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Alive and well

Racism is still a reality in this country, and true progress is a long way off

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Just when I thought I had heard all of his grievances, disinformation and alternative facts, Al Fonzi goes from the ridiculous to the absurd in his recent column.

In his Dec. 3 Rhetoric and Reason piece, "A conservative perspective," Fonzi claims that Richard Nixon's "Southern strategy" (a cynical attempt to bring racist white Southerners over to the Republican Party by a politician who would gain or hold power by any means) led directly to the "integration of all realms of our society," and "an overwhelming change of heart by hundreds of millions of Americans," thereby uplifting Black Americans to spontaneous equilibrium with their white counterparts.

Moreover, according to Fonzi, the election of Barack Obama by a "majority of white voters" was further proof that America, within a mere 40 years, had become totally color-blind and a different country from Fonzi's youth when young Black men were lynched for simply looking at a white woman or Black women were denied seating at the front of the city bus after a hard day's labor.

You know, Fonzi almost had me going there for a second, and I might just have agreed with him, to a certain extent, if the 2016 election had not gone the way it went. If Hillary Clinton had been elected and filled the White House and her cabinet with Hispanics, Asians, and African Americans, I would have had to admit that America was actually making meaningful strides toward integration.

Unfortunately, that's not what happened. Instead, the American people, through the anachronistic electoral college, elected an unapologetic racist to the most important office in the land. President Donald Trump promptly filled the most important cabinet posts with white men (sure, there was the token Black, Ben Carson, and Asian, Elaine Chao). I base my claim that Donald Trump is an unapologetic racist on several pieces of observable evidence.

First, Trump and his father were investigated by the U.S. Justice Department for well-founded allegations that the Trump real estate enterprise was denying rentals to qualified Black applicants in the 1970s. A mountain of evidence pointed to the Trumps' guilt. When queried on the topic in the 2016 election, Trump brushed it off and, most importantly, never apologized for even the semblance of bias by his father's company.

Second, in 1989, Trump made it his personal crusade to judge and execute the "Central Park Five," a group of Black and Latino men who were accused of assaulting a female jogger. Trump even took out a full-page ad in four New York City newspapers calling for the state to use the death penalty for murderers. The five men were later judged to be innocent of the crime. Trump has still never apologized.

Third, obviously dismayed that America had elected a Black man to the presidency, Trump concocted the highly bigoted "birther conspiracy," suggesting, without a shred of evidence, that Barack Obama had not been born in Hawaii and was most certainly an African Muslim plant set to destroy America. Although Trump finally grudgingly admitted to Obama's citizenship, he never apologized for the racist dog whistle.

Fourth, after the Confederate statue rallies in Charlottesville in 2017, Trump claimed there were "very fine people on both sides" of an altercation between Nazis and counter-protesters. To say that a group of Nazis includes "fine people" is antagonistic to the ideals framed by the Founding Fathers in 1787 and what my father fought for during World War II. Trump never apologized for his comments, not even to the mother of a young woman who was killed by a white supremacist at the rally.

And, if that were not enough evidence, Trump's recent hysterics about voter fraud focuses on four American cities—Atlanta, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Detroit—which have high numbers of minority voters. In fact, Trump would have these voters disenfranchised if he had his druthers.

That America would elect a racist and then give him another 74 million votes for his reelection—thank God, 81 million Americans voted for the other guy—proves to me that racism is not dead in this country, despite Fonzi's arguments to the contrary.

True equality can only be realized in this nation when all of us come to terms with the fact that our society continues to be skewed against minorities and that we need to make serious changes to several aspects of that society. I fear, however, that with individuals like Trump and Fonzi around, true progress is a long way away. Δ

Michael Smith wrote to New Times from Santa Maria. Put your thoughts together and email them to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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