Apparently, America’s racism is coming out of the shadows again.
I’ve had glimpses of it over the years as an immigrant in Canada and, later, America. And I’ve watched it fade in both countries.
Canada evolved rapidly as the population became more diverse and enlightened politicians pursued increasingly inclusive policies. I was heartened when a young Haitian woman was appointed governor general, for example.
America changed much more slowly than Canada, but when Barack Obama was elected president, I thought the sun had broken through, that Americans might finally be ready to embrace Martin Luther King’s dream.
Yes, I know I was naïve. There were shameful acts of racism directed at the Obamas throughout his presidency. But the general climate seemed less extreme. Overt racism seemed to be less acceptable on Main Street.
I’m sure you’ve noticed the shocking reversal in the past year or so. The conservative media have shamelessly bared their xenophobic instincts. And white supremacists have crawled out from under their rocks.
Racism has become so acceptable again that college basketball fans in Kansas recently felt free to ridicule black kids on an opposing team by making monkey noises.
I think Trump is to blame for the trend.
With his unabashed remarks and tweets and his obvious sympathy for violent white supremacists, he has given mainstream America permission to be openly racist again.
But I believe America – despite its flaws – is an essentially decent nation. And I am confident that this phase will pass. I believe Trump will be rejected eventually, that enlightenment will triumph over primitive tribalism and that, as Dr. King put it, this will one day be “a nation where (people) are not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”