The word “racist” has been bandied about so often that not only has it lost most of its meaning, many do not even recognize situations in which the term genuinely applies. Because of this, individuals on the left and right may mistakenly label a person or behavior as racist when other factors might explain the relevant actions.
President Trump held a highly contentious press conference after the midterm elections, in which he fended off multiple attacks from progressive activists disguised as journalists. While CNN’s Jim Acosta stole much of the spotlight – as he is wont to do – there was another interaction that caused some controversy.
At one point during the conference, Yamiche Alcindor, a Haitian reporter for PBS Newshour, asked Trump about the apparent support he has received from white nationalist groups:
“On the campaign trail, you called yourself a nationalist. Some people saw that as emboldening white nationalists,” Alcindor said, in a preamble to her question. But before she could get the rest out, Trump interrupted her.
Trump issued a stern retort: “I don’t know why you’d say that. That’s such a racist question.”
Alcindor continued, “Some people are now saying that the Republican Party is supporting white nationalists because of your rhetoric.”
“I don’t believe it. Why do I have my highest poll numbers ever with African Americans? That’s a racist question … You know what? I love our country, I do. You have nationalists, and you have globalists … to say that, what you said, is so insulting to me. It’s a very terrible thing that you said.”
The Left Takes Issue
After the conference, progressive journalists took the opportunity to slam Trump for his refusal to admit that he’s a virulent bigot. Ana Navarro, who makes her living by masquerading as a Republican commentator, tweeted:
In last 2 days, Trump publicly attacked these three WH Correspondents.
Trump told @Yamiche [Yamiche Alcindor] her question was “racist”.
Trump told @abbydphillip [Abby D. Phillip] her question was “stupid”.
Trump called @AprilDRyan, [April D. Ryan] “a loser”.
Hmm…I wonder what these three brilliant professionals have in common?
Get it? All three of these individuals are black women, which clearly proves that Trump spends his weekends wearing a white hood and burning crosses, not mention his obvious misogyny. Unfortunately, Navarro neglects to mention Trump’s numerous attacks on Jim Acosta and the rest of the press whom he has criticized – even those reporters who are neither black nor female.
In a piece written for Vox, writer Zack Beauchamp claims that Trump’s assertion that Alcindor was asking a racist question was in and of itself, racist. “It’s an astonishingly revealing exchange, and not only because of the tone-deafness,” he wrote. “It’s characteristic of a very modern form of racial thought that pervades the Trump administration and, indeed, much of American society – what Duke sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva calls ‘colorblind racism’”
Colorblind racism is a term that describes whites who believe that all citizens, regardless of race, are treated the same in America. Proponents of this idea might deny that America’s history has any impact on life in the United States today. In a sense, colorblind racism either minimizes, or completely discounts, any claim that racism has any impact on a minority’s life whatsoever in the current day. Beauchamp goes on to engage in an impressive display of mental gymnastics to tie Trump’s response to the concept of colorblind racism.
Who Was Racist?
The subject of racism has grown increasingly prevalent in political discourse.
So who was actually engaging in racist behavior at the press conference? The reality is that neither party was guilty of racism, and this is why it is important to understand when the term is appropriate. Alcindor’s question was a clear example of race baiting, but it was not itself racist. She was attempting to show that the president is a racist because white nationalists support him. But her question did not demonstrate any animus towards the white race. Therefore, it does not make sense to label her question as racist.
On the other hand, Trump’s response did not carry any racism, colorblind or otherwise. His comments were a simple defense against erroneous accusations. The president, along with most other Republican politicians, knows that to progressives, racism is nothing more than a political tool that comes in useful during attempts to discredit opponents. It makes sense that Trump would be quick to counter Alcindor’s implication, although perhaps he did not choose the most effective method to do so.
The subject of racism has grown increasingly prevalent in political discourse. It essential that people on the right handle the issue appropriately because the left has made it clear that they will not. As individuals who seek to alleviate racial tensions, conservatives must carefully ensure they do not fall into the same behavior as progressives when it comes to issues of race. Otherwise, conservatives might become part of the problem they seek to solve.