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Understanding Mongo: His Ideology Is White Supremacy

His political career began in advocacy of birtherism, that modern recasting of the old American precept that black people are not fit to be citizens of the country they built. But long before birtherism, Trump had made his worldview clear. He fought to keep blacks out of his buildings, according to the U.S. government; called for the death penalty for the eventually exonerated Central Park Five; and railed against “lazy” black employees. “Black guys counting my money! I hate it,” Trump was once quoted as saying. “The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” After his cabal of conspiracy theorists forced Barack Obama to present his birth certificate, Trump demanded the president’s college grades (offering $5 million in exchange for them), AIE76dpinsisting that Obama was not intelligent enough to have gone to an Ivy League school, and that his acclaimed memoir, Dreams From My Father, had been ghostwritten by a white man, Bill Ayers.

It is often said that Trump has no real ideology, which is not true—his ideology is white supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power. Trump inaugurated his campaign by casting himself as the defender of white maidenhood against Mexican “rapists,” only to be later alleged by multiple accusers, and by his own proud words, to be a sexual violator himself. White supremacy has always had a perverse sexual tint. Trump’s rise was shepherded by Steve Bannon, a man who mocks his white male critics as “cucks.” The word, derived from cuckold, is specifically meant to debase by fear and fantasy—the target is so weak that he would submit to the humiliation of having his white wife lie with black men. That the slur cuck casts white men as victims aligns with the dicta of whiteness, which seek to alchemize one’s profligate sins into virtue. So it was with Virginia slaveholders claiming that Britain sought to make slaves of them. So it was with marauding Klansmen organized against alleged rapes and other outrages. So it was with a candidate who called for a foreign power to hack his opponent’s email and who now, as president, is claiming to be the victim of “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.”

In Trump, white supremacists see one of their own. Only grudgingly did Trump denounce the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke, one of its former grand wizards—and after the clashes between white supremacists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, Duke in turn praised Trump’s contentious claim that “both sides” were responsible for the violence.

To Trump, whiteness is neither notional nor symbolic but is the very core of his power. In this, Trump is not singular. But whereas his forebears carried whiteness like an ancestral talisman, Trump cracked the glowing amulet open, releasing its eldritch energies. The repercussions are striking: Trump is the first president to have served in no public capacity before ascending to his perch. But more telling, Trump is also the first president to have publicly affirmed that his daughterIvanka is a “piece of ass.” The mind seizes trying to imagine a black man extolling the virtues of sexual assault on tape (“When you’re a star, they let you do it”), fending off multiple accusations of such assaults, immersed in multiple lawsuits for allegedly fraudulent business dealings, exhorting his followers to violence, and then strolling into the White House. But that is the point of white supremacy—to ensure that that which all others achieve with maximal effort, white people (particularly white men) achieve with minimal qualification. Barack Obama delivered to black people the hoary message that if they work twice as hard as white people, anything is possible. But Trump’s counter is persuasive: Work half as hard as black people, and even more is possible.

For Trump, it almost seems that the fact of Obama, the fact of a black president, insulted him personally. The insult intensified when Obama and Seth Meyers publicly humiliated him at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2011. But the bloody heirloom ensures the last laugh. Replacing Obama is not enough—Trump has made the negation of Obama’s legacy the foundation of his own. And this too is whiteness. “Race is an idea, not a fact,” the historian Nell Irvin Painter has written, and essential to the construct of a “white race” is the idea of not being a nigger. Before Barack Obama, niggers could be manufactured out of Sister Souljahs, Willie Hortons, and Dusky Sallys. But Donald Trump arrived in the wake of something more potent—an entire nigger presidency with nigger health care, nigger climate accords, and nigger justice reform, all of which could be targeted for destruction or redemption, thus reifying the idea of being white. Trump truly is something new—the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president. And so it will not suffice to say that Trump is a white man like all the others who rose to become president. He must be called by his rightful honorific—America’s first white president.

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Understanding Mongo: To The Racists He Is Overlord

As Michelle Obama said: “Being president doesn’t change who you are. No, it reveals who you are.” That is what is happening with Donald Trump.

He has in the course of his life been on all sides of many issues, although he was always a liar, bully, misogynist, opportunist and economic isolationist. But his racial hostility and white supremacy seem to have blossomed with his entry into politics and his Russia-aided election. After spending a life catering to the appetites of the greedy and gauche, he realized that there was an exponentially larger market of white nationalists and neo-Nazis. To the aspirational he could be landlord, but to the racists he could be overlord.

