Imagine a voter who, when interviewed by a reporter, tells them that they are voting for a specific candidate because that candidate will prevent black people – who are more prone to violence, take welfare, be engaged in crime – from moving to their neighborhood. The voter explains that they support this candidate because he or she is the only one who isn’t afraid to talk about the black problem and the problems blacks have caused in American society.
Somehow, when voters say these things about Latinos or Muslims, journalists can’t call it what it is: bigotry.
Over the course of this election, in which Donald Trump obtained the Republican nomination by pandering to bigotry and fear-mongering, the national press has been almost paralyzed in their inability to plainly state what it is his supporters are backing.
By these same standards used by today’s press, when voters in 1968 voted for George Wallace’s pro-segregation campaign they were simply acting out of economic insecurity and not racism.
That is of course complete nonsense. But why, I have repeatedly wondered, are journalists – white journalists – so willing to give these expressions of bigotry a pass?
I believe that they have encountered a strange paradox in which the people spewing racism resemble their grandmothers (or parents, or aunts and uncles). It is one thing to see some random person on television spout bigotry in black and white footage from the 1950s and 1960s, it is a whole other thing to hear it from the same person handing you mashed potatoes every Thanksgiving.
The problem is, this isn’t journalism to view things through this lens. It doesn’t matter how much you love your grandmother or the woman at the Trump rally who looks a lot like her and sounds like her. This is bigotry, and to treat it as anything else is to enable it.
If you are faced with bigotry and racism and hate, and you bend yourself into a pretzel-like shape in order to excuse it, you aren’t much better than the bigot in question. Racism and hatred must always be challenged, always be opposed. It isn’t just a “point of view,” it is a cancer on public discourse that must be exposed to blinding light and stamped out.
And if the one making these points happens to look like your beloved grandmother, it’s time to drag Nana kicking and screaming into the 21st century where we have evolved past those sentiments.