Let there be no doubt. US President Donald Trump is a mercurial, inept, me-first racist. In recent weeks, Trump has thrown in with Charlottesville’s white supremacists and pardoned known anti-immigrant xenophobe Joe Arpaio. Trump has pursued an agenda of rescinding more and more of President Barack Obama’s executive orders, including the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), potentially leading to the deportation of undocumented immigrants who were children when they came to the US.
Trump’s behaviour isn’t unprecedented. His racist, incompetent, and callously narcissistic performance as president shares similarities with that of Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, James Buchanan, Woodrow Wilson, and Richard Nixon. And although he continues to follow the lead of some of America’s most racist and inept presidents, he continues to retain many of his supporters. Millions of supposedly non-racist Americans – people who say they wouldn’t align themselves with Neo-Nazis – continue to support Trump. Why?
Subconscious hatred or fear alone cannot fully explain why they tacitly support the Trump administration’s racist and xenophobic policies, and Trump’s racist and xenophobic words and deeds along with them.
The answer to this question lies in understanding the power of racial advantage and narcissistic self-gratification, the combination of which has made the Trump presidency possible. All that power is embodied in the reality of segregation in the US. Its diffusion in all aspects of American culture and life reinforces the idea of white superiority over Americans of colour and of America as a perpetually great and righteous nation, even as it isolates whole social and racial groups of Americans.
Residential segregation is the root cause of all other forms of segregation in the US. Its immediate effect is that white children tend to go to school isolated from interaction with children of colour. As education expert Diane Ravitch wrote in her 2013 bestseller Reign of Error, “Today, racial segregation remains a pervasive fact of life for millions of black [and equally impoverished Hispanic] children, primarily as a result of residential segregation.” Working-class and poor whites are residentially segregated not only from all social classes of Americans of colour, but also from affluent whites.
At the same time, white children tend to be almost exclusively taught by white teachers. Currently, nearly five out of six teachers in the US (82 percent) are white, and the majority of teachers of colour teach in school districts where students of colour are predominant.
But segregation goes even deeper than residential neighbourhoods and school district demographics. Knowledge and cultural segregation are equally damaging. It means most teachers consistently teach from a ‘hidden curriculum’, one that accentuates the ideas, actions, and perspectives of whites over those of any other group. The ‘worldviews of those with privileged positions are taken as the only reality,’ educator Lisa Delpit wrote in Other People’s Children (1995).
For students of colour, this means public education serves more as a prison and less as a level playing field. For white students, this cultural segregation and knowledge exclusion makes for an appalling ignorance of the full American experience, reinforces racial stereotypes and strengthens the inability to critically interrogate the surrounding world.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘How segregated America made Trump inevitable’.