Legally, Lakeith Smith is a murderer.
When he was 15 years old, police officers confronted Lakeith and a group of friends after the teenagers allegedly burglarized a home in Millbrook, Ala. One of the boys, 16-year-old A’Donte Washington, “brandished” a gun, according to police, forcing officers to shoot Washington four times, killing him.
Alabama’s law stipulates that anyone committing a crime or fleeing the scene of a crime that results in a person’s death is guilty of felony murder. In March, Lakeith was tried as an adult and sentenced to 65 years in prison for armed burglary, second-degree theft, third-degree theft, and felony murder.
So, even though Lakeith Smith didn’t pull the trigger, by simply participating in a crime that resulted in a death, by the definition of the law, he is guilty of murder.
Donald Trump is a racist.
While it might be impossible to peer inside the necrotized heart or the egomaniacal dictator brain of Donald Trump (a fact for which I thank my Lord and Savior James Arthur Baldwin, every day), there is no need to. Regardless of one’s intent, a man can only be judged by his actions. People who cultivate farms are, by definition, farmers. If you spotted someone onstage moving rhythmically to music in front of an audience of millions numerous times, you wouldn’t wonder if that person was an accountant “in their heart.” Anyone with a working knowledge of the English language would refer to that person as “a dancer.”
And we have witnessed Donald Trump’s racism.
As president, he has introduced executive orders that disproportionately affected Muslims, referred to immigrant homelands as “shithole countries,” hired a Nazi sympathizer as an adviser, employed “the most racist politician in America,” referred to Mexicans as “animals” and “rapists,” excused white supremacist terrorists, referred to the mothers of black NFL players as “bitches” and placed the Justice Department in the hands of an attorney general who Congress previously determined was too racist to serve as a federal judge. He is working to dismantle anti-discrimination laws. He nominated a racist for a federal judgeship.
Even before Trump removed all doubt by tweeting a version of the universal racist clarion call of “go back to Africa” in a weekend Twitter rant, we knew what he was. We knew what he was before his white nationalist inauguration speech. Even before he was president, Donald Trump had already earned his white nationalist bona fide by discriminating against non-whites, calling for the deaths of the Exonerated Five, admitting that comments attributed to him calling black people “lazy” were “probably true” and pushing the unfounded nativist rumor that Barack Obama was a secret Kenyan Muslim.
Yes, Trump is, without question, a racist.
And so are his supporters.
Not some of them. All of them.
Again, it is impossible to measure the intent and calculate the anti-black sentiment in the heart of every single Trump voter. I am sure that many of the people who cast ballots for the tiny-fingered dictator simply didn’t want Hillary Clinton to become president. Many of them were “small-government” conservatives or pro-life, single-issue voters. Still, their actions made a confirmed racist the most powerful man in the world and placed his racist rhetoric on America’s bully pulpit for all the world to see.
What could be more racist than that?
One can argue whether or not Trump has created more racists, but it is inarguable that he has legitimized, normalized and emboldened hate. After he became president and put his unabashed bigotry on display, his election spawned an exponential rise in hate crimes. Authorities say his campaign rallies spark racial violence. Since his inauguration, Donald Trump’s name has been mentioned more times in news reports of hate crimes and bias incidents than anyone else except Jussie Smollett, according to ProPublica’s “Documenting Hate” news index.
Despite all of this readily available evidence, there are still millions of people who are willing to support Trump. They pretend to be blind to his incendiary rhetoric. They cheer when he solicits violence against protesters. They applaud his calls for police brutality. They chant for walls.
The legion of Trump supporters who are guilty of perpetuating racism is not limited to the people flying Confederate flags and screaming “Sieg Heil” at his rallies. His enablers include the Republican politicians who support his policies even though they disagree with them. They include the ones who remain silent on his addlebrained tweetstorms because they want to keep the Senate majority; the representatives who don’t condemn his immigrant concentration camps because they want funding for their district are just as guilty as the Nazis; the senators who ignore his concentration camps because their goal is to fill the Supreme Court with conservative judges are as complicit as the “alt-right” marchers in Charlottesville, Va. Every single Republican in Congress; every single GOP donor; every person who sides with Donald Trump, regardless of their reasoning, is complicit in his hate.
And that, dear friends, is racism.
Like Lakeith Smith, those people might not have pulled a trigger but they were a party to the crime. They are accessories to every single racist tweet. They should be called “racist” just as much as a getaway driver for a bank robbery is also called a “bank robber.”
I imagine that in many of the 4,743 lynchings between 1862 and 1968, there were a lot of people who absolved themselves of guilt by reasoning that they were simply providing pitchforks or being a good neighbor by helping their compadres light their torches. If it were not for his supporters, Trump would be as powerless as a hangman without a lynch mob. Without them, it would not matter who tied the noose or declared the death sentence. The mob is the thing.
Racism has nothing to do with intent. Most black people would not care how white people in rural Alabama or religious conservatives in Pennsylvania suburbs felt about them if those people had not empowered a man who wouldn’t care if every non-white American was wiped off the face of the earth.
Whether one refers to them as “economically anxious,” the “silent majority” or “Trump’s base,” they only have one thing in common: They are legal accomplices in Trump’s racist acts, or as they should be collectively known: