Sunday, June 5, 2016

Can Trump Make America White Again?

Although many people (including me) long thought there was no way Donald Trump would become the Republican candidate for President this year, he is now the presumptive nominee and could be the next President of the United States.
There are many explanations for the rise and continuance of Trump’s popularity, none of which are fully adequate. But since the bulk of Trump’s support comes from white Americans, especially angry white men, his slogan “Make America Great Again” is seen by some as his attempt to “make America white again.”
It is clear that he has received the support of, and endorsements from, various white supremacy groups in the country.
Back in November of last year, Huffington Post published an online article titled “Donald Trump’s Plan to Make America White Again.”
Similarly, “Make America White Again?” is the title of an article in The Atlantic in March of this year. The subtitle is “Donald Trump’s language is eerily similar to the 1920s Ku Klux Klan—hypernationalistic and anti-immigrant.”
This is an opportune time to think about the KKK, for according to the African American Registry, the founding of the Ku Klux Klan is said to have been 150 years ago, on May 31, 1866, in Pulaski, Tennessee.
Actually, that was the first KKK, which mostly shut down in 1871. It was reorganized in 1915 and flourished in the 1920s, peaking with perhaps as many as five million members in 1925. Then it began to decline again. 
KKK March in Washington, 1925
In the early 1950s it became quite active once again—especially after 1954 when the Supreme Court declared that the system of segregated schools in the U.S. was unconstitutional.
I have never directly seen KKK activities. It was quite different, though, for James Cone, an African-American who was born in southern Arkansas the same month that I was born in northern Missouri.
Cone writes, “During my childhood, white supremacy ruled supreme. White people were virtually free to do anything to blacks with impunity. The violent crosses of the Ku Klux Klan were a familiar reality” (The Cross and the Lynching Tree, 2011, p. xv).
In 2012 ABC News produced a 13-minute program titled “Inside the New KKK.” It featured interviews with people in the Klan and aired their talk about “race war”—based partly on their fear of the black President.
According to that program, there were then about 6,000 KKK members in the U.S. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that there are now 25 states with KKK chapters, and a total of 190 chapters. Only two are in Missouri and just one in Iowa, but there are eight in Arkansas and 52 in Texas.
The founding of the KKK in 1866 and its early history is excellently told in They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group (2010) by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (b. 1958), an award-winning American author of “juvenile literature.”
Her book on the KKK is well-researched and enhanced by numerous photos from the 1860s as well as a few from more recent times. According to Bartoletti, the original KKK creed maintained that the U.S. “was founded by the white race and for the white race only” and that the words “All men are created equal” meant only white men (p. 45).

Is that part of the meaning of the slogan “Make America Great Again”? While it may or may not be what Trump means by his slogan, that may well be how it is interpreted by many of his supporters—and one reason for his surprising, and somewhat alarming, popularity. 


  1. Thank goodness for the 15th and 19th Amendments. I shudder to think of where we'd be if voting was limited to white males (and I'm one of them). Thank you women and minorities!

  2. Who knows what Trump means by, "Make America Great Again"? Who knows what Trump means by anything he says. He can say, "It's just a suggestion." But what it suggests to many of his followers is, "Make America White Again." What Trump would do in any of the areas he has "suggested" is the vast imponderable that makes him so dangerous. Charles Kiker

  3. I meet with a pretty even mix of Democrat and Republican families during the week. These are mostly average Americans trying to get by, including union people. 75% white, 20% black (Asians and Latinos don't seem to be interested in insurance). The general consensus is that their budgets are being destroyed by the ACA, so they don't like DC Democrats who gave it to us. The Republicans promised to end it twice - they didn't, so they don't trust DC Republicans. The most vocal in support of Trump are the union guys. Nothing to do with racism. They want an outsider who can make change, especially since he slings around some optimism.

    Random: Back in college I joined the KKK (Kappa Kappa Kappa, or Tri-Kaps) the nursing sorority. Our president was a wonderful and charismatic black lady (before the switch to "African American").

    Also Random: LHS recently had the play "The Foreigner" as the Spring Play. It is one of my favorites. The lead's most memorable line is about the "sheet heads". It is a hilarious look a social ills. I highly recommend it. Dick Brown was my favorite actor of this when he performed down at Tiffany's Attic.

    I have never encountered the KKK personally, but was quite aware of their presence back in the early 90's. I have encountered the a couple of Christian Identity groups. Scary. They seem to be popular in central and southern Missouri. I was on a camping trip with a gay friend one of those times, and he thought we would both be lynched. Another time I drove into one of their gatherings in search of a Scouting campout. I was not welcome at all, but because I was in uniform, I was permitted to leave quickly. These is NOT typical, patriotic Americans. They are wackos. But I have encountered just as many with far left leanings, including the Nation of Islam, and some Christian "justice" groups.

    I am opposed to all wackos looking for trouble - especially when it is focused at me.

  4. Excellent blog, Leroy! Thanks. It reminds us that with every apparent gain for African Americans, there is backlash. As you know, I'm convinced (or at least view it as quite likely) that the most energizing element in America's current right-wing political reaction is white racism, both conscious and unconscious.

