Posted by: viewfromtheriva | April 5, 2017

All Trumped up and no place to hide: America’s great racial divide

The President-elect let's it all hang out

Like most of us, the President-elect doesn’t mind showing his anger

Three years ago, I wrote this and I think it needs to be posted again….

Living abroad teaches you a lot about your home country.

As I get older, I fondly remember growing up green as grass and how life seemed so much more simple, more wondrous–limitless possibilities!  Imagine my joy discovering sex, drugs, rock and roll all pretty much at the same time in college after having been way too skinny and miserable in high school. Talk about visceral experiences that shape a country, a character–what a couple of decades they were for me–from the Beatles, Kennedy, Vietnam, Black Panthers, Nixon, and my beloved Dodgers actually moving to LA!

I started paying much more attention to politics after college.  Hard not to.  So when Jimmy Carter put on his sweater and asked Americans to turn down their thermostat to help cope with the OPEC energy squeeze, I was impressed.  We began heating with wood and coal, recycling, doing our part to make America great again.

Alas, clearly I was in the minority, because Carter got booted out only to be replaced with Reagan and Bush–and ever since, American politics never quite seemed to get back on track.  Obama was the sea change we all craved, but he never lived up to his inspiring oratory and remained oddly aloof for a guy who can shoot 3 pointers wearing a suit.

This year, experiencing the US Presidential election from the warm confines of a 1,700 year-old Mediterranean seaside city was totally bizarre. Not just because I had to get up at 3AM to watch the debates but because American presidential politics had devolved into a mean-spirited, reality game show. Instead of substance we got one-liner put downs and tweets.

I knew Trump would win.  Not by much, but it did not matter–the nerve he struck was deep and wide and laid bare the wounds that I feel America has never really tried to heal.  And while it is pretty refreshing to see him poke a finger in the Establishment’s eye by “breaking with historic protocol” telephoning the President of Taiwan (which the NY Times and the US State Department reacted to with hysterical disbelief), his freestyle “my way or the highway” mantra scares the hell out of a lot of Americans.

Yes, I can be happy!

And like most of us, he can also be happy.

Trump’s US (as in us educated mostly white folks) vs. THEM (as in everyone else) rhetoric also caused more than a shudder outside America, where many people still remember hearing stuff like this from some of history’s most sinister figures.

The sharp right, global, neo-nationalist political shift is clear.  But its roots are less so, which made me think about what’s really going on here and why America seems to be such a very different country than it was when I was a kid….or is it?

What haunts me is the “us” vs. “them”.   We’ve all heard this before.  It’s the Jews, the Irish, the blacks….them.  Those people.  Monkeys, Micks, Kikes, Spics. Dagos. They just aren’t “real” Americans.

Could all of this posturing still really be about race?

The idea about creating “pure” Americans, Russians, Germans, Chinese, etc. has always been the Holy Grail of some truly warped minds.  Despite “experiments” to cull the weak, castrate “deviants”, inter-breed Aryans, etc. it’s disease, poverty, war, forced migration and inter-marriage that trump “purity” every time –but somehow a lot of people still believe that racial purity is something really worth striving for, and worse, “protecting”.

Worries about race, often obsessive, have been part of American culture since our forefathers arrived on the Mayflower.  Instead of celebrating their great good fortune that these “brown-skinned savages” taught them how to stay alive instead of killing them on the spot, Mayflower immigrants worried more about how to keep white and Protestant.

Although the Indians called these European newcomers, “paleface”, the epithet was benign.

Naive and gullible, native Americans signed treaty after treaty with the U.S. government, landowners, private companies and others believing they and their pure way of life would be “protected”. Betrayed by the “Great White Father”, it didn’t take long for their paleface oppressors to become “white devils”.

Tribe after tribe was stripped of its property and its pride, forced to live on worthless “reservations” and eventually tracked down and murdered en masse.

To me, America’s native Indians were white people’s first “niggers” and the planned extinction of almost an entire race is still the greatest of American shames.

But I digress.

No one argues that we are not a nation of immigrants, but the nostalgia many have for all those who arrived as “good people” fleeing “bad people” (as Trump likes to say), is yet another way America chooses to forget its often bloody, ruthless racist history against immigrants, people of color and the poor.

Instead of helping hands welcoming the waves of Greeks, Chinese, Italians, Irish, etc. who arrived, they were often met by some pretty nasty Americans eager to take advantage of them (watch Scorcese’s film “Gangs of NY” to get some idea).  Ghettoized and exploited, immigrant America was far more of a crucible than a melting pot.

Unlike the millions who have immigrated here, Americans born here have never lived under tyranny–worried about coming home and finding their parents “disappeared”; watching friends being butchered for not being the right tribe, religion, sect.

