On September 15, the Trump campaign sent out a message that Trump is withdrawing his claim that Barack Obama was not born in this country. For five years, Donald Trump rang the bell and questioned (yelled) if Obama was a natural born citizen. This stemmed strictly because of his name and heritage. More specifically, it was conceived out of a bigoted motive to delegitimize our country’s face of progress.
So in a way, the term “birther movement” was appropriate in more ways than one. This “movement” capitalized on people’s fear of Barack Obama, hinting that he was not a “real” American. This naturally brought out an ugly divide within America, as people not only questioned his legitimacy to hold office, they unsurprisingly utilized this as a vehicle to not respect the president or his authority.
As disgusted as I was (as well as millions of Americans) that Trump made these baseless accusations, I am possibly more disgusted at his now about face regarding his five-year crusade. Not only is this turnaround abhorrent, it signifies the dangerous racial undertones that plagued this birther movement in the first place. That a white (male) person can make ANY accusation regarding a person of color, and since that accusation may fall within a prejudice, it is given life and ultimately believed.
Last month, the country was embarrassed by one of its Olympic athletes, swimmer Ryan Lochte, when he apparently made up a fantastical story about getting robbed in a poor Brazalian favela by obviously brown assailants. For 24 hours, people automatically believed his rendition of the event, even though any person with a keen eye for fiction could see that this story did not make any sense.
What happened afterwards was both funny and disgraceful. Not only did we all eventually end up finding out the truth, the facts revealed that it was in fact Ryan (and some other swimmers) who were breaking the law. The other disturbing thing about that incident was how mainstream media tried to minimize the aftereffects of the truthful ordeal by saying the swimmers only “exaggerated” the story and that they were just kids having fun (the swimmers were 27-32 years old).
This country has had a terrible history of accusing minorities of ridiculous actions, only then to find out that not only was the story a lie, but the belief in that lie was stoked in racism, ignorance and bigotry. It’s why for years, black men were cautioned not to date white women, because if they are accused of rape, the jury will automatically take up on the side of the white female. More importantly, blacks in general have been demonized and characterized as animals for so long that words such as aggressive, loud and angry are automatically (instinctually) attributed to African Americans more often than any other race. By and large, African Americans are regarded as the most feared criminal arch-type. This also plays into why stops by the police are a little more tempestuous if the driver (or passenger) is black.
However, thanks to Trump, characterizations of one race being more dangerous than the rest do not solely fall on the shoulders of African Americans. Through his 18-month campaign, Trump has played on the fears of white Americans by saying not only are Hispanics/Latinos taking their jobs, but also they are criminals rapist and terrors to the community and society as a whole.
Speaking of “terror,” he also capitalized on the fear of Muslim Americans by suggesting a ban on all Muslims entering the country. These characterizations helped propel him to the Republican nomination, and now here we are less than 60 days from the election and this man, a racial opportunist, is within striking distance of the presidency.
Trump walking back off of the claim that President Obama is an American is not only dangerous, but problematic. Not only is it five years too late, simply because those who believe he is not an American have already fermented that thought, but this about face also implies another issue: that it took Trump to validate President Barack Obama. While the very notion of that thought is laughable. The inherent (white) privilege that a white male does not believe in the legitimacy of an educated black male, until he himself has given the final approval is dangerous and sad. Maybe just like the birther movement, Trump will eventually turn around and apologize for the racial statements he made against Latinos/Americans. However, just like the birther claims, people’s fears have crystalized to hate, and unfortunately, it is hard to walk back from such strong feelings. And that my friend is the real problem with this Trump about face.