Donald Trump Isn’t Racist, He’s Just White

CNN screenshot
CNN screenshot

Sometimes, when thinking about President Donald Trump and our reactions to the things he says and does, I’m reminded of the type of “good guy” who, when touting his personal attributes and distinguishing qualities, lists nothing but mundanities as if they were exceptional. He “has a job.” He “has his own place” and “pays his own bills.” He’s “never been arrested” and he “takes care of his children.”

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with any of these things. These are the right things to do. Do these things! But these are also baseline-level expectations of able-bodied adulthood. It’s great if all of these things are true, but it doesn’t make you particularly special, because most adults can say the same thing. You might as well also list “compatible with oxygen” and “have never eaten my own spleen.”

Anyway, last week our president did something even more overtly racist than the last most overtly racist thing he did. And I have no doubt that he will continue to break his own standards of overtly racist behavior. Each day we might see or hear something we’ve never seen before. He’s basically Usain Bolt in 2008.


And I’m here today to defend him.

As a response to the report that he referred to Haiti, El Salvador and all of Africa as “shithole countries,” he was asked if he was a racist. His immediate reply (“I am not a racist”) stands counter to everything we know about him and everything we know about what constitutes racism. It also might be the truth.

We already know that, in the 2016 election, Donald Trump won nearly every measurable and meaningful white demographic: white men, white women, poor whites, rich whites, white people actually named “Dwight.” And he won them with a five-word-long platform: “I’m famous and I’m racist.”

These are also the same people who voted for the senators and state representatives who’d be expected to hold such an overtly racist president accountable. Who you’d hope would have enough integrity to eschew a party line and stand for what’s right. Of course, that hasn’t come. And it hasn’t—and won’t—come because they agree with him. And they represent constituencies where the majority of the people in them do, too.


Perhaps they’re too “decent” and/or savvy to be as blunt as the president is. But they elected him and continue to support him so he can say and do the things they can’t.

And if the majority of white Americans possess these racist beliefs—and, again, our elections would seem to prove that they do—racism would seem to be the standard. And if something is the standard, it’s not special or distinguishable. At least not special or distinguishable enough to bother distinguishing it.


And if this is true, Donald Trump is telling the truth. He is not racist because, for white people, racism is the default. A mundanity. What separates him from the majority of white Americans is his platform and his personal brand of fucklessness.

It would have been more accurate and more telling if he’d replied instead, “I am not a racist. I am just a white man.”


I mean, if he’s not going to lie, he might as well just tell the entire truth. It’s the least we can expect from a president.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

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Beautifully put. But White people are going to read this and immediately pull out their pink pussy hats and #woke t-shirts and proclaim that you’re the real racism problem in America.