Now, I dislike Donald Trump as much as the next person. I believe he’s bigoted, arrogant, foolish, and will make a poor leader, potentially even a dangerous one. And I, much like congressman John Lewis doubt his legitimacy and find it unsurprising that accusations of foul play and Russian involvement in his election have come to the fore. On balance, the accusations may be true.
However, I also question the validity of some of the flack he receives from the media. As many will have read online or in papers, Donald Trump has come under fire for attacking the civil rights icon, John Lewis. Being the last surviving speaker from the March on Washington in 1963, and having risked his life and wellbeing for one of the most important causes of the previous century (and beyond), Lewis undoubtedly deserves the respect he receives. But I’m not convinced Trump deserved the kind of criticism he is receiving for his most recent outburst.
Reading headlines such as “Donald Trump marks Martin Luther King weekend by attacking civil rights hero” from the metro and “Donald Trump starts MLK weekend by attacking civil rights hero John Lewis” on the Guardian website, I inescapably assumed that Trump had finally lost it and unleashed a raging torrent of racist abuse.
Racism though, is not what I saw from Trumps tweets. But the papers tried their best with what they had. Citing the fact that Trump is endorsed by people linked to far right groups and the Ku Klux Klan, and has nominated for the position of Attorney General a man once denied federal judgeship over alleged racist remarks, the racism of Trump’s tweets is strongly implied. Whilst implying Trump’s racism, several articles also recount the brave activist work of John Lewis and hold the images of the two men in stark contrast. But I felt all that was irrelevant. Reading the tweets, I thought it a bit of a stretch to bring race into the issue.
I tend to believe that in his heart, Donald Trump holds racist beliefs. I do not think he is a good man and I feel confident that his presidency will do little if nothing to empower the African-American, and minority communities. Going further, I expect racial divisions in politics and society may become more pronounced in the US during Trump’s term.
But I also believe that the papers have jumped on this recent altercation as an opportunity to criticise Trump in a way that isn’t all that accurate and seems somewhat contrived. Although I understand the papers have no obligation to do otherwise, I feel that readers would be better served without needlessly framing the issue in a civil rights context to feed a hero vs. villain narrative. But then, that wouldn’t get so many views or sell so many papers would it?