Dogged by Charges of Racism Where is Trump’s Concern for American Workers?

By Kim Petersen

Hillary Clinton described half of Donald Trump’s base as “deplorables” holding racist attitudes. Indeed, many of Trump’s policies do negatively target people of color and leave working Americans worse off. But is the question of whether Trump is a racist not a distraction for a bigger elephant in the room?

 

On 11 January 2018 while discussing immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries United States president Donald Trump was quoted as asking, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

United Nations human rights spokesman Rupert Colville was quick to denounce Trump: “There is no other word one can use but racist. You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as “shitholes”, whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”

Democratic senator Dick Durbin – who was at the meeting with Trump – affirmed the quotation: “Shithole was the exact word used once not twice but repeatedly.”

Trump denied the quotation attributed to him, and he denied being a racist. Republican senator David Perdue, who was also at the meeting, called Durbin’s claim “a gross misrepresentation.”

Nonetheless, criticism of Trump was widespread. The effect will be minimal as Trump appeals to a different base. He plays the patriot’s card to curry favor with the working masses. Hence his nostalgic campaign slogan was “Making America Great, Again?”

 

What was Trump’s plan to reestablish the greatness of America?

PolitiFact noted that Trump’s campaign promises were targeted at changes to immigration, trade, taxes and foreign policy.1 Of the top 10 campaign promises, five are clearly aimed against non-White countries.

The pledge to build a wall along the U.S.–Mexican border hearkens to keeping brown-skinned Mexicans out; and to up the ante, Trump stated he’d even make Mexico pay for the wall. Mexico is a country that the US fought, defeated, and forced to cede over half its territory.

PolitiFact noted that Trump’s campaign promises were targeted at changes to immigration, trade, taxes and foreign policy.1 Of the top 10 campaign promises, five are clearly aimed against non-White countries.

A second promise was to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S. And on 27 January 2017, Trump signed an executive order halting all refugee admissions and temporarily barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. All are countries that the U.S. has attacked militarily in recent times.

Trump called for tariffs on goods made in China and Mexico. China represents the largest trade deficit for the U.S. But why Mexico? The U.S.’s trade deficit with Mexico is smaller than that with the European Union (or even just Germany).2 Hence, the call for imposing tariffs appears ethnically targeted, although Japan, the U.S.’s third largest trade deficit partner, is excluded from the call for imposing tariffs. Japan is a crucial lynchpin for US military objectives in East Asia.

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Middle East

In the Middle East, Trump promised to “bomb the shit out of” ISIS-controlled oil fields. In a NBC-hosted forum Trump argued the U.S. should “take the oil. If we would have taken the oil [at the time of overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s government], you wouldn’t have ISIS…”3

Keeping the oil, however, would require an invasion, long-lasting occupation, and a costly reconstruction.         

Trump’s Middle East policy has been intensely and unapologetically pro-Israel as demonstrated by the appointment of his son-in-law Jared Kushner as presidential advisor and assigning him responsibility for negotiating peace between Israel and Palestine. It is a questionable appointment beyond the apparent nepotism as the Jewish Kushner and his family is deeply connected with the Israeli government and Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu.4 Thus, it is unsurprising that Trump went against decades of U.S. policy and United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 and recognised Jerusalem/Al Quds as the capital of Israel. UNGA 181 had designated Jerusalem as a corpus separatum to be governed by an international regime. The U.S. embassy move was opposed by a 14 to 1 vote of the UN Security Council, the lone vote against being the U.S. veto. The UNGA also weighed in against the embassy move by a vote of 128 to 9.

In essence, the U.S. has picked sides, marginalised the UN, and is breaking international law by defying the special status of Jerusalem.

In essence, the U.S. has picked sides, marginalised the UN, and is breaking international law by defying the special status of Jerusalem.

Trump has supported Israeli goals through U.S. violence against the Syrian government. He also pleased Netanyahu by decertifying Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement. This he did despite it being contrary to the findings of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the P5+1, and the U.S. government that Tehran is in compliance.

 

East Asia

Trump – chagrined that a nuclear deterrent, purportedly within range of continental America, has been achieved by the Democratic Republic of Korea – spoke ominously to the UNGA that “if it [the US] is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” First, North Korea pledges a no-first-use of nuclear weapons. Second, no rational person would suggest for a moment that North Korea would initiate an attack against the U.S. or its allies. Consequently, serious analysts look upon Trump’s genocidal threat as dangerous bloviating.

