Dog whistles and bull horns

Rep. John Lewis lying in state at the United States Capitol.


Over the past several months, our current president has reached for the dog whistle he keeps in his breast pocket quite often and has blown it at intervals, just to make sure his base of racist supporters can hear him.

In his latest such call to them, President Trump has decried The 1619 Project and wants to withhold funding from public schools that use it in their curriculums. The project, launched by the New York Times, aims to provide a more thorough understanding of American slavery, which first became a “peculiar institution” here more than 400 hundred years ago.

During a summer of protests against systemic racism, this leader seeks to squelch an initiative that strives to educate young people by reexamining the legacy of enslaved Black people in our country. The project, which has its share of supporters and detractors (some have called it “revisionist history”), aims to give due credit to the enslaved who helped build this nation.

Is it any surprise that Trump has sided with the detractors?

Remember also how he retweeted a video of his white supporters riding in a caravan of golf carts at The Villages, a large retirement community in central Florida. One man, while trundling along, raised his fist and yelled out: “White power!” The pro-Trump man said this loudly, and he said it twice.

Of course, the video was soon taken down from Trump’s Twitter feed, and the press agents had to scramble to submit yet another excuse for the president’s…indelicacy, shall we say. They claimed the president didn’t hear the man’s exclamation, yet anyone who has watched that video can tell you that among the din of voices, that’s about the only thing that comes through loud and clear.

Now, I can’t believe there’s such a shortage of videos online that depict citizens supporting Trump. Yet our 45th president found it appropriate to pick one that promoted white supremacy to retweet.

Recall, too, Trump’s response to the death of civil rights giant Rep. John Lewis in July. He finished a round of golf, then put down his clubs long enough to issue the most boilerplate tweet imaginable, saying he was “saddened” and sent his “prayers,” and, well, that’s about it. Oh, and he called for the flags at the White House to be flown at half-mast. Quite literally, he did the least a sitting president could do.

He declined to attend the funeral and this, indeed, is par for the course. Lewis, a Black man, fought for the right to vote for all citizens, and the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., creaked under the weight of force brought down on the heads of Lewis and others like him who were marching for change.

Their cracked skulls and spilled blood are a testament to that. So why on earth would a draft-dodging president identify with such a selfless man and such a profound movement? He has other things on his agenda, such as actively trying to suppress the vote in the upcoming election by any means necessary.

When asked why he decided to blow off the funeral, Trump pouted and explained that Lewis chose not to attend his inauguration, so…tit for tat, is what we might glean from that. And even when pressed to just admit that Lewis had led a remarkable life, the president couldn’t even do that. This is the very portrait of pettiness.

If this refusal to honor the memory of Lewis was meant to serve as a higher-pitched dog whistle then with his recent rescinding of the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule — which was implemented by the Obama-Biden administration to fight housing discrimination — Trump has finally tossed aside the whistle, stepped up to the pulpit and blared his blatant racism from a bull horn.

Honestly, if this man thinks he’s trying to “save” white women from Black folks invading their peaceful, homogeneous suburbs, then Trump would fit right in a racially-insensitive film like 1915’s “The Birth of a Nation,” where the “heroic,” hood-wearing white men see it as their righteous duty to hold off the “scary” Black marauders during the Reconstruction. It seems about right, as this president is in favor of keeping the Confederate flag flying.

But in what could be the most obvious call to his base, Trump adamantly refuses to address why protesters around the country are denouncing racial injustice at all. This president looks at these people marching and wants to squash them with a mighty fist.

George Floyd’s murder sparked it all, yet how many times has this president publicly mentioned Floyd’s name? I can probably count them on one hand. What about his refusal to meet with Jacob Blake — a Black man shot in the back by police in Kenosha, Wis., and paralyzed — or Blake’s family when he visited Kenosha or even speak to them on the phone? Or even utter Blake’s name, for crying out loud?

This proves he either doesn’t understand the underlying problem that is at the heart of all this civil unrest or he simply doesn’t think it’s important. Or he flat out doesn’t care. Does that sound like a man that has done more for Black lives in this country than any other modern president, as he has often claimed?

Trump has never praised this movement or lauded all the positive steps in police reforms it’s already brought about. Not only does he fail to compliment it, he outright fights it. Shouting from atop his favorite social media soapbox, he has called the Black Lives Matter organization a “symbol of hate” and really makes no distinction between those rioting and looting and those peacefully marching.

And his hatred recognizes no international boundaries. According to “Disloyal: a memoir,” a recent book by his former personal attorney and devotee Michael Cohen, Trump has disparaged African leaders, notably Nelson Mandela, saying, “Mandela f—ed the whole country up. Now it’s a s—hole. F— Mandela. He was no leader.” The book also alleges he said, “Tell me one country that’s run by a black person that isn’t a complete s—hole. They’re all complete f—ing toilets.”

The same book avers that candidate Trump in 2016 said he would “never get the Hispanic vote,” because, “like the blacks, they’re too stupid to vote for Trump. They’re not my people.” And most disturbing of all, Cohen writes that Trump allegedly hired a Barack Obama lookalike to impersonate the 44th president, and “ritualistically belittled the first black president then fired him” on video. Small surprise, then, that Cohen also writes that Trump felt the only reason Obama had been admitted to Columbia University and Harvard Law School was because of “f—ing affirmative action.”

Now Trump has made no secret of his hatred of Obama, as he has systematically tried to rip up or rewrite every Obama presidential achievement he can get his hands on. (Or shamelessly take credit for the ones he hasn’t undone.)

An armchair psychologist might tell you his racism runs so deep that the reason he ran for president at all is because a Black man finally held the highest office in the land, and Trump couldn’t stand it. So naturally, he felt he must take a turn in the Oval Office to destroy everything Obama accomplished and fulfill some deep-seated need to exhibit superiority over a Black man.

Come election time, Trump is banking on his stalwart base of white adulators to lift and carry him to victory on sturdy shoulders. He might even be picturing it now, the way they’ll hoist him high, high, high above — so high that he can no longer hear the chants of those protesting for racial equality, the sobs of those grieving loved ones the pandemic has claimed, or the cries of Black families who have lost a relative to police violence.

He believes they’ll come running to him when it’s time. They only have to listen for the whistles and bull horn rants to find him.

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