February is the month we celebrate black history in our country, and this year it comes at a time when tension over racial matters has been significantly inflamed by the current political climate. The man occupying the Oval Office right now has been catching a lot of flak from the black community for playing a major role in said inflammation, and that criticism is certainly not without merit.
Whether he’s referring to African nations with an expletive I won’t repeat here, defending white nationalist demonstrators immediately after one of them killed a young woman by running over her with his car or referring to black professional athletes who kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice with another expletive I won’t repeat here, Trump has earned his lowly single-digit support among black Americans.
There is a good reason why white supremacists whole-heartedly support Donald Trump as they have no other president before him, and it ain’t because of his tax cuts.
But the racist element of Trump’s appeal shouldn’t have taken anyone by surprise. The resentment that simmered in some American’s hearts when Trump’s predecessor (a black man with a Muslim-sounding name) was in office was ready and waiting for release when The Donald brought it out of the shadows and gave it a public face.
Do you really think that if Joe Biden had been president instead of vice president and had pursued the exact same policies that Barak Obama did that we’d have had to endure the “birther” nonsense or suggestions that he was secretly plotting to give the country away to Muslim extremists? No way.
The situation is distressing not just for black folks but for all of us who want a country that is united by our shared values and not divided by superficial differences and prejudices that should have been abandoned long ago.
Deep-seated cultural prejudices take a long time to turn around and there will always be setbacks. It is certainly distressing to witness overtly racist behavior from our chief executive, but it is worth noting that the aid and comfort he is giving to the white nationalist crowd does not sit well with a lot of white folks either, me included.
In the midst of all this negativity we should remember that much progress has been made in the area of racial relations over the course of our nation’s history. If we disregard the dumpster fire that’s going on in Washington, D.C., for a minute and examine how we, the common folks, live and interact on a day-to-day basis, we’ll see that a we have made a lot of progress towards becoming a true melting pot in recent decades.
For example, I am old enough to remember that back in the 60s and 70s it was still considered a bad development if a black family moved into a formerly all-white neighborhood. Property values, it was commonly assumed among white residents of said neighborhood, would immediately be negatively impacted if they did.
But today I live in a very nice, racially diverse neighborhood and the racial makeup of that neighborhood wasn’t even something that was a consideration when I bought my house. That seems like progress to me.
And for the record I support the observance of Black History Month as something that is still good and necessary for our country. Unlike those who complain that we should be able to have a White History Month to balance things out, I don’t think there is any long-standing deficiency in recognizing the white folks who have helped make our country great that needs to be addressed.
We’ve come a long way since the days of treating an entire race of people like property that can be bought and sold, but we clearly still have a long way to go before those wounds can heal completely.
Bill Ferguson is a resident of Warner Robins. Readers can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.