Terry H. Schwadron

Aug. 25, 2020

As the Donald Trump Party was bombarding the air waves with warnings about Democrats allowing cities to burn, a video captured police in Kenosha, WI, shooting a Black man named Jacob Blake seven times in the back at point blank range as he opened a car door.

Blake remains in serious condition, hanging on to whether he will join the long list of Black citizens shot, choked, or beaten to death by police after routine stops or mistaken home entries. Kenosha’s Black community and supporters took no time to look at surrounding circumstances in the matter, and went to the streets in what ended as a night of fire and riot.

The contrast of droned Law & Order exhortations from Republicans while failing to acknowledge a serious and systemic problem in community policing, and more deeply, in the reactions to decades, even centuries, of racialism in this country could not be sharper.

The message of the Republican National Convention toward race is clear: There is no problem. And if there is a problem, it lags well behind unconditional support for law enforcement of any sort. And if there are questions about race still existing, re-electing Donald Trump will assure more jobs in and for the Black and brown communities, along with everyone else. End of discussion, except to note that Democrats want to bring the specter of burning cities to your white, suburban neighborhood.

As racial and income equality were central messages of the Democratic National Convention last week, the message to voters this week is: Beware.

A Positive Message?

Strangely to me, at least, the Trump campaign is patting itself on the back for presenting a comparatively “positive, upbeat” view of America while insisting that Democrats see a darker future under Trump. This view of race, as a central set of values questions, seems anything but positive. It is a replay of the carnage theme of the Trump inauguration.

If anything, the Trump campaign is insisting on blinders for Americans rather than masks to stop any imagery associating Trump with a riven racial divide that has broken wide open.

Yet, it is not news that his four years in office are filled with statements, campaigns and actions that have worsened race relations.

From Charlottesville to Muslim travel bans to removal of children from migrant families at the border, from an insistence that a Civil Rights division in the Education Department now turn against affirmative action and civil protests to suspension of any federal involvement in reviewing local police departments with substantial records of abuse cases, particularl along racial lines, the Trump administration has enabled and given voice to racial discord.

An unempathetic Trump is incapable of putting himself even momentarily into the shoes of what it is like to be Black in this country at this moment, or non-Christian, or even an angry left-leaning protester. Everything and everyone is measured only against the achievement of prosperity for those already riding success in this country.

Competing Messages

In lieu of considering a plan for the next four years of Trump, we’re asked to consider the great things he has done in these four years and just imagine the rest.

Fine, there was an economy that advanced for many, but not all, and a move to isolate America from the world, and tax cuts that helped the wealthy and corporations.

But health care is turned into a discussion about cutting cost for insurance policies rather than broadening access, housing is translated as freedom from regulation rather than addressing systemic problems of segregation, education policy is recognized as a new opportunity to support Christian parochial schools rather than uplifting public school experiences. In area after area, the Trump administration supports approaches that distance any serious questions about rectifying and balancing race relations.

The case is particularly acute in policing, of course, where the positions are well-known. But the Trump take — that white citizens are killed by police in greater raw number than Black citizens — hardly seems to cope with the idea that there are so many police killings altogether, to say nothing about addressing the serious racial components here.

Last week, racial discord and imbalance was established as a fundamental American problem, ranking with the pandemic, joblessness and climate change — a topic verboten in the Trump White House.

This week, the race issue has become the Stop the Burning issue.

Just as you don’t eliminate coronavirus with a made-up malaria treatment, you don’t address systemic racism by giving more riot shields to police officers.

The clear message of the racism-blind Republicans this week is that good economic performance that mostly benefits the wealthiest, overwhelmingly white America, is all that matters.



Journalist, musician, community volunteer