In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that he was “gravely disappointed” in the lukewarm advocate who supported his goal of combating racism, but did not support his call for direct action, which often creates turmoil in the status quo. Dr. King’s Letter was in response to eight white clergymen who publicly criticized his protest efforts largely because it caused community unrest.
History repeats itself. Racism is on the rise while our elected leaders offer a tepid response. Racism thrives without determined opposition. Silence in the face of racism signifies acceptance. The greater societal influence a person or entity that engages in racist conduct has, the more important it is to condemn the racism because of the detrimental effect it has on our communities.
This editorial is not meant to be an attack on any political party. The current party in the White House originated with Abraham Lincoln. Both parties have been, at times, racist and, at other times, anti-racist in their policies. So we are not singling out President Trump because of his party, but because of his tacit and explicit support of racist behavior and his powerful silence when outrage is appropriate.
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President Trump engages in dog-whistle politics, a strategy of southern state politicians during the time of Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights struggle. The dog-whistle politician speaks with coded appeals to racists and then claims that they are not a racist. The politician uses this tactic so that racist voters understand the real meaning, while the politician can claim plausible deniability with other voters. President Trump demonstrated this strategy when he tweeted the commonly used racist taunt of telling four congresswomen of color to “go back to their own country.” He subsequently claimed “Those Tweets were NOT Racist. I don’t have a Racist bone in my body!”
We encourage all people to directly call out racism. You can post your opposition to racism on social media regarding news stories; attend local political meetings to support the City of Valparaiso’s vision of being a welcoming community who embraces our diversity; participate in and support local social justice efforts such as the City of Valparaiso’s Human Relations Council, Agenda for a Better Community (ABC), and Northwest Indiana African American Alliance.