When you’re a person of color — whether in politics, journalism or regular life — you’re accustomed to folks demanding that you criticize or denounce people, especially if they look like you.
Some of them deserve criticism for what they’ve said. (See Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.) Some of them aren’t worth the oxygen required of denunciation because they are marginal characters who don’t have any power. (See Louis Farrakhan.) But we do it because it is the moral and right thing to do.
Yet, the president of the United States goes on a racist tear against Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and his Baltimore district, and there is virtual silence from the president's supporters. The president of the United States goes on a racist tear against Omar and three other women of color elected to serve in the House of Representatives, and there is virtual silence. The president of the United States stands back for 13 seconds as his bread-and-circuses crowd brays "Send her back!" about Omar, and there is virtual silence. Actually, it's worse than that. Excuses are made.
Facing a grilling from "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said of Trump's racist tweets: "It has absolutely zero to do with race." He told Margaret Brennan, the host of CBS News' "Face the Nation," about the racist tweets about Baltimore, "I understand that everything that Donald Trump says is offensive to some people."
The pom-poms for President Donald Trump aren't limited to those inside his own administration. "Usually, when they are faced with charges of racism, Republicans hide a little bit. And the president's not hiding," Bryan Lanza, an adviser to Trump's 2016 campaign and transition, told The Washington Post. "And I think that's what the Republican voters like about him."
Kelly Sadler of pro-Trump super PAC America First Action also told The Post, “Republicans, for as long as I can remember in politics, we’ve all been called racists just because of our policy ideas. The Republicans who have been struggling with these criticisms want somebody to fight back. And the president now is reversing the game on the Democrats.”
See, this is the problem. What these Republicans see as a game has real-life consequences for people of color. These "policy ideas" have separated immigrant families and have left jailed children to wallow in their own filth in overcrowded border stations. The hatred and division of our white-nationalist president has given people such as Nancy Goodman permission to unapologetically act out their bigotry. And don't get me started on the general sense of menace enveloping the daily lives of African Americans.
“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up,” Hillary Clinton said at a New York fundraiser in September 2016.
More than two years and countless bigoted episodes into the Trump presidency with nary a moment of accountability for them, it turns out Clinton was wrong: It’s more than half. And if you don’t think it is, if you think I’m being overly harsh or painting with too broad a brush, if you are a Republican who has stood up publicly and consistently against the hate and division coming from Trump and his administration, then I eagerly await your receipts.
If you have none, this is your time to speak out.
Jonathan Capehart is a member of The Washington Post editorial board, writes about politics and social issues, and is host of the “Cape Up” podcast.