“Michael the Black Man” has made another prominent appearance at a Trump rally, this time in Phoenix, where Trump’s racist dog-whistles were particularly shrill, for dogs with ears to hear. The spectacle of this poor, deluded soul exchanging high-fives with gleeful white Trumpists was a sad and sorry sight. Michael either doesn’t know or doesn’t care the extent to which he is exploited by these people. In either case, he provides cover for white racists, enabling them to say (to themselves as much as to the world), “See, we’re not racists! Trump condemned the KKK! We love black people!”
Uh, huh. Well, instead of “Michael the Black Man”, let’s put in front of these black-loving Trumpists a group of BLM protesters marching against police brutality, or a black person decrying Confederate symbols of white supremacy and black oppression, and you will surely see the Trumpists’ true racist colors blazing forth.
Racism isn’t reducible to explicit support for the KKK. You can abhor Nazism and the Klan, and still be a racist. Are you a racist? If you are a white person (because, make no mistake, this is about white people, not “Michael the Black Man”), take the following test, and be honest with yourself:
- Do you harbor the feeling that blacks as a group are generally lazy and undeserving?
- Do you believe there’s something about “black culture” that explains poverty and crime in black neighborhoods?
- Do you believe white America has made sufficient progress in righting the historical wrongs inflicted on blacks?
- Do you think there’s too much talk about race, and that blacks should stop complaining and start working, and that black people’s obsession with race is what perpetuates racism?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, don’t ask me what it means. I’m not a social scientist. Ask yourself.
White people are not entirely culpable for harboring racist attitudes and feelings that are so innate as to be almost subconscious. After all, white racism and white supremacy are deeply, inextricably rooted in American culture, which is why the trope of “preserving our culture” is such a white racist dog-whistle. The real moral test is whether you can learn to catch yourself hearing the whistle, and resist it.
Looking at sad and sorry “Michael the Black Man” at that Trumpist rally makes me think of a lyric from the Genesis song, “Supper’s Ready”:
A young figure sits still by a pool
He’s been stamped “Human Bacon” by some butchery tool
He is you
Don’t high-five “Michael the Black Man”. Consider him, as if looking in a mirror.