(Orlando Sentinel) Are you tired of the politics of division? Societal chaos may be inevitable, but we hold the power to make change. Pervasive and unapologetically brazen white nationalist ideals are perverting our democracy, tribalizing our citizenry, and corrupting the constitution of order. During these quarrelsome times, let us remember that we are one people united by shared values.
Is President Donald J. Trump responsible for racism, anti-Semitism, sexism and xenophobia in our nation? No. “We the People of the United States” are solely responsible for failing to embrace and live by our own creed and democratic ideals. Trump is simply a symbol of the imperfections of our democratic experiment that unfortunately abandoned the ideal of racial equality in the mid-1960s once black and white folk could lawfully drink from the same water fountains. Modern America was birthed by a pact between North and South — a political union between slavocrats and Republicans — an imperfect union forged out of racial division and bloody war. Dog whistles tribalize Americans because we have yet to heal the open wounds of a wickedly violent past that is withering injustice, interposition and nullification.
From Charleston to Pittsburgh, the Trump administration has emboldened and inspired violent white extremism by serving Americans a steady flow of racist and xenophobic cocktail that is perverting our democracy and morals and placing immense social pressure on historical fractures.
Despite our racial, ethnic, political or religious differences, all Americans share common values that we must safeguard now more than at any other time in recent history. Traditional American ideals of liberty, equality, democracy, individualism and rule by law are under siege by dangerous right- wing perspectives, policies and actors.
America is at a critical juncture, and we must not fall prey to President Trump’s incessant and premeditated cultural wars designed to disrupt civility, generate hostility and subvert democracy. We are not Serbs and Croats, nor Hutus and Tutsis. We are not European fascists, nor a new confederacy. We are Americans and understand that nationalism is not nativism. The former embraces diversity, inclusion and patriotism; and the latter, the uniformity, exclusion and intolerance responsible for last week’s white nationalist- inspired massacres. It is estimated that 71 percent of domestic extremist- related killings were conducted by right-wing violent extremists.
Trump inspires closet bigots to come out, white nationalists to speak out, and violent white extremists to act out. Seismic change prompted by the prejudiced pomposity of Trump has given license to a new wave of racialized chaos. Nowhere is this clash more apparent than in the Florida gubernatorial election where race politics is wearing blackface.
In the 242-year history of our nation, only two African-Americans have been elected governor: Douglas Wilder (Virginia) and Deval Patrick (Massachusetts). Today, Florida’s Andrew Gillum is one of three African- Americans running for governor across the country, the other two in Georgia and Maryland. From Dewey McLaughlin and Connie Hoffman’s arrests for miscegenation in Miami Beach to the St. Augustine Civil Rights Movement, Florida’s long-standing and entrenched history of slavery and racial segregation, anti-Semitism and anti-miscegenation law potentially make Gillum’s bid for governor as unique as Barack Obama’s ascendency to the American presidency.
Floridian history is not on Gillum’s side in another vital way. No Florida Democrat, including white centrists, has won the governorship in two decades. However, I predict that Gillum will win because he is a maverick and a pioneer. He is young, gifted and black, fearless, and well-funded. Gillum is a true Floridian who can comfortably cross racial, ethnic, religious and sexual identity spaces, and navigate Florida’s rural and urban places.
As an independent who eschews far-left politics, I voted for Andrew Gillum because Ron DeSantis largely ignored the black male vote and failed to apologize for his “monkey it up” comment. His allegedly racist dog whistles, code words and accompanying failure to condemn black minstrel robocalls made it impossible for me to support him. DeSantis’ attempts to vilify and criminalize Gillum with racialized stereotypes, his bromantic fawning over Trump, and his willingness to use his children as a prop in campaign commercials that arguably propagate racist and xenophobic policy are indefensible. Fellow citizens, white nationalist politics corrupts our shared values that “We the People of the United States” must safeguard.