Fact is, most Americans take their freedom for granted.  Equality and justice are part of our Constitution. But for more than 80 years after the Constitution, blacks were still enslaved and still being lynched for as much as looking “the wrong way” at a white woman until the 1960’s.

Justice and equality in America for people of color on the lower end of the economic scale is not the same as it is for even poor whites.

Despite being a nation where most of us respect and follow the rule of law, some “justice” is too often at the point of a gun.  In some cities, murder is an everyday reality, no big deal. With tens of millions of handguns, rifles and assault weapons ready and waiting, along with the right to use them whenever you want, no wonder more than 1000 people a month are killed by handguns in the US and another 20,000 each year shoot themselves to end it all.

End it all?  Wait a minute, America is a country where you can be anything, isn’t it?. Where the 2016 average median household income was $55,000/yr.  Where the starting salary for college grads at Amazon, Google, facebook etc. this year is over $100,000!

How can a country that promises so much and makes good on many of its promises be so uncivilized to allow such carnage?

Because this election finally made it painfully clear to me that the root cause of what ails America is its racism–not bad trade deals or an economy built almost entirely on credit.

All Americans know what happens to white collar “criminals” who fleece stockholders for billions and whose Ponzi schemes and reckless management force thousands of employees out of work–a wrist slap or a fine.

For Americans with education, money and the right color, gentle justice is a given–compared to 69% of black American high school drop outs who risk going to jail during their lifetime (only 13% of their white brothers will).

In fact, one in three black Americans will actually go to jail. And despite accounting for less than 13% of the population, blacks are 37% of America’s inmates.

America is not the only country that uses violence to solve its problems.  But when it comes to mayhem and murder, we are really good at killing each other. For those of you who don’t know much about the only war to be fought on American soil since the American Revolution, the sheer numbers of Civil War dead still defy comprehension:

Nearly as many men died in captivity during the Civil War as were killed in the whole of the Vietnam War. Hundreds of thousands died of disease. Roughly 3% of the population, an estimated 750,000 men, lost their lives in the line of duty…”

I believe that the aftermath of the Civil War is still with us.  Despite being beaten, the South was punished economically, politically and socially for decades.  Like Germany after WW1, there was no healing or even an attempt to heal.

As my friend, a retired college professor, poet and writer puts it, the “chickens always come back to roost”.

The peace that followed the “war to end all wars” lasted less than 40 years.

In less than 8 hours, 25,000 Americans lost their lives at the Battle of Antietam

In less than 8 hours, using just single shot rifles and bayonets, 25,000 Americans died at the Battle of Antietam in the Civil War

Although the Civil War ended more than 150 years ago, American blacks, Mexicans, Asians and other people of color (and now especially Muslims), still suffer from wounds they have absolutely no responsibility inflicting.

The real American tragedy is that way too much of this abuse is now so woven into the fabric of everyday white American life it goes unnoticed.  Too frightened or privileged to understand it, we choose to become politically correct or incorrect.

Even today, when I go back to the states and into a department store where I could be stuffing my pockets with goodies, my black friends are watched like hawks—“can I help you?”

“No, he’s just looking and by the way, he makes $3,500 a week at Microsoft.”

For decades, banks and other “equal opportunity lenders” drew “redlines” to keep blacks and other minorities out of certain neighborhoods by denying them mortgages if they wanted to buy property there.  Now “illegal”, such practices still go on with a wink and a nod.

As does the practice of purposely selling homes or renting apartments in “white” areas to blacks, Hispanics, Muslims and others to purposely drive prices down allowing speculators to make a killing re-selling them at fat profits.

Even Jesus likes the Donald

Rapturous crowds, praising the Lord and Jesus, for their new savior

Whether it’s a KKK hood, priest’s collar, Brooks Brothers shirt, Muslims on the Haj–white has always been the color of innocence, of good, of purity.  Of all things righteous. 

Black?  The color of the devil–dirty, bad, evil, foul-smelling, foretelling of something nasty.  Not to be trusted.

Blacks couldn't sit at lunch counters and had to ride in the back of buses until 1964!

Unable to sit at lunch counters, in the front of a bus, stay in many hotels until 1964, blacks resorted to “non-violent sit-ins”.  Here angry whites pour food on them and sympathetic whites to show their contempt











I remember being 12 years old, living in New Jersey, going on a family vacation to Virginia Beach, We had to take the ferry from Delaware.  One side of the ferry the seats were totally filled with all black people and the other side with all white people.  And the two drinking fountains at the front of the ferry? One was marked White and the other Colored.  To me this made no sense because living for years in NYC and then New Jersey, black people were like, black.  Big deal.  Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella were still my heroes.  So I took a squirt from the Colored hoping maybe it was chocolate flavor.  