North Korea’s neighbour, the economic powerhouse China also engenders Trump’s undiplomatic scorn. From a Chinese viewpoint, Trump must be considered a mixed bag.5

The slights are many, from offering China’s Communist Party chairman Xi Jinping a burger dinner, side-stepping the one-China policy, haranguing China on North Korea, to complaining about the trade balance as “very unfair and one-sided.” Said Trump, “… what  [Xi’s] done is sucked all of our jobs and he’s sucked the money right out of our country…”

Another flashpoint is the South China Sea where the U.S. insists on causing waves by sending warships.6

Thus China felt the need, according to some reports, to intentionally unveil China’s most powerful ICBM, the Dongfeng-41, at the time of Trump’s inauguration. Konstantin Sivkov, President of the Moscow-based Academy of Geopolitical Problems, stated: “This is China’s response to threats pronounced by the new US president, Donald Trump.”7

 

On the Homefront

While honoring Navajo veterans of World War II at the White House, Trump caused a brouhaha by referencingPocahontas.” An op-ed in the New York Times excoriated Trump who “once again underscored the degree to which he is openly hostile to people of color – I call that racism and bigotry” … “The Trump Doctrine is White Supremacy.”8

For words to be a slur, then there must be intent. At worst, Trump is an open racist; at best, Trump comes across as blithely ignorant.

Is Pocahontas” a racial slur? For words to be a slur, then there must be intent. At worst, Trump is an open racist; at best, Trump comes across as blithely ignorant.

In the vein of actions speaking louder than words, Trump’s signing of the Dakota Access Order dismayed the Standing Rock Sioux, aligned Indigenous peoples, and environmentalists opposed to the pipeline project fearing it will contaminate drinking water. Tom B.K. Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, released a statement calling Trump’s actions “insane and extreme, and nothing short of attacks on our ancestral homelands as Indigenous peoples.”

That White supremacism flourishes among a segment of Americans was attested to by violence that flared between the extreme right and counter protestors in Charlottesville, VA that led to the killing of Heather Heyer and injury to 19 people. Trump condemned the murder saying, “I thought what took place was a horrible moment for the country, but there are two sides to a story.” Two days later he repeated his condemnation of “this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.”

Likeliest there was violence on both sides; seldom will one side remain completely passive in the face of violence against it. However, what critics were seeking was a clear-cut denunciation of racism from Trump without the obfuscation of which sides were involved in the violence.

Trump’s ire was also evoked by the peaceful protests of National Football League (predominantly Black) players who were taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem. This was started by blackballed quarterback Colin Kaepernick (no pun intended, but Kaepernick has since been denied employment by the NFL’s all-White team ownership – excluding Pakistani-born owner Shahid Khan who showed solidarity with his players against Trump’s divisive comments) against systemic oppression, police brutality, and the lack of justice for people of color in the US. Right-wingers, however, have transmogrified the protests into disrespect for the flag and the U.S. military.

Trump had a suggestion: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired.”

Trump called the taking of the knee “a total disrespect for our heritage; that’s a total disrespect for everything that we stand for.”

Among Trump’s “we” is a section of the working class whose “cultural anxiety”9 Trump successfully tapped into at the ballot box. But bolstering military spending and tax cuts that preponderantly reward the wealthy (right-wing Fortune magazine called it a win for big business10) do little to ease the economic plight of working Americans. The liberal magazine Nation argued that Trump has worsened the worker’s situation:

“The rollback of labor rights and protections since Trump took office is staggering. It puts worker safety at risk and guarantees that many workers will earn less, but that’s not all. Measures to help victims of discrimination receive redress are on the scrap heap. Unions are running scared.”11

 

Race and Politics

Aside from being ineloquent, is Trump appreciably worse than previous U.S. presidents? A dozen U.S. presidents, including so-called founding fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, were slave owners.12

Moreover, is the U.S. not a nation state established through warring against the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island13 and depriving them of their territories?

The first U.S. president George Washington regarded Indigenous peoples as wolves: “both being beasts of prey, tho’ they differ in shape.”14 The Haudenosaunee called Washington the “town destroyer” for demolishing their villages.15

Thomas Jefferson boasted: “in war, they will kill some of us; we shall destroy all of them.”16

Andrew Jackson referred to the Indigenous peoples as “savage dogs” and bragged of preserving a scalp collection.17

Theodore Roosevelt’s racism was unabashed, “I suppose I should be ashamed to say that I take the western view of the Indian. I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indian is the dead Indian, but I believe nine out of every ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth. The most vicious cowboy has more moral principle than the average Indian.”18

 

Is Trump a Racist?

Trump denies being a racist. Orrin Hatch, the Republican senator for Utah, agrees, “I know Donald Trump. I don’t think there is a racist bone in his body.”

