Published with permission from AlterNet
Last week, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton gave an impassioned speech imploring voters to consider Republican rival Donald Trump’s not-so-subtle courting of white supremacists. “From the start, Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia,” Clinton said last Thursday. “He’s taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over one of America’s two major political parties.”
In the days since, the unlikely intersection of politics, sports and First Amendment rights has come to blows. The decision by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to abstain from standing for the national anthem in protest of what he sees as a failure of the U.S. government to uphold its end of the bargain and ensure “freedom and justice, liberty to everybody,” particularly black Americans, has ignited a national conversation, as well as some predictable racist retaliation from the so-called alt-right.
For his part, Trump merely waded into the conversation, telling Dori Monson he thinks Kaepernick’s protest is “a terrible thing.”
“You know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him,” said the man whose entire presidential platform is based on the notion that he’s the only person who can Make America Great Again, and who once insisted the U.S. is on its way to becoming a third-world country. “Let him try—it won’t happen,” Trump added.
But while the GOP nominee’s remark about Kaepernick is hardly the most inflammatory comment to escape his lips, as with much of Trump’s racist outbursts, it’s his surrogates, and fellow members of the Republican Party, who are taking hate mainstream.
Reasonable people can argue that Kaepernick’s method of protest was, as White House spokesperson Josh Earnest put it, “objectionable.” But reasonable people would also agree with Earnest’s assertion that Kaepernick “is certainly entitled to express” his opinions about racial inequality.
Of course, mainstream conservative voices don’t always say what’s reasonable. Instead of affirming Kaepernick’s constitutionally protected right to protest whatever he damn well pleases, right-wing talking heads opted instead to paint him as a washed-up, ungrateful athlete who doesn’t grasp the fact that racism is so totally O-V-E-R.
Such was the approach of conservative pundit and bow-tie aficionado Tucker Carlson, who wondered on Fox News when “rich people [became] victims?”
“When did people stop laughing at the idea that someone who makes $10 million a year can get up [and say], ‘I’m a victim.’ The president: ‘I’m a victim.’ Oprah…” Carlson said, continuing to list notable black leaders who, for the white, upper-class conservative commentator, apparently “play the victim.”
“The next time some overpaid entertainer or athlete or politician stands up and says, boo-hoo, people are mean to me because x, y and z, laugh in their face, including this guy,” Carlson added. You see, in Carlson’s mind, only regular (white) people are allowed to have opinions about political and social justice. Oh—and an overpaid entertainer named Tucker Carlson. Got it.
Overpaid entertainer Sean Hannity parroted Carlson’s sentiments on his radio show Monday, calling Kaepernick a “spoiled brat, out-of-touch, super-rich athlete.”
“He, in his own life, has suffered no oppression. He’s free to share all the money he wants; he lives in the greatest nation on earth,” Hannity opined, seemingly neglecting the fact that he’s spent the past nine months hyping a candidate whose platform is based on the notion that America is not great and needs to be made great again. “You know, this is a nation that has overcome slavery, overcome evil and injustice, righted wrongs, you know, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, all these people that marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and made the country a better place.”
Any sensible reading of Kaepernick’s protest acknowledges the great freedoms afforded by the United States. “I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country,” Kaepernick said, explaining his decision to protest the anthem. “I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom.”
“I’ve seen circumstances where men and women that have been in the military have come back and been treated unjustly by the country they fought have for, and have been murdered by the country they fought for, on our land,” Kaepernick continued. “That’s not right.”
But for Hannity and others like him, no amount of personal experience warrants caring about racial injustice in the United States. Such was the position of the Blaze’s Tomi Lahren, who questioned the quarterback’s right to protest by citing the football player’s biracial background and the fact he was personally raised by two white parents who adopted him.
“What’s selfish is you, buddy,” Lahren began. “And what’s your message to black kids, to people of color? That their biggest contribution to justice and self-fulfillment is to parade around with a chip on their shoulder like a victim?”
“Colin, how dare you sit there and blame white people for the problems [in] the minority communities?” Lahren continued. “After all, aren’t you half white? Didn’t two white parents adopt you after yours weren’t willing to raise you? For a racist and horrible country filled with racist and horrible white people, that’s really something, isn’t it?”
“When will those in black communities take a step back and take some responsi-damn-bility for the problems in black communities?” Lahren said. “Because it seems to me, blaming white people for all your problems might make you the racist.”
For these mainstream conservative voices, Colin Kaepernick—a biracial football player using his platform to draw attention to the racial injustice he’s witnessed in his life—is “spoiled.” He’s “suffered no oppression” in his life. It’s a “terrible thing” that he’s speaking out about a cause that’s close to his heart.
These are the opinions espoused not just by alt-right sycophants, but by major conservative voices, and by a major political party’s candidate for president. These comments are evidence that Trump has brought hate and racism mainstream, and regrettably, they’re here to stay.