Racism. In principle and practice, a belief in the cultural and social, intellectual and ethical superiority of the dominant group by the dominant group, often involving the employ of power (which includes the denial of opportunity and privilege to perceived inferior groups) to retain dominance. In the American historical context, racism, as a word and an understanding, was in common use by the late 1920s, the dominant group being white Americans and the inferior groups being Native Americans, Jews, and, in the earlier period, Negroes, now, generally referred to as African Americans.
Long have I believed that America – at its very founding, with institutional slavery, predicated on an abusive dignity-robbing, death-dealing dominant-subordinate class structure, being an essential economic and social element of national-development – is marked, tainted by racism as an indelible strain, stain in our country’s DNA. Racism like chaos (racism is chaos) is always with us and, thus, ever-ready to appear when our structures of order and civility break down or are broken down.
This, for me, is one of the principal aspects (and, I dare and fear to project, will be a legacy) of the Trump era. One indicator. The number of white supremacist and white nationalist groups, trafficking in anti-subordinate, anti-immigrant, and racist rhetoric, has increased.(1)
All of this, for me, as sorrowful as this is, is not the greatest, gravest danger to America. Mr. Trump and what I believe he hath wrought is but the animating force.
Our greatest, gravest danger, I think, I believe is that we, Americans, staring into the abyss of our shared chaos and blinking(2), have entered a post-modern period of civil war.
(1) The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) (See https://www.splcenter.org; Hate Map), which began tracking the ebb and flow of what are oft termed hate groups, reports a 30% increase in the number of said groups beginning in 2015; coinciding with Mr. Trump’s launch of his campaign for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. Hate groups, according to the statistics of the SPLC, number approximately 1,020; an increase from 784, as recognized in the 2011-2014 period. Moreover, since 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) (See https://www.fbi.gov/; Hate Crimes, Civil Rights Program, Hate Crime Statistics) has reported a concomitant 17% spike in hate crimes. Mr. Trump may consider these statistics “fake news.” I do not.
(2) “(A)nd blinking” is my euphemism for our, meaning Americans as a whole, failure to face the chaos, and then labor together to rebuild the structures that, having been pushed aside, allow us to behold it. Rather than do that difficult work, we, as a people, have responded in a variety of ways. As I’ve observed, among the most common (which, on occasion, honesty compels me to confess that I’ve seen in my own behavior), we divide into our über-partisan ideological camps, we engage more in debate to prove the validity of our points of view and less in conversation seeking to understand other points of view, and, in debate or argument, when the proverbial irresistible force (of a given position) meets the immovable object (of the counter-position), we stop speaking to one another and, at times, sever our relationships, even with family members and long-lived friends.