Opinion: Racism is the ultimate threat to democracy

Wendell Anthony

Benjamin Franklin, one of the signers of the U.S. Constitution, wrote: “There can be no such thing as wisdom and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of thought.”

The nonpresidential and unethical rants of the 45th president remind us as to who he is and what he represents. Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Williams Arena in Greenville, N.C., Wednesday, July 17, 2019.

Some still sit and wonder what will he do, what will he say, and how will he act tomorrow? We already know the answer — more chaos, confusion and division. The only thing left for President Donald Trump to do is exactly what he boasted: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?” 

The conduct and the policies of this president, his party, along with supporters who aid and abet him, are the greatest threat to the sanctity and preservation of our democracy.

The constant division and authoritarian nature of his presidency takes us back to a time many do not wish to revisit. Trump reminds us of Lester Maddox, former Georgia governor, who said: “Part of American greatness, is discrimination. Yes, sir. Inequality, I think breeds freedom and gives a man opportunity.”

Trump stood in the doorway on the east lawn of the White House, telling four duly elected congresswomen, “If you don’t like America, then leave America.”

He seems to be indicating you can either support what he does or get the hell out of the country. It was reminiscent of former governor George Wallace standing in the doorway of the University of Alabama telling black students, “I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

This even goes back to the American Colonization Society of 1817. This was an organization led by white folks whose purpose was to send freed slaves back to Africa. Historian Eric Foner’s book, “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery,” centered on the issue of what to do with free black folks in this nation. The book revealed discussions on the possibility of colonization efforts in places like Brazil, Columbia, the Caribbean and Africa. Later, this society helped to establish on the west coast of Africa a colony that in 1847 became the independent nation of Liberia.

This notion is not new. It is, however, an idea whose time has come and for the most part for African Americans has passed.

This country was built on the backs of enslaved Africans who never got a paycheck. We have fought in every war in this country. Black and brown people are serving right now to protect Trump and his family in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, stationed in South Korea, Africa, Central and South America and throughout Europe.

Trump's racist political strategy is not one that uplifts. It is one that beats down. We cannot be silent while this administration's policies separate brown babies and children from their families at our southern border. Human beings should not be forced to live in the squalor of cages and confinement in the most powerful and affluent nation in the world.

History serves as the best teacher. President George H.W. Bush wanted a “kinder and gentler nation.” President George W. Bush called for a “compassionate conservatism.” President Bill Clinton advocated for “One America in the 21st century.” President Barack Obama told every American that, “Yes, we can.”

Trump says, “If you don’t like it, leave the country.”

According to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because his conscious tells him it is right.”

The president is wrong. His words are hurtful. His behavior is demeaning. His policies are destroying the very foundation of our nation. Every American who believes in freedom and democracy must stand up, speak up, and keep up. It is then that we the people can preserve the soul of our nation for the next generation. In the words of the late federal Judge Damon J. Keith, “Democracy dies in the dark.”

The people within our nation must shine the light of truth on our democracy from every mountain, sea and shore.

The Rev. Wendell Anthony is president of the NAACP's Detroit branch.