The president of the United States is racist.
He doesn’t merely court racists. He doesn’t just use racially charged language. He doesn’t sympathise with racist views.
Donald Trump is racist.
That wasn’t that hard for me to type, but for some reason so many of our political leaders feel unable to utter those words.
Instead, they settle on phrases like “deeply unacceptable” or “totally unacceptable”, versions of which both candidates for Prime Minister went for when confronted over the remarks this week.
But let’s reflect on what the president of the United States is saying that in their view is unacceptable, but not racist.
Donald Trump yesterday told four democratically elected Congresswomen, to “go back” to their own country.
Three of them were born in the US, while the fourth is a naturalised American citizen who lives in Minnesota. So what was it about these four women of colour, that led him to suggest that they aren’t really Americans?
Let’s not forget, this is a man with a history of racism. His company was once found guilty by the Federal Government of favouring white families at one of his housing complexes. He built a political following by claiming for years Barack Obama wasn’t a US citizen. He entered the race for president by declaring Mexicans as rapists and calling for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States. When Neo-Nazis rioted in Charlottesville and killed a woman, Trump defended the “very fine people” on both sides.
Shock has been the hallmark of the Trump presidency. Regular Twitterstorms, cavalier foreign policy interventions, contempt for the truth. There’s only so much energy, so many hours in the day. It’s not possible to keep track of every outrage. It’s easy to become numb to it. And that is how “normal” changes.
It’s not possible to keep track of every outrage. It’s easy to become numb to it. And that is how "normal" changes.
Questioning someone’s patriotism, denying their right to express their view, telling them they are not welcome because of the colour of their skin, is an incredibly dangerous path.
The United Nations has warned that hate speech was the precursor to genocide in Rwanda, Bosnia and Cambodia, as well as to recent attacks on people in places of worship in New Zealand, Sri Lanka, and the United States.
In normal times, we wouldn’t call the US President racist. We wouldn’t have cause to. But these are not normal times. Racism is dangerous. Coming from the so-called leader of the free world, it is terrifying.
And faced with all of this, what is the response from our leaders in Britain? Our Prime Minister Theresa May says the comments were “completely unacceptable”, Foreign Secretary and leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt is “appalled”.
And the man who will likely be our next Prime Minister? Boris Johnson musters little other than a meek condemnation, afraid to say more while pinning his hopes on the fantasy that Trump will ride to his rescue with a trade deal.
In his pursuit to be the next prime minister, Johnson has forgotten the first lesson of good leadership, something he should know from his history books: that good leadership takes integrity, courage and duty.
It means putting British values first, and setting an international example. It doesn’t mean being bullied by Trump into a trade deal, chlorinated chicken and all.
May has tried the strategy of cosying up to Trump. We have all seen how spectacularly it has failed. Wrongly, the Prime Minister rolled out the red carpet for Trump last month, where he was treated to all the trappings of British pomp and splendour, the state banquet with the Queen at Buckingham Palace – powerful images that will boost Trump in his re-election campaign. And how did Trump respond? A blistering attack on her.
Johnson is determined to follow the same doomed path, damaging our country and our British values in the process. It’s why he refused to back Sir Kim Darroch, knowing that doing so would anger the President across the Atlantic. And it’s why he, a man who can quote Aristotle unprompted, looks in the face of racism and can muster little more than the linguistic equivalent of a shrug.
Those aren’t the actions of a leader.
Leadership is having the courage to take the tough path that you know is right, not the easy one that is wrong.
Leadership is about being able to stand up to people, even if they are your allies, not kowtow because you’re scared of how they might respond.
Donald Trump is a racist bully. Racism is dangerous, but Boris Johnson refuses to call it out. Britain deserves better.
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