Nope, same as White.

So I get off the ferry waiting for my parents to bring the car and go up to a guy fishing and pull on his pants, “hey mister, why are all the black people on one side and the whites on another”

And he spits.

Then, in a southern drawl I will never forget, says, “well, lemme tellya son, yo here in da south and these people smell and carry disease, an that’s why we keep ’em separate and call ’em, niggers”.

Well, folks, this is the kind of lesson one rarely forgets.  And repeating it to my mother made it indelible. A tremendous slap across the face, accompanied by a “don’t you ever say that again!”.

The year was 1955.

Zoom ahead 50 years and my friends are still being followed around in shops and discriminated against in employment, where they can live, and on and on.  If you haven’t seen the 2013 movie “The Butler”, which begins with a black cotton farmer being murdered in front of his son because he dared ask why the farmer was screwing his wife whenever he wanted, it’s a history lesson of America’s racial sickness.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.


Since Americans cannot talk about race openly, we masquerade our deep seated fears of being raped, held up, living next to, working with, marrying, etc. by using politics and religion to defend our “rights” to think and act the way we do.

What about the Constitution? The Bible?

Our racism is so hard-wired and pervasive, it allows us to watch Africa disembowel itself with murder, disease and tyranny while coming to the rescue of any European, South American, Balkan or even Asian country.

Black and white.

And yellow.

Enter China.

When it comes to racial purity, the Chinese are some of the truest believers on the planet, but they are neither black nor white.  It’s the reason I think they are so welcomed in Africa–yellow skin making friends with black skin–helping with education, training, economic support in return for getting raw materials they lack.

As Trump would tweet, “smart, very smart!”  And it is and they are.

Now compare how we whites deal with Africa?  Remember when Belgium owned the Congo? And how long Apartheid was openly supported by America and many European countries?

And what was the source of slave labor that created so much early American wealth and kept England rich?

Still blinded by our racism and our continuing failure to learn anything from history, we now pay others to do our dirty work–which basically means brutally repress and foment the wanton murder of non-whites all over the world who are either in the way of “progress” or simply don’t want to play by our “democratic” rules.

Eager to play proxy, our “allies” are so encouraged to buy American weapons, we are now the biggest arms merchants on earth.

No country is too poor or too rich.  Don’t have the cash?  We’ll lend it to you or take your commodities at dirt cheap prices to help pay for those advanced jet fighters you will never use “defensively”.  And it doesn’t even matter if  your country doesn’t really need our weapons–surely, you will know who to sell them to since our Congress may not allow us to do so.

So in Africa, we provide millions in military support to tyrants like Robert Mugabe and other despots who loot their countries and murder their citizens.  The reason is always to help them “defend” their country against”terrorists”–citizens who want to take their country back, and maybe even make it great again, like Donald Trump.

Who was one of the biggest buyers of our weaponry in 2016?  Peaceful, prosperous, “democratic” Qatar! Do they need them?  Do they have lots of enemies nearby?  Nope, they are our squeaky clean poster boy, quietly selling them on to friendly, sectarian religious fanatics to “keep the peace in the Middle East”, and clearly earning a fat profit in the process.

Pakistan and Egypt are also in the top 10–despite impoverished economies.  And both are brutal regimes where anxious citizens living in fear of their own government is a given.

So now we have a President whose dream is not Martin Luther King’s.  A President who thinks life is all about dollars and cents, getting the best deal, fighting force with force.

Bereft of nuance and basic political acumen, Trump is the proverbial bull in the china shop.  Yes, he will break a lot of stuff, but he will also be looking out for his own kind, which now includes folks he was never chummy with.

As Joe Biden said, maybe he should read it  (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Maybe it is me who is still naive, but I really hope he comes around.

When he first met Obama, who he claimed wasn’t even born here, he realized he was smart, nice and even cool–but now thinks he was tapping his phones.  Born and bred in New York City, Trump has known and hired lots of blacks, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans and other minorities, so at least he’s not completely clueless.

And while he still sees things mostly in black and white, dollars and cents, he also believes that the people ALREADY here, the “good people” who are of all different colors, are way ok….Americans!

Maybe it will dawn on him that people who look and act like these multi-colored, multi-religious Americans living outside the US may also be good people…but their rulers “not so good people”.

Maybe he will understand that racism, not trade, is the great divide.

But unless he and the rest of us honestly make the effort to face our racism, we will be forever be at each others throats all too willing to blame “others” whenever things get tough.

Instead of worrying about a lousy trade deal or building a wall, Trump and the rest of us need to realize that way too often it really is all about race and that while it’s one thing to fund proxy wars abroad to keep us white, isn’t facing a Second American Civil War the far greater danger?



  1. Well said, Robert!

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