No words resonate with the modern status of racial inequality more than those of Dr. Martin Luther King in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Over 54 years ago, King reminded African Americans that the Negro’s greatest stumbling block in his stride toward freedom would be the white moderate. King defined this individual as more devoted to ‘order’ than to progress. The archetype of the moderate, an individual preferring an absence of tension over the presence of justice, appears in both the fiction of literature and the realities of our own history. President Donald Trump’s ambiguous response to the violence incited by a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville revealed Trump’s preference for American order over African-American justice. President Trump’s inexcusable behaviour demonstrates that acting on the grounds of civility with regards to racism prohibits social progress towards justice.
In present day America, our nation’s foremost priority of civil order threatens social progress towards complete racial equality. In August of 2017, in response to the prejudice-motivated actions of a white nationalist group in Charlottesville, Virginia, President Trump blamed “many sides” for the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence.”* Yet, he failed to identify the Alt-Right white supremacist group as the sole perpetrators of this crime. By equating the blame “on both sides” instead of condemning the white-supremacists, Trump undermines the efforts of anti-racists protestors. Essentially, the President reduced the concerns of these individuals to avoid further disruption in Charlottesville. The President’s desire to placate racial animosity hinders the resolution of these recurring conflicts.
Trump, assuming the role of King’s white moderate archetype, prefers to silence the anger of African Americans rather than to combat the racist ideologies of their oppressors. In his initial remarks, Trump identified the anti-racist supporters as the “Alt-Left group,” criticizing that, unlike the Alt-Right group, these counter-demonstrators did not have a permit to protest in Charlottesville. Regardless of whether the anti-racists protesters violated this requirement, their actions to counter the hate-filled speech pervading Charlottesville deserved the President’s praise, not his criticism. Trump’s injection of moral equivalence into a situation of racial discrimination demonstrates his attempt to prioritize the law of the nation over justice for the nation’s African-American people. While other prominent politicians ardently denounced the actions of these white supremacists, Trump defended his moderate response by accusing “fake media” of never being satisfied. Even with backlash from his initial remarks, Trump insisted that “not all of [these protestors] were white supremacists.” Despite their Confederate flags and “You will not replace us” posters, Trump concluded that these individuals were simply protesting “the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee,” later questioning “whether the movement to pull down [these] Confederate statues would lead to the desecration of memorials to George Washington.” If Trump were to denounce the cruelties of these white-supremacists, he would legitimize the anger of African-Americans and inspire more individuals to protest these injustices.
However, rather than recognizing the prejudiced truth behind their opposition, Trump justified their protests by dismissing the relevance of counter-protestors concerns. Rationalizing the issue of racial discrimination, Trump subverted all efforts toward social progress. Instead of using his platform to promote change, Trump exploited his power to undermine progressive movements and, in effect, prevent racial equality in America. Trump’s inability to condemn the evident acts of terror in Charlottesville perpetuated the culture of unspoken racism permeating in American society, denying justice to the African American community.
To obtain rightful justice, individuals must disregard the order which infiltrates their surroundings. By opting for social order when justice was required, Trump engaged in a form of covert racism which trivialized the problems of the black community under a false pretense of sustaining “order”. It is this “order” which prevented those silenced in Charlottesville from complete freedom.
Thus, disregard the institution. Renounce the plagued loyalties. Condemn the acts of racism. Equality can only be realized by transcending civility, shouting against the cruelties executed by the moderate, yelling and screaming, deafening the oppressor of justice.