Threats to Democracy: Racism

A full and vibrant democracy requires that its people be intentionally anti-racist. Only then does a society possess the basis for building a democratic society in which all persons are seen as equal before the law and equal in relation to each other. Only an intentionally anti-racist society will create systems that will enhance the flourishing of all persons in a diverse and pluralistic society and protect the equal participation of all in our political processes. Only then, can we truly become one out of many as a democratic community.

The presence of widespread racism within a society makes it much more vulnerable to autocracy. It is not an accident that we are seeing an attack on teaching about the reality of racism in our history at the same time we are seeing a more open embrace of autocracy by the religious and political right. Racism is one of the most powerful tools of the autocrat because it erodes the shared values of equal opportunity and equal participation in the political process that are the bedrock of a vibrant democracy. The autocrat uses racism to divide the people against one another and to put the advance of their racial group over the well being and flourishing of all persons in society. Racism is one of the most powerful fuels for nationalism and nationalistic fascism.

Very few things are more effective at convincing people that undemocratic autocratic measures are called for than tapping into their racism. In the United States, voter suppression is based primarily on race, gerrymandering is often based on race, mistreatment of refugees is most often based on race, fear and hatred of immigrants is based on race, refugee children being separated from their parents was based almost exclusively on race, calls for law and order are linked closely to race, attacks on public education and attacks on teaching real history in our schools are based on race, and we are in denial if we do not see that the attempts to overturn a free and fair election of a President who had an African American woman as his Vice President and who was elected by an extremely diverse pluralistic 81 million people as being connected to racism.

Donald Trump’s brand of autocracy Is clearly built on the foundation of racism, both his own personal racism and the widespread racism that is present within our society. Trump’s birther lie about President Obama was a test to see how racist the country was so that Trump could assess how effectively he could tap into that racism to manipulate voters. When Trump saw how many people believed his birther lie, he knew he had much to work with to create enthusiasm for and commitment to his America First/Make America Great Again message, an enthusiasm and commitment fueled by racism. This is why those who have embraced Trump’s autocratic leadership have made banning “critical race theory” their political rally cry in an attempt to come back to power.

The United States will never be a full and vibrant democracy unless it becomes an anti-racist society. The United States will never be an anti-racist society under the autocratic and racism based leadership of Donald Trump or persons who see him as their model. So for now, the most important thing the United States can do for the cause of anti-racism and the well-being of our democracy is to make sure that Trump and no one like him ever becomes President of the United States again.

Defeating Trump and Trumpism is only the beginning of moving our society in a more anti-racist and more democratic direction. As a society we have to fully come to terms with and make amends for our racist and genocidal past. If we cannot be honest with ourselves about our racist history and do something to make amends for it in the present, we will never be able to move to a more fully anti-racist and just future, and our democracy will perpetually be in peril.

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