president. He is least popular with people who are not christian”. What an indictment on christians in america..

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