Trump and Pence’s war on black athletes has nothing to do with sports | Spanlish


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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Trump and Pence’s war on black athletes has nothing to do with sports

Mike Pence

Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, at a game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers, Oct. 8, 2017, in Indianapolis. (Credit: AP/Michael Conroy)

Like his boss Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence is a lazy racist. Trump’s public demands nothing more because they are easily satisfied by the thought of humiliating black and brown people. Last Sunday, Pence spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to fly from Las Vegas to an NFL game in Indiana. His plan? To stage a political stunt where he showed his displeasure towards “uppity” black football players who are protesting police brutality and social injustice in America.

After staying at the football game for several minutes, he left in dramatic fashion. Pence would then announce via the social media platform Twitter that:

I left today’s Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem.

Donald Trump was very pleased. He seconded Pence’s publicity stunt:

I asked VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and SecondLadyKaren.

Of course, Pence is no more than a hypocrite and a lapdog. He claims to be upset about “disrespect” towards America’s soldiers, yet he serves under a man who called Sen. John McCain — who was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for five and a half years, subjected to torture and solitary confinement — a coward and a loser. Pence’s selective outrage is even more obvious (and odious) given that he expressed no anger when Donald Trump insulted Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son, Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed while serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq.

Mike Pence directs terms like “dignify” and “disrespect” toward black athletes who are silently expressing their opinions. Yet, like Donald Trump, he does not lash out at the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville (again) last weekend.

It would seem that for Pence and Trump, black athletes who protest discrimination and racism are more troublesome and more dangerous than white supremacists who make terrorist threats and stage violent rallies where unarmed counter-protesters are injured or killed.

It is obvious that Mike Pence’s recent political stunt is part of a larger Trump administration plan: to inflame supporters by ginning up white racial animus towards “disloyal” and “unpatriotic” black and brown Americans. This is the right-wing culture war in miniature. Here, the logic is simple: Since before the founding of America and through to the present, white rage against nonwhites is political fuel that elite politicians have ignited to win elections and maintain power.

There has been widespread criticism of Trump in the media. But as revealed by recent public opinion data, his white racial resentment strategy is largely working, at least when it comes to the NFL anthem protests.

Why is this?

In keeping with Trump’s playbook, Pence summoned three important concepts in his rebuke of black and brown NFL players. He said “our soldiers,” “our Flag” and “our National Anthem.” (Neither of the last two is a proper noun, Mr. Vice President.)

Who is the “our”? This signals to a divide between “us” and “them,” which channels a form of racial tribalism where to be a “real American” is first and foremost to be “white.” Pence’s use of “our” is the same as Trump’s use of the phrase “our culture” when he speaks about the need to protect monuments that honor the white supremacist breakaway republic known as the Confederate States of America.

In total, the flag, the national anthem and the troops constitute a sanctified right-wing trinity of superficial patriotism and militant nationalism. As psychologist Sheldon Solomon shows, conservatives and other right-wing authoritarians possess deep anxieties about death, which they soothe through attachments to “immortal” symbols and practices such as religion and patriotism.

Conservatives and other authoritarians are also more likely than liberals or progressives to be anxious about losing power and superiority over those people they identify as the Other. In the United States, these fears have manifested as ethnocentrism, racism, sexism, prejudice and white supremacy. Donald Trump used those values to mobilize his voters and subsequently seize the White House.

In the United States, racism, nationalism, whiteness and patriotism are not easily separated from one another. In many ways, white America was born from those values. To challenge them is therefore to undermine the psychological and possessive investment in “whiteness” that many white Americans desperately cling to — and which the modern Republican Party manipulates to win and maintain power.

So it was entirely predictable that black athletes who stand up for social justice and against white racism would become targets of white rage, scorn and possible violence. This is true in the age of Trump, and it was it true when black athletes broke the color line in baseball, football, boxing, tennis, golf and other sports in the not-so-distant past.

One should never forget how racism, nationalism, whiteness and patriotism were also summoned when black American soldiers were lynched across the South and elsewhere during the regime of Jim and Jane Crow, because blackness and masculinity — and the claims on citizenship that come with military service — were deemed by dominant white society too dangerous and too threatening to the “natural order of things.” This same logic, with a less lethal outcome, is also present in the white backlash by Trump and his supporters against black football players who are protesting social injustice.

Trump’s campaign against black athletes works in his favor politically, then, because it connects white patriotism and white nationalism to white racism — without him needing to make the connection overt or explicit. Sports are one of many spaces in American life and culture where those values play out.

Is it possible to forge a new sense of healthy and forward-thinking patriotism from the negative reactions to the NFL protests?

Sports journalist Bob Costas seems to think so. In a conversation with CNN about the NFL protests he offered this corrective:

Patriotism comes in many forms and what has happened is that it’s been conflated with a bumper sticker-style kind of flag-waving and with the military only, so that people cannot see that in his own way Colin Kaepernick, however imperfectly, is doing a patriotic thing. And so too are some of these other players.

I am not as hopeful. We may tell ourselves that America is “better than” the bigotry and racism directed at black and brown folks who dare to stand up against racial inequality and social injustice. But Trump’s racial authoritarianism is not an aberration. In many ways his values are a return to a set of norms that are consistent with most of American history. Those are depressing thoughts; that makes them no less true.

Ultimately, Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” was always a threat to black and brown people, wrapped in a seemingly benign and hopeful promise to white America. His red and white hats and other regalia emblazoned with that slogan always concealed a steel fist covered in glass and poisoned with venom.

When Donald Trump tells his human deplorables that he is going to “Make America Great Again,” I often think of the following lines from the song “Black, Brown and White,” by the great bluesman Big Bill Broonzy:

If you is white, you’s alright,
if you’s brown, stick around,
but if you’s black, hmm, hmm, brother,
get back, get back, get back.

As measured by most conventional political standards, Donald Trump’s presidency has been a spectacular failure. His administration has been remarkably successful, however, at undermining black and brown Americans’ civil rights.

As such, Trump’s war against protesting NFL players is just one battleground in a much bigger war against the won-in-blood victories of the civil rights movement and the black freedom struggle.

Trump and Pence’s insults have never been about sports, except in the sense that sports is a highly symbolic realm of American culture. To believe otherwise is to be delusional.

Source: Trump and Pence’s war on black athletes has nothing to do with sports

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