Trump’s policy plank seems to indicate a racially motivated policy. But does the policy substantially differ from that which the Democrats pursued during their days in political office?

Many countries in the world can be described as economic backwaters, yet much of the blame for this can be laid at the feet of the White world for, among other things, a history of colonialism, slavery, economic exploitation, support for dictators, corrupt lending practices and odious debt.

The focus on whether Trump is racist, and whether Trump has genuine concern for American workers, serves as distraction. A spotlight is usually shone on American leaders who will invariably claim that the U.S. is a beacon on the hill, an indispensable nation, an exceptional nation. Leaders have a role, but they function within a system. History reveals that the U.S. is a system born out of racism, a system whose Declaration of Independence derided the original occupants of Turtle Island as “merciless Indian savages” and removed them from their land, a system that exploited slave labour, a system that currently exploits wage slaves, and is a war-based economy.

Many countries in the world can be described as economic backwaters, yet much of the blame for this can be laid at the feet of the White world for, among other things, a history of colonialism, slavery, economic exploitation, support for dictators, corrupt lending practices and odious debt.

The system is fighting Trump – who is a part of the system. Removing Trump would change the face in the Oval Office, but the system would continue. Deplorable as Trump is, the biggest enemy of a moral universe is the system of militarist-capitalism.

Featured Image: President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting on prison reform in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, January 11, 2018. Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

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Kim Petersen is an independent writer whose writing has appeared in several ezines, newspapers, magazines and books. He was an Original Peoples editor for the Dominion grassroots newspaper and a co-editor with the Dissident Voice newsletter.

 

Endnotes

1. Linda Qiu, “Donald Trump’s top 10 campaign promises,” PolitiFact, 15 July 2016. http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2016/jul/15/donald-trumps-top-10-campaign-promises/ .

2. This writer reserves utmost skepticism toward US machinations for/against ISIS. See, e.g., “Russian Journalists Blow Lid Off Alleged US Terrorist Training Network in Syria,” Sputnik, January 2018. https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201801141060746468-us-occupation-cooperation-with-terrorists-southern-syria/

3. See 2016 figures for “List of the largest trading partners of the United States,” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_largest_trading_partners_of_the_United_States .

4. See “Flynn Plea Shows Collusion With… Israel?” Real News.com, 2 December 2017. http://therealnews.com/t2/story:20622:Flynn-Plea-Shows-Collusion-With…-Israel%3F .

5. See Kim Petersen, “What is Trump Signaling about China?” American Herald Tribune, 30 January 2017. https://ahtribune.com/us/maga/1484-trump-china.html.

6. I discuss this in some depth in “Sovereignty in the South China Sea,” Dissident Voice, 7 June 2016. https://dissidentvoice.org/2016/06/sovereignty-in-the-south-china-sea/ .

7. “Analyst Believes China’s Missiles Near Russian Borders Target USA,” TASS, 24 January 2016. http://tass.com/politics/926949.

8. Charles M. Blow, “Trump, Proxy of Racism,” New York Times, 30 November 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/30/opinion/trump-racism-white-supremacy.html.

9. Emma Green, “It Was Cultural Anxiety That Drove White, Working-Class Voters to Trump,” The Atlantic, 9 May 2017. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/05/white-working-class-trump-cultural-anxiety/525771/

10. See “The GOP Tax Plan: 3 Big Wins for Business,” Fortune, 2 November 2017. http://fortune.com/2017/11/02/gop-tax-plan-business-wins/ .

11. Helaine Olen, “The Rollback of Pro-Worker Policies Since Trump Took Office Is Staggering,” Nation, 1 September 2017. https://www.thenation.com/article/the-rollback-of-pro-worker-policies-since-trump-took-office-is-staggering/.

12. Evan Andrews, “How Many U.S. Presidents Owned Slaves?” History, 19 July 2017. http://www.history.com/news/ask-history/how-many-u-s-presidents-owned-slaves .

13. Who should determine the designation of a continent: the people who have resided there since time immemorial or newcomers from the continent of Europe? Europeans chose the designation “North America” after one of their citizens. “Turtle Island” is a designation stemming from the legends of Indigenous peoples. See Kim Petersen, “America: The Morality of a Geopolitical Designation,” Dissident Voice, 6 August 2014. https://dissidentvoice.org/2014/08/america-the-morality-of-a-geopolitical-designation/

14. David E. Stannard, American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World (London: Oxford University Press, 1992): 119.

15. From Roland Bainton, Early Christianity (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Co., 1960). Cited in Stannard, 120.

16. Stannard, 120.

17.Stannard, 121.

18. Hermann Hagedorn, Roosevelt in the Bad Lands (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1921): 355.

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