The N-word is not the litmus test for racism

“Nigger” is as polarizing a word as there is in the English lexicon. It is a word that was used by ignorant southern planters who lacked formal lessons in Latin to properly pronounce “niger,” the Latin word for black. It is a word that rolled off of the tongues of southern slave owners and white overseers as they worked men, women and children literally to death in the hot southern sun. It is a word that white men used as they raped and defiled black women during slavery and the years that followed under Jim Crow. It was the last word that many Black men, women and children heard before they were brutally lynched to death by white mobs. It was the word that defiant southerners hurled as peaceful civil rights activists marched, sat-in and demanded equal justice during the 1950s and 60s. It is a word that somewhat went underground in the public square among whites in the late 1960s, as the late Lee Atwater, a prominent Republican strategist infamously described in 1981:

You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites…’We want to cut this’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.’

Today, no white politician worth his salt will say “nigger” in public, but as Atwater averred above, they do not have to because their actions betray their deeply held racial biases. Such biases are held by politicians in BOTH parties, mind you, as the net effect of those white Democrats (and sycophantic black colleagues) in Congress, and the Clintons who supported the 1994 Crime Bill that incarcerated mass numbers of black men that Hillary Clinton called “Super-Predators,” was immense. This despite the fact that those black street corner dealers, gang members and users served more time than the whites who imported said drugs from South America and Afghanistan (or used said drugs in their corporate and political offices and suites). Indeed, such served as the blueprint for the Trump administrations current push to roll back Obama era sentencing reforms by demanding tougher sentencing–even up to the death penalty–for drug distribution. As such, “Super-Predator” or talks about “Black on Black Crime” are synonyms for “nigger” and far more detrimental than the mere statement of the word.

I remind of these facts because I find it astonishing that on the major news networks, the question this week has been whether former Trump aide Omarosa Manigault Newman has tapes of President Trump saying what journalists have now reduced to calling “the N-word.” I, for one, do not need a tape to know that Trump, a 72-year old New Yorker who grew up privileged and away from black people, has said the word in the past. Hell, I suspect that Trump has either mumbled it to himself or among his cronies multiple times just this past week.

But it may shock some to read this but I submit, so what if Trump has used the word, what does such prove that we do not already know about him? Consider for a moment that former President Lyndon Johnson reportedly used the N-word as often as he would say hello, but history remembers him for signing the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act into law. To that end, whether Trump hurls racial epithets in private pales in comparison to the coded language that he uses on a daily basis on Twitter, at his political rallies, and in his policy perspectives.  One need not hear tapes of Trump using the N-word to know that he has a lifetime of being sued for racial discrimination in his businesses, or his racist advocacy for the death penalty for the five young black men falsely convicted of raping a white woman in Central Park in the 1980s, or what drove him to to political fame this decade, which was his racist insistence that former President Barack Obama was not an American citizen.

While Trump’s racism denying defenders suggest that he merely “punches back” when he is attacked, a recent analysis of Trump’s Twitter page has revealed that the president has used the words “dumb” or “low IQ” 73 percent of the time to describe a black person with whom he disagreed, and only 27 percent of the time against white opponents. Lest we forget that one of the more common racist slights in ages past was the idea that blacks were intellectually inferior to whites.

So, when Trump makes such slights against blacks, he is no different from typical racists of yore.  Which is curious when considering that with a nod to the late soul singer Sam Cooke, Trump routinely shows that he “don’t know much about history,” or spelling, syntax, subject-verb agreement, the political processes and separation of powers, either. Still, for those who think that the determination of whether Trump has racist tendencies boils down to whether he has ever said the N-word, those among us are willfully blind or simply have not been paying attention to his actions.