Reason Wafawarova on Monday
The rise of Donald Trump to the apex of the US political platform through an election came as a shocker to most of us people who make a living as political analysts, to the media fraternity, and of course to most people who adhere to political correctness. Some say the far right sentiment was triggered by the Brexit vote in Britain, instantly giving rise to people like Marin Le Pen in France, who many feared would win the French election against Emmanuel Macron.
In Australia the Trump victory revived the seemingly doomed political career of Senator Pauline Hanson, a proud bigot with a long track record of racist and anti-Muslim dramatic utterances and stunts – not least her recent donning of the burka to Parliament for Question Time.
The victory lap by Trump’s supporters after his election win was understandable; given his underdog tag before going into the election, but the behaviour of some of his supporters is frankly repulsive.
Some of Trump’s supporters evidently do not like it when they hear the general collective belief that those who voted for Trump are inherently racist. The Internet, news sites and social media generally support this sentiment, and not without reason.
On reflection one can see a disconnect between the general public and those of us who write and think about politics for a living.
This is why Trump’s victory was a complete shocker for the community of the so-called smart people – the world’s opinion makers. There is a worrying social distance between social reality and the intellectual community at the moment.
For those who write and think about race matters this social distance is even wider, especially when one looks at race matters relative to the general white public. An attempt by the Turnbull government in Australia to amend the Racism Act triggered sensational debate on whether racism is a fact or an opinion.
Research evidence by social scientists, historians, philosophers and others support the conclusion that racism is a fact, and not an opinion.
The recent clashes between white supremacists and the public in Charlottesville, Virginia, are also a clear indication that racism is in fact a reality whose head and heart are still alive and probably well.
Despite the overwhelming evidence there are those among us blacks who share the belief with some in the mainstream white folk community that racism is simply about “perspective” and “emotions” as opposed to tangible facts.
Most of the challenges we face when dealing with race and politics are simply a reflection of how language sometimes obfuscates and clouds more than it reveals.
Our education system and our media fraternity have been overpowered by white supremacists tendencies to an extent that critical thinking gets discouraged, and complex and serious discussion is avoided.
So what is racism?
Commonly racism has been defined as the use of mean words or racial slurs. My 10-year-old son recently had an altercation with a white age mate at school after a skin colour phrase was directed at him. Hearing the emotional energy behind the physical retaliation and fighting that followed, one realises how much meaning we attach to language when it comes to race matters.
Racism is often thought of as a belief that there are fixed biological differences between different groups of people because of skin colour. There are even intellectuals who have been caught up in this bigoted view that says white people are smarter or more intelligent than all others, especially than the blacks.
During my time at Macquarie University, we had Professor Andrew Fraser who openly supported the view that blacks were intellectually inferior to whites, and also that immigration into Australia would turn the country into a “third world”.
He eventually went into early retirement, and many people believed he was pressured to do so because of his outrageous views on race matters.
We tend to assume that a real racist is a member of the Ku Klux Klan or a Nazi, and even Donald Trump seems to be of this view. He believes people like himself and other white supremacists are simply “nationalists”. But even Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members do not admit they are racists.
Racism is much more than these rogue groups of outright miscreants. It is entrenched into institutions like the police, prisons, in politics, and at work- places. It is in these institutions that marginalised groups are unfairly, illegally and disproportionally targeted, harassed, brutalised and preyed upon.
One needs to look no further than the American justice system to see this disgusting reality against black people and other people of colour.
Even banks have been caught up charging higher interest rates for non-whites on loans that fall in the same category and class as those of white folks. These are results made by citizens and leaders, not accidents and mistakes made by incompetent staffers.
Although most people will not admit of being racist, we must remember that admitting to being a racist is not a necessary requirement for being one. In Africa we hide under multicultural post-independence rainbow culture. In the West many countries also pride in rising multiculturalism and diversity.
When confronted with racist behaviour, most people will respond by saying their real intention was missed, or that they were misunderstood, or that their actions or utterances were taken out of context.
