I’ve spent the past week reflecting upon President Trump’s having referred to Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations at “shithole countries.” This is the latest in a growing history this President has of racist remarks going back notably to when he announced his bid for the presidency and referred to immigrants from Mexico as criminals and “rapists.” I’ll admit that I am often shocked by such statements.
President Trump has repeatedly stated that he is not a racist, even though his own comments and actions seem to contradict him. And here’s the thing about that, I believe the President is sincere in his assertions. I believe that he does not think he is a racist.
I grew up in a mostly-white mostly-middle class rural area of the United States and encountered various people who most people would probably call racists. Yet, to a person, these people did not think of themselves as racists. I believe this is because racism actually exists on a spectrum that includes things that aren’t racism.
I’ll explain. People who hold views the rest of us describe as racist see the world through the spectrum of social hierarchy. I am willing to bet that you could poll people who have racist views about things completely separate from racism and be able to identify those people with racists viewpoints very accurately. Chances are that the people who have racist views also would say that people who drive nice cars rank higher on the social scale than those who drive less-nice cars. Taller people rank higher than shorter people. The physically able rank higher than people with disabilities. The color of a person’s skin is just one factor among many that these people use to rank and categorize others.
Such is the case with President Trump. He doesn’t think he’s a racist, because he judges people based upon the color of their skin no more than he judges them based upon everything else about them. And he judges everyone based upon everything about them.
This brings me to the title of my post: It’s about respect.
We all need to work to view and behave toward one another with an equal amount of respect. The fact of the matter is that human beings are all basically the same. We all desire the same basic necessities of life. Our President doesn’t have a problem with race (or at least not just with race), he has a problem with disrespecting people he sees as beneath himself in the social hierarchy. And as a wealthy white male, he sees just about everyone as being beneath him.
So, Mr. President, I’m calling upon you to respect your fellow human beings. We are all the same. Please work to treat everyone with respect and in time you might find that people will stop accusing you of racism. It’s never too late to change. Together, we can build a better tomorrow.
Respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness: These are the the things the world needs more of.