Artist and activist Bree Newsome says that, like the rise of the Ku Klux Klan after the Reconstruction era, we're seeing a "peak moment" in racist backlash to the first black president. (Gillian Brockell,Kate Woodsome,Jesse Mesner-Hage/The Washington Post)
Opinion writer

The Senate’s only black Republican, Tim Scott of South Carolina, offered President Trump some useful post-Charlottesville advice. Asked what Trump should have said instead of boosting the “very fine people” among the participants in the white-supremacist rally, Scott said Trump should use the opportunity to “become better educated and acquainted with the living history of so many folks . . . who have gone through a very painful part of the history of this country, so that when he acts, when he responds and when he speaks, he’s not reading the words” but rather would be reflecting “a better understanding and appreciation” of America’s “painful past.”

Failing a showing of personal recognition of the country’s bitter racial history and still- nagging racial sores, Scott said, “It will be hard for [Trump] to regain that moral authority.”

Trump chose to ignore Scott’s words.

Instead of sitting down with people who have endured the pain of racism and bigotry, the president jetted off to a Phoenix campaign rally where he, in more than an hour of unconstrained musings, delivered to adoring fans a deceitfully abridged version of what he had earlier said about the hate-spewing, violent white supremacists on the streets of Charlottesville.

Artist and activist Bree Newsome, who rose to national fame when she removed the Confederate flag from the capitol building in Columbia, S.C., says the debate about Confederate monuments is really about justifying systemic racism. (Gillian Brockell,Kate Woodsome,Jesse Mesner-Hage/The Washington Post)

Trump hears from, listens to and is in sympathy with a part of America that does not wish blacks, Jews and people of color well.

I hear from them, too, most recently after my Aug. 12 blog post criticizing Trump and his defense of the “very fine people” among the chanting anti-Semites and racists.

Tim Celmer wrote in an Aug. 13 email at 1:23 a.m., “I just wanted to tell you white people have had enough!!!! . . . The pushback will be unimaginable!!! Just the beginning and we all know who is armed and more intelligent so . . . I would be very concerned if your [sic] a person of color. Just saying.”

Celmer is just a sample of what comes through the airwaves in Trump’s defense.

I consider Celmer’s allusion to “armed” white people a veiled threat mixed with bluff. But not his reference to “white people hav[ing] had enough.” That is reality. For pushback , look no further than Trump’s draconian budget cuts and deviant policies that reverse course on voting rights and programs that help the most vulnerable and economically disadvantaged. That’s the political face of “had enough.”

With all due respect, Scott, sit down and talk with Trump about what?

The president whines about “our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” and he suggests that the rest of us should be in anguish over the eviction of Robert E. Lee monuments.

Lee, commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and hailed by revisionists as being antislavery, wrote in an 1856 letter to his wife:

“I think [slavery] however a greater evil to the white than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing [read: slavery] is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence.”

I do not despair for a nanosecond over Lee’s removal from the public square anywhere.

I do, however, think of a monument to our history that virtually sits at Trump’s doorstep.

He should walk out the White House’s northwest gate onto Pennsylvania Avenue, proceed west for five blocks to 21st Street, turn right and walk two blocks to Thaddeus Stevens School .

Stevens, now worn out and closed, is a shrine to achievement against adversity, a legacy from an era of slavery that secessionist generals Lee and Stonewall Jackson fought to preserve. Were there no slavery, there would have been no institution in which white people had the right to buy and own black people. There would have been no Civil War, no black refugees entering the District of Columbia, no emancipation camps, no need for a publicly funded school — the first of its kind in the District — for black children. There would have been no Thaddeus Stevens School built in 1868.

Thanks to D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), Stevens School will soon reopen and resume its mission of educating children, including infants and toddlers.

Every member of the King family — my siblings and late parents — attended racially segregated Stevens. We learned to read from books handed down from white schools. We were taught about a D.C. legal and social system in which rights and privileges were based on skin color. We lived to see the legal end to that oppression.

Now comes Trump: a president who lionizes shrines to a disgraceful and dark past of which he obviously has little understanding and appreciation — contrary to the perspective of Scott and millions of us with families and forbearers who have “endured the pain.”

Read more from Colbert King’s archive.