Sun | Dec 17, 2017

Orville Taylor | Donald Trump is not the problem

Published:Sunday | August 20, 2017 | 12:00 AM

One person is dead and many others injured, the result of a locally grown terrorist in the United States of America driving his motor vehicle into a crowd of counter-protesters who were assembled to stand against the bigotry and white extremism.

It is a scary thought, especially when one looks at the footage of the marchers in that Southern state, some of them boldly wearing their Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazi paraphernalia. Even more chilling was the film clip of what looks like thousands of white males, torches in hand, chanting that the streets belong to them and that they are taking back the streets.

In no uncertain terms, the Klan has come out, and, along with other white supremacist groups, has used its Second Amendment rights to such an extent that the police admitted that they were outgunned. This was not Tivoli Gardens in 2010, nor was it Mogadishu in Somalia or some other Third-World country often described by the metropolitan 'democracies' as lawless or being run by despots and fractured groups. On the contrary, it is our exemplar big brother to the north - the poster child for world democracy.

There is a certain irony here. America prides itself on free speech, and in this regard, the American Civil Liberties Union gave support to the racists and their right to assemble and speak their mind without minding their speech. It is the same country that forcefully reminds us that it is not acceptable for Jamaican entertainers or any other public figure to speak negatively about 'anuphilia', and I am not referring to the pro-violence anti-gay songs such as Shabba Ranks' No Maama Man, Capleton's Boogering, or the embattled Buju Banton's Boom Bye Bye. Of course, the uninitiated might think that Buju's popular B**ty Rider is also homophobic. However, unfortunately, he probably wouldn't dare to sing it in his present place of temporary residence for clarification.

 

Say what you want

 

Personally, I also defend the right of a person to say whatever he wishes, which includes him being honest in his opinion that all niggers are subhuman and not worthy of life. I much prefer to know that Cracker Jack, 'don't make him no never mind, that coloured folks think they is free.' At least I know that he doesn't like me, as opposed to white people with those smiles made in a Far Eastern sweatshop and their manufactured teeth, grinning in front of me and spitting in my drink when I turn to go to the bathroom at a sociology conference. Let people speak and jeer.

Imagine being at a sport event at the National stadium here in Jamaica, such as the Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships, and the men in their little brothers' green and black shirts and their counterparts in purple and blue. My father always told me that arguing with a fool brings two idiots into the dispute. However, there is a hell of a gap between saying bad things about people and encouraging discriminatory or violent conduct against them.

Therefore, people should not be allowed to say "Niggers should be kilt!", or, more specifically, "Kill the niggers!" That crosses the line. In the USA, there is a deep and sordid past involving the treatment of black people by whites, and that is one of the biggest marks on its historical record.

The number of African Americans killed by slave owners, from George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, to the myriad members of the confederate states is still unknown. We do know that somewhere between 750,000 and 1,000,000 Americans were killed in the Civil War, which ended grudgingly with the defeat of the Southern states in 1865 and the nominal liberation of African Americans.

True, after the murder of Abraham Lincoln, the emancipator of the enslaved African Americans and 'reconstruction', it would have taken another 100 years before they had universal adult suffrage like us, a full 21 years after all black Jamaicans got the right to vote. Also, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, John F. Kennedy and his little brother, Robert, but eventually, the lesson was quietly learnt, but not completely.

 

Not history

 

What America has not yet accepted is that its racist history is really not history at all: it is a continuing story that it has to take time to recognise and purge. Lest we forget, there is enough blame to go around, because it was the Democrats that facilitated the formation of the Klan, and it was the Republicans who were founded in the 1850s, among other things, to bring about an end to slavery.

Maybe we don't know, but about a third of the Africans in the Carolinas descended from us in the Anglophone Caribbean, after their 'owners' decided to migrate with their chattel in the late 1830s and after, rather than emancipate them as Queen Victoria promulgated in 1833.

People who went so far as to pack up and sail out to keep their status quo intact wouldn't willingly give up those privileges a mere 32 years later.

Charlottesville and other parts of the Carolinas are the flashpoints because they represent the core of the Confederacy, those who fought tooth and nail to keep coloured folks on the plantations. They have been sore losers since and the core of resentment is still there.

The 2015 massacre in the AME Church in the same city has led to a call for the removal of Confederacy monuments and statues and the flag, which is offensive to African Americans and myriad protests by well-thinking Americans of all races and ethnicities.

However, let us not forget, and here is why I mention him last. Donald Trump did not elect himself. And even if he got 2,000,000 fewer votes, he clearly had, and still has, the support of a significant chunk of the American population, including white supremacists, and has an approval rating of 70 odd per cent among his core white voters. That is a large part of America, which, despite the motto, 'E Pluribus Unum' (out of many one), is a white country. Thus, as problematic and as abrasive as Donald Trump is, he is not the problem, and he might not even be a racist. What matters is that racists like him.

Only when America accepts that it is closer to finding a cure for AIDS and cancer than its racist past will it finally solve the contemporary problem. But pretending that it is a united nation bound by a motto written in a dead language is delusional.

I want America to be great, because the world can't afford otherwise.

- Dr Orville Taylor is senior lecturer in sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@hotmail.com.