today in black history

July 19, 2024

Writer and social critic Alice Dunbar Nelson was born in 1875 and helped shaped the Harlem Renaissance.


POSTED: January 30, 2017, 7:00 am

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To be sure, the United States has had bigots occupy the Oval Office. We’ve had presidents who freely referred to Blacks as niggers, screened the patently racist movie “Birth of a Nation” in the White House and sympathized with the Ku Klux Klan. What we have not had until now was a president who facilitated white supremacy by bringing a cabal of bigots into the west wing and turning the federal government into an offshoot of a white nationalist organization. Welcome to the Trump administration.

President Trump’s executive order selectively barring some immigrants into the United States is plain and simple – a hate crime. By definition, this president has used his executive powers to issue an edict that is hateful and meant to harm immigrants who are Muslims by casting them as terrorists while giving favored status to Christians. In the targeting of certain countries where there is no history of leeching terrorists while leaving those that have spawned terrorists off the list, Trump has exposed his simplistic and bigoted worldview. Thankfully the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a legal challenge and a federal judge has issued a stay; temporarily suspending a provision of the executive order that left many travelers to the United States in limbo.

Similar to his foolish desire to construct a wall along the nation’s southern border, the president’s bigotry feeds the paranoia of Americans who hide their racism behind the flag and cast their fear of the “other” as some sort of warped loyalty test.

President Trump’s executive order does not protect Americans. In fact, it will likely have the opposite effect. It will create a new era of discontent with the United States overseas and motivate a new legion of sympathizers of radicals who would like to bring our nation to its knees. And it places in harm’s way American citizens living and working abroad. The irony of course, to giving Christians a pass, is that the person who committed the worst act of domestic terrorism in our nation’s history, Timothy McVeigh, not only claimed Christianity but served in the Army and – sympathized with white supremacist groups. While this president looks for the brown-skin bogeyman in the distant shadows in the far reaches of the world, our biggest threat is from within and this president is stirring the pot. He is aiding and abetting the enemy – the home-grown zealot who ignorantly equates whiteness with exceptionalism, and clings to the belief that nonwhite Americans are subservient while denying facts, truth and history.

I can only surmise that the real intent of the Trump administration is to use “terrorism” as a ruse to dramatically alter the racial and religious makeup of our country. By whipping zealots into a frenzied state, he can try to justify such moves on the basis of national security. So, while this initial volley was aimed at nations in the Middle East and Muslims, he is setting the stage for something that could be far more sinister. For instance, will he use gun violence in Chicago to identify the ethnicity of suspects and then use it as justification to racially profile and detain residents, and then order deportations or ban immigration from countries where the suspected perpetrators of crimes hail? This is not a slippery slope. It’s a free fall.

There are better methods to curb illegal immigration and impede terrorism. Our nation simply has to have the will to pursue a different course. This president does not. That’s clear. It’s not because the Trump White House is not aware of the alternatives, to choose the prudent path confounds their larger scheme to transform the United States into a white nationalist autocracy.

“Similar to his foolish desire to construct a wall along the nation’s southern border, the president’s bigotry feeds the paranoia of Americans who hide their racism behind the flag and cast their fear of the “other” as some sort of warped loyalty test.”

We know what happens when our leadership embraces lying as standard operating procedure. The lies sustain power for a moment but eventually topple leaders. We witnessed this with Jim Crow and we saw it during the Vietnam War era and the Watergate scandal. The difference today is that lies have a much shorter shelf life – much shorter. And most Americans have little patience for revisiting a time when the veracity of our own government betrayed us. So, President Trump and his team can spout as many ‘alternative facts’ as they like because they will be refuted and dismissed just as quickly as his press secretary spews them. The digital arc can bend toward truth, and in this moment, millions of Americans are primed as the loyal opposition.

And this is where my optimism sits at this moment. The reaction to the Trump White House has been more than encouraging as millions of citizens are making their voices heard and taking to the streets. We are doing exactly what our constitution permits – voicing our opposition to tyranny and questioning the legitimacy of this presidential administration. We need not waste time debating the recent election. We are in a different space now and for the first time in decades Americans are not sitting on the sidelines, acting as spectators to a debacle in our nation’s capital. We are showing up at airports with no prompting, flooding the streets of cities and towns across the landscape, walking out of schools and protesting on college campuses, defending the rights of our fellow citizens and calling the President of the United States out for his brazen bigotry.

Now, that’s being an American.

Walter Fields is Executive Editor of

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