Monday, June 4, 2012

Apparently Donald Trump Isn't Racist, Because He Picked Arsenio Hall

To be clear, I am firm believer that once someone amasses a certain amount of money that they are generally speaking probably not a nice person.  This is especially true in the business world where to become a success one must tread directly on top of others.  I watched The Apprentice religiously until I became aware of Donald Trump's obvious bigotry. It's fair to say that at the very least that this man is a homophobe and a racist.

The question of where Obama was born has long been settled to any reasonable person, but like a dog with a bone, Trump refuses to let it go.
'I'm With Arsenio' photo (c) 2010, TheDorkReport - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Donald Trump's bizarre racism defense: I’m not a bigot, my show’s latest winner is black.

The billionaire blowhard offered that zany explanation after critics blasted his new birther rants as race-baiting.

In an address at the North Carolina State Republican Convention, Trump said the outcome of this season’s “Celebrity Apprentice” shows he’s no racist.

“Somebody said, ‘Oh, because I brought up the birth certificate, I’m a racist,’ ” Trump said Friday.

“I said, ‘How can I be a racist? I just picked Arsenio Hall.’ ” [source]
I know that there are sell outs who would be happy to be used this way, but I am quite sure that Arsenio is not one of them.  We are after all talking about a man who refused to tap dance because of how it would appear as a Black man. Despite his class privilege, Hall has made it clear that he is racially conscious.


Though Trumps comments deal with race, its implications are universal to historically marginalized people.  If you are a member of a maginalized group, chances are that you interact with someone who has privilege over you.  Some of these people you may even count as friends.  I think that most of us have all been used as a get out of trouble at some point.  This means you may have been someone's gay friend, disabled friend, GLBT friend or even friend of colour when said privilege person has said something clearly bigoted. There are instances where you may barely consider this person your acquaintance and yet the mere fact that they know your name, is enough for them to run around claiming you as their X friend.

We have all been through this at some point and it does not get any easier.  No matter how many time marginalized people complain about being used this way it continues to happen.  For me however, this is a deal breaker.  The moment I suspect that I am being used as the "Black friend" whatever my feelings for the person in question, the relationship is over.  I am not anyone's token.

True friends are not tokens and it not only demeans the person in question, but your relationship to them the moment they are used in this manner.  Having someone in your social circle who is marginalized does not suddenly mean that you are not a bigot, or that you never show your privileged arse to the world.  It happens to best of us and its a part of decolonizing ones mind.  In some ways, many find it hard to accept that they have said something bigoted because they have amassed a number of marginalized friends. Your friends do not give you immunity from your privilege and in fact, because they are your friends, they may be more willing to excuse negative behaviour on your part, than someone else in the same marginalized group. I know that I have done this repeatedly.

If you are even remotely tempted to say that I can't be X because I have a [insert marginalization] friend, don't.  The only thing that you are proving is that the accusation itself is correct.  When you are accused of being a bigot, don't turn to said friend and expect them to excuse your behaviour because of your relationship.  It puts them in a terrible situation and shows a lack of respect for both the person in question and your relationship.  Stop and think about what you said or did and contemplate why it was called bigoted and how you can change your behaviour in the future. 

The hardest part about dealing with privilege is understanding that you will mess up no matter how good your intentions are.  The important thing is how you respond to being challenged and learning a lesson each and every single time.

I don't expect Donald Trump to take anything away from the criticism he has received from his statement because the man is too deeply steeped in his bigotry for change but perhaps his example will help others.   If you are a marginalized person, please share how you have dealt with being tokenized by someone you view as a friend.