Trump’s outrageous decision this week to end DACA, the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allowed many mongo-birdflipperyoung people brought to this country as children to stay and work here, is just the latest expression of Trump’s growing intolerance and his growing adoption and internalizing of white nationalist ideology.

Not only did Trump wimp out and send the anti-immigration zealot Jeff Sessions out to make the announcement, he also made the sadistic and emotionally manipulative act of professing his “love” for the Dreamers last week, while moving to bring them pain this week.

This didn’t need to be done. This was done out of spite and hostility. This was done to prove a point and consolidate support.

Donald Trump continues to say in every way possible that power and privilege in America is primarily the provenance of people who are white, male, Christian and straight, and that all others should be targeted for denial, oppression or removal.

Trump’s base may be relatively small, but he keeps reinforcing its power and reminding us of the magnitude of that power, because the spirit of the base commands the presidency.

We are witnessing the boot come swiftly down on the necks of women and minorities. We are seeing a program of minority removal — from the free population, from the work force, from the dole (as they see it), from the country itself. We are seeing an uplifting of whiteness to the detriment of non-whiteness. We are seeing the end of unity and the rise of factions and fascism.

In Trump’s America, white racism is ascendant; it is reclaiming a space many had hoped was shrinking. That is a plain and obvious truth. Efforts to describe it in other terms are an exercise in rhetorical contortionism.

Sometimes you simply have to call a thing a thing, and the thing here is that Trump’s inner racist is being revealed, and America’s not-so-silent racists are rising in applause.

Charles Blow

Understanding Mongo: What Would A Racist Do?

It’s not really hard to tell what President Trump will do on any issue. Just ask: What would a white racist do? If you can answer that question, you have a good idea which way Trump will go.

His record on the campaign trail and in office shows a clear pattern. He said Mexican immigrants are “bringing crime. They’re rapists.” He called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” He said the Indiana-born judge presiding over a lawsuit against Trump pu65qUniversity was unfair because “he’s a Mexican.”

He accused China and South Korea of stealing our jobs. His budget included cuts in funding for prevention of HIV and AIDS abroad. He wants to reduce legal immigration by half. He pardoned former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was found guilty of illegal racial profiling.

More recently, Trump exhibited a strong reluctance to disown the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, Va. After finally coming forth with a condemnation of neo-Nazis and their ilk, he backtracked, blaming “both sides” for the violence.

There is a single unmistakable thread running through this entire fabric: race. The people he attacks or shortchanges are almost always nonwhite. And the pattern is too consistent to be accidental. What has Trump done, after all, that a white racist would not have done?

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When The Truth Is Found

Acid. Because I don’t think he’d do too well with that. It’s an ego-destroying thing where you are not in control. You’ve got to know what you’re doing with it. You’ve got to have somebody who is not high to make sure you don’t decide you’re a raven and fly off the roof. There are all kinds of things about it that are tricky. We’ve got a president who is orange—everybody’s least favorite color. Bill Maher said never underestimate the stupidity of the American public, and, at this point in time, he is right. But I realized what a patriot I was when he got elected; it made me so sad thinking about how there were 12 or 15 guys who, now 240 years ago, started an entire country. Although they may not have practiced all their ideas—they had slaves and were talking about how all men were free—they were wonderful ideas as far as how to treat each other and yourself. Then you get this nut-job goofball as our president, and it’s embarrassing. He shouldn’t be running a country. Guy is a mess.

Grace Slick

Water Music

Something Will Shine

At the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the Mall, 54 years to the day after the great man gave his greatest speech, clergy of all varieties, but mostly rabbis and black ministers, came together in common cause,

The Rev. Al Sharpton, joined by Martin Luther King III, stopped in at a pre-march prayer session held by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and addressed the assembly of 300 rabbis, cantors and lay leaders.

Sharpton told the Jews that “we could not commemorate 636395306990478867-XXX-20170828-MinistersMarch-03this day and face the challenges today without standing together as Dr. King stood 54 years ago.” Invoking those murdered in the Freedom Summer of 1964, he went on: “We should never forget that it was Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner that died together—two Jews and a black—to give us the right to vote.”

Sharpton spoke of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched with King at Selma, and he addressed the more recent ill feelings. “We have had days good and bad, but from this day forward, we’re going to make sure we do our part to keep this family together,” he said. “When we can see people in 2017 with torches in their hands, talking about ‘Jews will not replace us,’ it’s time for us to stop praying to the cheap seats and come together.”

Some of the rabbis shouted “amen.”

