Schwab: More than change at top needed to quell racism’s rise

To embrace the hate we’re seeing, one has to be carefully taught. Same goes for ending it.

By Sid Schwab

Racists, anti-Semites, xenophobes, homophobes: They’ve always been with us.

When I lived in Salem, forty years ago, anti-Semitic leaflets were placed in my mailbox. Back then, though, such people would sneak around at night. Now they feel empowered — encouraged! — to express their hatred in the open, confident that leaders who ought to condemn them in the strongest possible terms, and with the strongest possible actions, will look the other way, even suggesting that among them are “some very fine people.” No longer must they seethe, full of resentment, in the dark.

Last week eight such America-loving patriots were arrested right here in Snohomish County, after assaulting a black DJ in a bar, shouting the expected racial slurs. Recently discovered, a Monroe white-supremacist had killing Jews in mind, and the weapons to carry it out. Local schools are reporting a significant upsurge in racist incidents. Across our state, hate crimes increased by 42 percent in 2017, much faster than the already-shocking national average.

As with the force of a particular hurricane and climate change, it’s not possible to point to a specific hate-crime and blame it on the climate of white nationalism Trump has brought to his “presidency.” But the trend is obvious, one more thing on the list of outrages about which Trump’s 39-percenters are either happy, or against which they’re unwilling to speak out. Trump’s empathetic first response to the recent murders in a synagogue was to blame the victims for not having armed guards.

Even white women are getting in on it. Nearly daily we see video of one shouting down a black or brown person for existing, or wearing a hijab, or not speaking English. One expects such behavior from a certain stratum of white men, like those pictured in the story about the beating. The sort who’d rather not get to know people who don’t look or think like them, except eight to one in a bar fight. (Southern Poverty Law Center: tinyurl.com/snoco9)

But those women enjoy their white privilege as much as their menfolk do, and must feel equally threatened as they see American demographics running away from them. It’s an answer to why any woman would vote for a grossly misogynistic “president” or anyone in his party, as it seeks to relegate women to mere vessels for the seed and service of men, as God intended.

Not all of the minority of Americans who continue to support Trump, even as his crimes and those of his “only the best people” become clear, are openly racist. Many are merely suffering from self-inflicted blindness; or, one supposes, have enough remaining humanity to keep themselves from acting out. If they’re appalled, they need to say so.

Those others, though. They’re consumed by the rage born of self-scorn; the kind that can be mitigated only by hating those in whom they don’t see themselves reflected. The liberal in me should be sympathetic, I guess, think of ways to help them with their self-esteem issues. Establish workshops to undo the damage their parents did. Show them “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” re-runs, offer ice cream. Public schools teaching tolerance is, after all, somebody’s duplicitous “agenda.” Probably George Soros’ agenda.

Ages 2 and 4, my grandchildren play with any kid of any color willing to play with them, laugh and do silly things, at the park, at preschool, seeking only fun with people their size. It’s both heartwarming and, knowing what’s coming, heartbreaking. Those children, also growing up in our Pacific Northwest, have nurturing parents teaching them that race, religion, attire don’t matter; only being kind to each other does. To embrace the hate of which we’re seeing more and more, one has to be taught, with intention. Because the last thing haters want to see, given their own insecurities, is their spawn rejecting their family values. So teach them they will, birthing an endless source of damaged, dangerous people. (YouTube: tinyurl.com/tot2hate)

There’s little reason to expect change. Even if future presidents have a moral compass, absent in our current one, if they love America for what it is instead of what so many embittered Trump supporters wish it were, people longing for the not-great old days will remain, finding ever more targets for their self-pitying anger. And, as they love to remind us, they’ll be armed.

So, sadly, it falls upon local law enforcement and brave activists to protect decency, for we can expect no help from the self-described “nationalist” in the White House.

Email Sid Schwab at columnsid@gmail.com.

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