My experience with white folks tells me that personal intent often has little if anything to do with racism.
It appears many white folks are on a deep and unconscious level that just makes them racist against black people, and perhaps other people of colour.
Let us look at Donald Trump. His critics essentially see him as the face of white supremacy, if not as an outright racist.
He is under immense criticism for failing to convincingly condemn the Neo-Nazis and white supremacists after the clashes in Charlottesville, but he is defiant that there are “very fine people” within the ranks of members of the Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and other white extremist groups, just like there are “very fine people” among any other groups. Most people are appalled by the suggestion there is such a thing as “very fine” Nazi or white supremacist.
Evidence against Trump is overwhelming. He once declared that a Mexican-American judge could not possibly fairly consider his case because of his “ethnic background”. On many occasions Trump repeated unfounded allegations that “illegal immigrants” come to the US to rape and kill.
Such slurs on entire groups of people are quite common, and this is why Pauline Hanson thinks the burka is in itself terrorist attire, and that Islam should be banned because of terrorism.
It is not a secret that Donald Trump surrounds himself with white supremacists and nationalists as his advisors. After all, Donald Trump and his father were sued repeatedly for not allowing blacks and other non-whites to live in the apartment buildings they owned in New York City.
Donald Trump has argued all his life that black people are essentially a group of idiots and losers whose lives are a living hell.
It is Donald Trump that led the birth conspiracy that suggested that Barack Obama was not eligible to hold office at White House because he was supposedly not born in America.
Some analysts have suggested that, in fact, we have Trump as the US president simply because Obama was a black president. Trump is the white expression of regretting ever allowing a black person to lead America.
He is a racial statement in himself, an expression of resentment to anything black. That is precisely why Trump is obsessed with the idea of reversing all Obama policies at whatever cost.
These are some of the things Donald Trump has been reported to have said in the past:
“Black guys counting my money, I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are little short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.”
Trump reportedly continued on with: “I’ve got to tell you something else. I think that the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is; I believe that. It’s not anything they can control.”
In his campaign he openly targeted Muslims for banning from the United States, as he did blacks for racial profiling.
There is no logical reason that suggests Donald Trump is not racist.
Tolerating and associating with racists is and of itself an act of racism, and Donald Trump openly and repeatedly does that.
If someone in a position of authority has the privilege of overlooking racist behaviour by their friends, co-workers, relatives or race mates; the only fair conclusion is they care about these offenders, and they are willing to protect them despite their bigotry.
But to minority and marginalised groups racism is an existential threat to safety, health and security. We must understand a person cannot choose their blood relations, and even Trump did not choose his. What Donald Trump has chosen are his friends, acquaintances and political advisors.
Let us look at Trump’s supporters.
Researchers have said Trump supporters are more likely to be authoritarian, believe that blacks are lazy and less intelligent than whites; are hostile to Muslims, do not like immigrants.
In general, Trump supporters are afraid and fearful that “their country” is about to be “taken away” from them by non-whites.
It is abundantly clear that xenophobia and racism is present in many of those who support Donald Trump.
The question is now about nationalism. We all have countries and nations we call our own. What is the view of the African to the white immigrant? What is the view of the African to the Chinese immigrant?
Are we any more tolerant to the well-meaning white folk than Trump is to blacks and Muslims in general?
In Zimbabwe we have had a largely successful land reform programme. But are we still guided by justice and racial equality in matters relating to our land resource?
How wonderful it looks to see that white folk doing a rendition of “Mudhara Vachauya” from a black artiste Jah Prayzah. Is this not the Zimbabwe we imagined when we fought for independence and racial equality?
Are we instilling in the next generation the concept of non-racialism, tolerance and oneness of humanity?
Are questions being raised about reverse racism from the black person founded or unfounded?
Hopefully, I will have the chance and opportunity to explore these matters in detail in instalments to come.
Africa we are one and together we will overcome! It is homeland or death!!
Reason Wafawarova is a political writer based in SYDNEY, Australia