Pardon me if I don’t join the hunt for a recording of Trump speaking that foul word. For me at least, Trump’s use or nonuse of a gross racial slur against African Americans is not a litmus test for deciding his fitness for the office. With or without the n-word, Trump is a disgrace to the presidency, a stain on that high office that will take years to eradicate.
Offensive as it is, the n-word is no line in the sand, the crossing of which marks the starting point for racism. Offensive words can surely get you placed in the zone; but it’s your deeds that really gut and destroy. Deeds are how, when and where true feelings get revealed. It is through their prism that Trump should be viewed.
Manigault Newman nailed it in “Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House.” Trump, she wrote, built himself up as a law-and-order candidate who would wage war against terrorism, street crime and illegal immigration. But he blamed the country’s problems completely and specifically on certain subsets of the population: black and brown people. “It was hard to miss the racial undertones of his speech. When he railed against criminals, terrorists, and gangs, many figured he was not talking about white people,” Manigault Newman wrote. “He said, ‘I am your voice.’ And by ‘your,’ he meant steel workers and coal miners in the Rust Belt. It was classic dog-whistle racism.”
Of course, Trump has long shown his true colors: refusing to rent to black tenants; his persistent efforts to undermine the legitimacy of America’s first black president by questioning Barack Obama’s citizenship; finding some “fine people” at a neo-Nazi-Klan-white-supremacist rally; denigrating black athletes with “get that son of a bitch off the field”; singling out a black woman as a “lowlife” and a “dog”; branding African and Central American countries as “shitholes.” All evidence of where Trump stands on race.
Besides, the most offensive and destructive actions against black people have been carried out without public utterance of the n-word.
That word was seldom, if ever, heard in the halls of Congress. “Nigra” was the word of choice used by House and Senate Dixiecrats in the 1950s and ’60s as they went about sabotaging civil rights legislation in Washington and thrilling their Southern audiences with racial demagoguery back home.
Obviously, the true meaning of “nigra” wasn’t lost on anybody. The n-word was what they had in mind, and screwing with people of color was the intent.
And the intent was the same when:
●North Carolina enacted voter-ID laws so discriminatory that a federal court found they “target[ed] African Americans with almost surgical precision”;
●Wisconsin constructed ID measures, which caused the biggest decrease in turnout in black neighborhoods;
● And the U.S. Supreme Court approved Ohio’s efforts to purge voters because they missed a few elections and didn’t respond to a postcard.
And guess what? Nary an n-word was spoken as they did those dirty deeds.
The threat to rights and privileges of citizenship is greater than an offensive word.
The quest to find evidence of Trump’s use of the n-word expends energy that could be put to better use. In my view, the only way Trump would not have used the word is if he never knew of its existence.
Yes, we have a racist and intolerant bigot in the White House. But the country has a much more serious problem on its hands. Trump is a president with delusions of grandeur, a bully who revels in being feared, a man with a past that is catching up to him. But he has power at his disposal to do harm to anyone he sees as a threat.
Consider his retaliation against public officials who launched the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign — he threatened their security clearances, and this week he actually revoked one, using a flimsy rationalization. Consider his targeting of Canada and his launching of trade wars. Consider his alleged purge of civil servants deemed disloyal to his agenda. Consider the lengths to which he is going to discredit a free press and undermine the legitimacy of the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in our presidential election.
Trump and the n-word? Disgusting as the thought is, that could be the least of our worries. Think about it: a duly authorized federal investigation involving a presidential campaign and possible foreign interference, and the president wants to shut it down. So much for accountability, justice and the rule of law. So much for the presidency.
Read more from Colbert King’s archive.