    I find myself wondering whether the Republican Party's primary policies without super delegates is in part why an outsider like Trump, in spite of widespread dislike within the Party, can win the nomination. I think Bernie and his supporters might be a little too quick to condemn that practice as rigging elections. Most organizations have means whereby they can protect themselves from "hostile" takeovers by outsiders. Is that rigging, or is it legitimate screening? Hm...

  5. Thank you Leroy for another excellent blog... Recently I've been re-reading James Fowler's Stages of Faith... Of course, one cannot do this without reviewing Piaget and his cognitive development, Kohlberg and his moral development, and Erickson and his psychological development. A significant statement (to me anyway) Fowler makes is that the vast number of people never progress beyond stage 3 (synthetic conventional faith identified with puberty and all the associated glandular emotional self absorption, etc.) out of 7 in faith because they never progress further in their cognitive, moral and psychological development. When I encounter the phenomenon we're seeing with Trump, his supporters, and his now being the presumptive Republican Nominee, something many thought an impossibility even 4 months ago, I cannot help but think of Fowler's model. Trump thinks/speaks on the level of teenage development which resonates with so many stuck on the same level. So it seems to me... I mean no disrespect to anyone in saying this... And, yes, I do get it that people are frustrated because they've not been getting what they want... But this only further reinforces the model... Dad (Mom) said, "No, you can't have the keys to the car." And those teens who haven't been taught respect (in this case, for other points of view, for due process, etc.) can be dangerously rebelious... Which Trump is and why even respected Republicans have so much of a problem with him... As far as the making of America white again, I see this as the canvas upon which today's picture is being painted, from the Trump phenomenon to my neighbors flying the Cofederate flag... The death of racism and bigotry is so way overdue...

  6. I am on the road with limited time to ask for permission to post comments, but here are some received about this post:

    From a Thinking Friend in Wisconsin: "Blessings on the next few days when the Holy Month of Ramadan begins. The Parliament sent out a wonderful message how we can counter the hateful so called Republicans and KKK by praying five times a day in our own tradition and fasting once a week and I would add doing an extra act of charity during this sacred time. This is my response to your wonderful needed witness bro! Deep bows of thanks!"

    From a local Thinking Friend: "Today's piece is most informed and your ending question and comment are chilling!"

    From another local Thinking Friend: "There's no doubt in my mind that Trump is a racist. In case you missed this most recent 'slip of the tongue' -- Trump on black supporter: 'Look at my African-American over here.'"

    From a Thinking Friend in Kentucky: "Sadly, you are probably on target, Leroy."

    From another local Thinking Friend (and the only woman to comment): "Well put, friend."

    And from my oldest (past 90) Thinking Friend: "Good article, I agree."

  7. And this from Thinking Friend Eric Dollard in Chicago, who regularly makes thoughtful comments:

    "The slogan, 'Make America White Again' seems perfect for the Trump campaign.

    "I find many things disturbing about Trump. If he were elected, I am afraid he would do some very stupid things with our foreign policy. But perhaps my greatest fear is that he would abuse the Department of Justice by appointing an attorney general who would file criminal charges against anyone, or media source, who criticizes Trump. He may be the biggest threat to American democracy since the war between the states.

    "And if Trump has a Republican Congress, watch out."

  8. I am much in agreement with all of the above, but I must admit I must approach this subject from an unusual and uncomfortable angle. I am writing from Portland, Oregon, where my wife and I are helping our daughter move into her new apartment. She came for the weather, fleeing the muggy heat of the midwest where she was living. Still in moving from Saint Louis, she is leaving a richly diversified city to what I read recently is the whitest major city in America.

    If you want to pause for a link, check here:

    Tracking down the CNN article, I just discovered quite a few other similar articles. Try a simple web search and you can find them, too.

    It turns out Portland's incredible whiteness is part history, part climate, and part of the same computer industry driven gentrification which is so famously upending San Francisco. Time for another confession, I also have a son in the computer industry who lives in San Francisco. My daughter would have loved to move to San Francisco, but it was just too expensive even for her, so she is doing her computer work in Portland.

    So, getting back to the KKK, I see no way for any American to stand back and see a problem "over there." America is so deeply entrenched in swirling racial issues that even the most simple of personal decisions have racial implications. I see hope that the flood of idealistic young people flooding Portland from all over America will bring some of the cosmopolitan outlook they learned elsewhere into Portland with them. It is something they must see and intentionally do. Portland's legacy of whiteness started long before the computer age, and was furthered by means as morally offensive as the KKK. At one point it was actually illegal for a black person to live in Oregon.

    This being America, ironies abound. One of the people on the expedition of Lewis and Clark was a black man, who despite being a slave, was allowed to to speak and vote in a critical overwintering decision the Lewis and Clark allowed the entire party to share in. Today, as we did some shopping, a friendly clerk was a young black man who shared with us that he spent two years working in Independence, Missouri, and he was so happy when he arrived in Portland six years ago that he decided to stay. I told him about song of the states that was popular when I was young. It includes the line, "What did Flora die of? She died of misery!"