It was only a few weeks ago (12/01) that Trump announced to the world that African nations, Haiti and El Salvador were, ‘shitholes.’ Speaking in a semi-public meeting, Trump’s comments were soon known around the world. World leaders have expressed shock and concern over the presidents words, however, Trump is reflecting an inherent racism still living in modern America, that has been present since its foundations. America is not post-racial, Trump is reflective of a country that is not the United States, but the Divided States.
It is common to associate the end of the race problem with the election of Barack Obama in 2008, he was, after all, America’s first African-American president. Many white Americans would claim that this was a turning point in racial equality, we have a black president, they chime, so race is not a problem. However, Obama’s presidency and the barrier of Republican obstructionism he faced, only reinforced the inherent racism still existing within America’s institutions. Obama’s failures were due to the prominence of white Republicans in congress. His failure adopted white, ‘liberal’ American’s to opt for someone new, something anti-government and something that they believed would allow them to become fully American again. They saw this in Donald Trump.
To some white Americans, Trump offers a return to the past. “Make America Great Again” was initially a phrase coined by Ronald Reagan. There are many things worrying about this phrase and type of America it promotes. Making America great again implies that the current state of America is not up to taste. The achievements of greater racial and social equality are not seen as greatness, but something to be avoided. Many want to go backwards, to a past that favoured ‘real’ American values, such as family, loyalty, and the American dream. But his idealised American past offers nothing to those who are deemed as ‘failures.’ This past ignores those American citizens who are crippled by drug addiction, those African American’s who are living in poverty and many other nationalities which are oppressed. Trump supporters like the idea of the wall between Mexico and the United States – they believe that it will solve the drug problem because Mexicans are the ones bringing drugs into the US. This ignores the extent to which drugs are a mental health problem, they do not realise that drug usage is an addiction. In criminalising it, they are offering a short term fix to a long term problem.
A past America was also, fundamentally racist. Having Trump as the president of one of the most powerful nation’s in the world is in itself, a dangerous concept in many ways. But having an overtly, racist American president in the modern age is a different issue altogether. Promoting a type of racism, which is so public and overt has caused open disgust around the world. It was only last week that Trump’s visit to the UK was cancelled due to the threat of mass protest from the British public.
Anyone who knows anything about the history of the United States, will know that racism within the Republican party has been historically endemic and that it continues. But it would be easy to write them off as stupid and not address the deeper problems – to understand the ongoing racism is to realise the importance of history. History tells us the mistakes of the past and what it has lead to in certain scenarios, but it also tells us that US racism is historic. It did not end with the end of slavery, or the Civil Rights Movement, or Martin Luther King. Racism is still a modern day problem in America and the root of so many inequalities.
The US forces of capitalism have a lot to answer for. America’s financial and economic systems were historically built on the success of slavery, and there is no hiding this fact. But as post-racial America likes to make out, the problem is that these historic forces of black exploitation for white profit still underlie many of America’s institutions. Many would not like to think about this and many of Trump’s American’s simply chose not to, they want to be ignorant so they can forget. A country that is so built on capitalism, is therefore, so built on racism. To eradicate the forces of inequality Trump needs to go. But secondly, America needs a vast renewal and rebuild of a different economic and political ideology. Evidently, it is easy enough to say but harder to do. But as long as there is hope there is promise.
Obviously, not all of America aligns with the ideology of Trump and this is easily forgotten. Trump’s appeal was largely white, middle class Americans (which in itself, tells us a lot!). It is often forgotten that Trump never won the popular vote – that was Hillary Clinton (48.18%) whilst Trump gained 46.09% of the popular vote. Hillary was successful in Northern states, as well as in California, Oregon, Nevada and New Mexico. Whilst Trump was successful in Southern states such as Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee. The outcome reflects the racial divide in US politics and something that is reflective of history. We must hope that one day this will resolve.