President of the United States and herrenvolk hero Donald Trump says that he does not have a racist bone in his body. Which is technically correct. The mind is not a bone! Trump, in a fine American tradition extending back to Vice President of the Confederacy Alexander Stephens, likes being racist but just hates being called racist.
In what is known as the Cornerstone Speech, Stephens famously praised the Confederacy, a short-lived collection of rogue American states that committed treason in defense of slavery. Stephens said the Confederacy’s “cornerstone rests upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition.”
And yet, Stephens claimed to be not racist! He even said, “Great improvements were going on in the conditions of blacks in the South,” which he claimed was hurt by “outside aggression.”
Donald Trump rose to political prominence through birtherism, the racist lie that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, which Ta-Nehisi Coates calls “that modern recasting of the old American precept that black people are not fit to be citizens of the country they built.” In 2017, Trump praised tiki-torch carrying white supremacists who descended upon Charlottesville, Va., to protest the planned removal of a Confederate “participation trophy” statue of the traitor Robert E. Lee.
And on July 14 this year, Trump went on Twitter and told four non-white congresswomen to “go back” to the “crime infested places from which they came.” All four are U.S. citizens, and three were born in the United States, but no matter. To Trump, African-Americans, Latinos, immigrants, refugees and Muslims are at best guests in what, to Trump, is a white nation. They can stay if they show the proper gratitude to the good white people who deign to tolerate them.
The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer writes, “When Trump told these women to ‘go back,’ he was not making a factual claim about where they were born. He was stating his ideological belief that American citizenship is fundamentally racial, that only white people can truly be citizens and that people of color, immigrants in particular, are only conditionally American.” Like Alexander Stephens, Trump can push for a society built around white supremacy. But as long he says he has no personal animus against “the good ones,” it’s a get-out-of-racism-free card.