Republicans Aren’t Racist

Seal of the United States Department of Homeland Security with the U.S./Mexico border behind it. Image by DHS/Lenny Ghoul.

I’m going to give a Christmas gift to many and ease some concerns. One of the recurring accusations throughout my life has been that Republicans were racist. This was usually stated because the Republican party refused, as a whole, to get behind policies which were designed to benefit people of only one skin color.

It was always a flawed argument, because it assumed a motivation. Even if something like forced busing of schoolchildren or affirmative action was rejected, the rejection need not be motivated by racism. It could simply be that the people refusing the policy wanted equality of opportunity more than equality of outcome.

The fact that there were others who rejected the policies purely from a racist standpoint was irrelevant. Attempts to equate them with principled people was akin to making the argument that two people walking out of a store with an item were identical, even if one had paid for it and one had stolen it. Methods and intent matter.

Then came the election of 2016.

The campaign of Donald Trump absolutely reached out to white supremacist groups. The President pretended not to know who David Duke was, despite ending his run for the Reform Party slot in 2000 because of Duke’s affiliation with them. Faced with the racist rhetoric of some in the leadership of Black Lives Matter – rhetoric which was easily disseminated through Facebook by Russian operatives who were trying to sow dissent in the country – the Trump campaign seized upon an opportunity to ramp up racial tensions which had already been inflamed by President Obama’s decision to inject himself into some racially charged events.

The Trump campaign also used two other perceived crises: the influx of African and Middle-eastern migrants and the waves of illegal aliens treating our Southern border as porous. They told of the terrorists who had been caught trying to enter the country and reminded people of terrorist acts from people who hadn’t been born American. They used the ebola cases in Texas as an example of why immigration needed to be stopped.

I believe there is a very strong case to be made that the Trump campaign was actively and aggressively racist.

The party faithful…?

Many of them were too. It was one of the things that most depressed me about the abandonment of principles I saw during and after the campaign. People who had, for years, insisted they despised racists climbed on board the Trump train.

Part of this, though, was ignorance born of repetition… the repetition for decades of the accusation of racism from the Democrats. It was “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” on a national scale; having reflexively accused the Republicans of being racist for decades, many Republicans had grown used to explaining away the allegations. They were not concerned about the racism of the Trump campaign because they honestly did not see it.

For others, the issue was with the terminology used. There are people who are strongly against immigrants not because of the color of their skin or even their religious stances but simply because a country which is deeply in debt cannot afford to take on the economic burdens of the world. They are the ones who are happy to have hispanic and asian neighbors, but balk when they hear foreign languages being spoken. They are not racists. Some are bigots, in that they reflexively dislike anyone from other countries. Some are elitists, in that they distrust anyone, usually including Americans, who do not possess an expected level of education or wealth.

The racist origins of our immigration policy, as adeptly chronicled by Lenny in an early set of essays, further muddies the waters.

All of this doesn’t change the fundamental argument, though, that policy decisions can be made from a principled standpoint.

There are racists in the Republican party – far, far more now that the nationalist groups have been actively courted and brought into the “big tent”. There are bigots in the Republican party, and their ranks have ballooned as media and political figures have ignored mathematics in favor of creating a convenient enemy on which to affix blame. There are elitists in the Republican party who have abandoned their core belief of liberty and justice for all in favor of liberty and justice for those whose lives they deem to have value.

One can even make an argument that because of the leadership on both the political and media arms of the Republicans, the Party itself is intolerant and runs directly counter to its origins and its history.

None of this prevents a single person, generally free of prejudice and believing in the “binary choice”, from aligning themselves with what they see as the better option of the two main parties.

This Christmas, as with many other holidays, you are likely to encounter people of both the Republican and the Democrat stripe who support policies you believe are grounded in racism. Try to remember that most of them aren’t racist themselves. It matters, because “racist” is a shutdown position, from which there is no change without an epiphany. “Bigot” or “elitist” are shutdown words, however; if not used directly, those are viewpoints which can be changed with appeals to reason and decency.

Most non-racists don’t want children stolen at the border, or translators who risked their lives for this country to be left to die in war zones, or Vietnamese deported back to their country for the “crime” of being on the front lines with our soldiers and therefore arriving in the US before their refugee status had been approved through Congress. They want fairness, equity, a cohesive society and a reasonable level of safety. They want a middle ground, and they’re not seeing one offered due to the news sources they trust. Not necessarily something truly centrist, but at least something that isn’t cruel.

These are the people that can be reached, and many of them are to be found among your friends and family. This is a day for peace and reconciliation. That can be fostered only if we remember to embrace the positive. There are both greatness and goodness in the world, and Americans can be a force for good, when we want to be.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.