After a Shelton student spit on a black museum visitor at Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History Photo, Shelton Superintendent of Schools Chris Clouet said the act “is not a reflection of who our students are, or who we are as a community.”
Yes it is, Mr. Clouet. It is exactly a reflection of who your students are and what Shelton is as a community.
It’s not just Shelton, not just "the Valley,” not even just Connecticut: it’s the new America, where bias and bigotry work from the top down, from unfair Mexican judges to rollbacks in transgender rights; from the embracing of white supremacists to the dog whistles: "nasty women" and "low intellect blacks."
The new intolerance emanates from the White House, and regardless of what sort of fool is housed there, the symbolic value of the former leader of the free world cannot be summarily dismissed.
Hate crimes are on the rise, and while some middle school kid spitting on someone is not a hate crime, it’s hate. It’s not, as the superintendent intimated, more a case of stupidity than bigotry. It’s racial animus.
Did this kid learn it at home? Did he learn it from racist friends? We don’t know. Did repugnant events like this occur during the Obama presidency? Bush’s? Clinton’s? Of course. But before Trump we had the feeling—maybe a bit too optimistically—that we were moving toward tolerance. We weren’t sliding there effortlessly, but we felt that were headed in the right direction.
Now we aren’t.
Last weekend, Donny Trump’s good buddy Billy Barr gave a speech at the University of Notre Dame Law School in which he decried “militant secularists” for conspiring to destroy the “traditional moral order” He blamed them for rising mental illness, drug dependency, and violence. He said it wasn't adventitious but intentional. As with his dear leader, no specifics were given. Just mindless bluster.
How I don't know what a militant secularist even is: I’m not aware of people without a stated religion barricading churches, synagogues, and mosques to convince worshippers to stay away from the ruthless effects of God, Jehovah, Allah, et al. If they were, Mr.Barr, as Attorney General, do something about it. If they aren’t, then enforce the Constitution, Billy-boy, not just the rights of gun owners but the rights of people to practice the religion of their choice...OR NO RELIGION.
We all know what’s happening here. The president is in trouble. His criminality has been laid bare and even his most ardent supporters have been reduced to “Yeah-but” arguments. Despite the angry tweets and vitriol hurled at the press, Trump knows he’s in trouble, and that there’s only one way to rally the base—the same tactical approach that got him elected: fear of "the other."
It’ll work, a little, but as the evidence piles up against him and he continues to implicate himself in diverse and consequential crimes, it won’t be enough. But if he is removed from office, what will he leave behind? Towns like Shelton and thousands like it, where racism has bubbled to the surface with his blessing, with the support of his Attorney General, and with the quiet acquiescence of all those Americans who voted for him and all the Congressional Republicans who have turned a blind eye so often that neither eye sees anymore.
Believe me, the recuperation will be long, but the sooner we cut out the the cancer, the sooner we can begin.