Sharpton asked for 1,000 ministers, and got somewhat more than that among the 3,000 assembled for Monday’s march. Rabbis swayed and clapped to hip-hop and gospel music. There were skullcaps of every color and size, mainline Protestant ministers in white collars and colorful shawls, black evangelicals in bright choir robes, black-robed monks, Buddhists in saffron, a Sikh in a yellow turban. There were Black Lives Matter signs and posters with verses of scripture.

A cantor led the crowd in the Hebrew song “Hine Ma Tov”—how good it is for brothers to live as one. A black Jewish woman in a tallit—a Jewish prayer shawl—spoke, and a rabbi blew a shofar. A black Catholic nun spoke.

“God’s majestic creation,” observed Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, head of the Religious Action Center. From the Nazis in Charlottesville, Pesner said, “we learned that anti-Semitism and white supremacism are intertwined. They are dual threats that call us to act and confront them together and directly.”

African Americans responded with cries of “Yes!” and “All right!” to the rabbi’s preaching.

Sharpton picked up the theme. “You’re going to see the victims of Nazism, the victims of white supremacy, march to the Justice Department and say we don’t care what party is in, we are not going to be out,” he told the crowd. “We are coming together like Dr. King and Abraham Heschel did, like Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner did.”

“We don’t have a person to lose,” King told the Jews at their prayer meeting Monday morning. “We are brothers and sisters.”

Silence

I first heard the silence late Tuesday night, while pecking at my phone, waiting for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump to denounce President Donald Trump’s latest comments on neo-Nazis after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the death and mayhem that resulted.

After the President tried to compare neo-Nazis to what he described as the “alt-left,” saying “I think there is blame on both sides,” there was still no outcry from Jared or Ivanka.170721163651-jared-kushner-ivanka-trump-split-exlarge-169Slowly, as the hours ticked away, the silence descended.

Many think of silence as the absence of noise, but that’s only one type of silence. There is a different, darker variety, one Jews and African-Americans have gotten to know well over the centuries. This silence doesn’t suppress sound—it amplifies it. It is the boom of the MS St. Louis departing for Nazi-threatened Europe after being denied entry by port after port. It’s the whisk-whisk of Southern belles fanning themselves at the slave auction. It’s the presence of apathy amid injustice and horror.
I’d heard this kind of silence, long ago. I heard it in the Soviet Union, in the footfalls of teachers and classmates calmly walking around me and the other Jew in my class as we received our daily beatings. I’d heard it in the Doppler effect of cars passing my family and other refugees when we were hitchhiking along frigid Austrian roads.

But the silence emanating from Jared and Ivanka was exponentially more powerful than any I’d heard before. To me, as a Jew, seeing nothing but two tweets from Ivanka brought the kind of pain I’m sure is echoed by African-Americans anytime Ben Carson defends the President, and Asian-Americans in the wake of Elaine Chao’s and Nikki Haley’s equivocations: condemning hate in general terms while carefully avoiding criticizing the very administration they’re part of.

If two Jews at the pinnacle of American power—one, the grandson of Holocaust survivors, the other, a woman who had devoted years of rigorous study to converting to the religion—refuse to denounce Trump’s equivocations on neo-Nazis, are they still Jews?

By Wednesday, it was clear I wasn’t the only one wondering. In a stunning move, Rabbi Emeritus Haskel Lookstein—who had supervised Ivanka’s conversion—issued a statement condemning the Trump administration for its heinous response to Charlottesville’s bloodshed. Numerous Jewish organizations including the Union for Reform Judaism, the Orthodox Rabbinical Association of America, the American Jewish Committee and the Republican Jewish Coalition rebuked the President’s speech as well. Rumblings of a herem, religious censure, the Jewish equivalent of the bell, book and candle method once used by Catholics to excommunicate, began rolling through Twitter.Holocaust girl 13Wednesday night I asked a friend, Rabbi Andy Bachman, if something akin to an excommunication was warranted or even possible. It turned out I wasn’t the first one to call him on the topic that day. “A herem wouldn’t do much,” Bachman replied, “it would only be valid in the eyes of the ultra-Orthodox. But do you really need an interdict? These people have chosen to stand aside from thousands of years of their tradition: What can you think of that’s worse?”

I couldn’t. For me, embracing a Jewish identity came as the result of a battle, years of slowly undoing the damage of Soviet persecution which lasted long after I landed on US soil. I couldn’t imagine people born into safety and privilege throwing away their birthright like trash. And yet, that’s what happened—that was the silence I’d heard.
It was the scratching of matches lighting White House Shabbat candles, the humming of carefully memorized prayer, the rote motions of Jewish life without the true practice of Judaism. It was the silence of two of the world’s most powerful Jews, cutting themselves off from their people.


When I Worked

September 2017
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