On Jan. 13, President Donald J. Trump tweeted the following while sharing a video from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.): “If Elizabeth Warren, often referred to by me as Pocahontas, did this commercial from Bighorn or Wounded Knee instead of her kitchen, with her husband dressed in full Indian garb, it would have been a smash!”
Warren, born and raised in Oklahoma, has claimed Native American heritage. Trump has relentlessly called her “Pocahontas.”
Wounded Knee was a massacre of over 350 Sioux men, women and children.
So, there it is: more of the president’s pattern of using racially charged rhetoric. Over the course of his presidency, Trump has often used offensive remarks when discussing issues pertaining to race.
When announcing his presidential campaign, he said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Later, he referred to Mexican immigrants as “bad hombres.”
One of his first policy initiatives as president was to implement a travel ban on seven predominantly Muslim countries. A few months later he stated, “I think Islam hates us.”
After a riot erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, between white supremacists and protesters, leaving one young woman dead, the president declared that there were “very fine people on both sides.”
These examples, set alongside the president’s latest tweet, need to be condemned by people of faith. President Trump should repent from these remarks and seek forgiveness from the individuals and communities he has offended. And he should change the content and tone of his communication.
As a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, I find it appalling that the president has used both Wounded Knee and Pocahontas as political fodder. The history of the United States regarding indigenous peoples is rooted in the genocide of millions of men, women and children. For the president to make light of that reality demonstrates his ignorance, arrogance or outright racist views.
Because he continues to use this type of racially charged language, decent and thoughtful citizens must condemn the remarks and demand an apology. More so, as a self-described Christian, the president should repent and seek forgiveness.
Repentance is an act of transformation. Biblical repentance begins with the acknowledgment of error, which then leads to an inner change in the human condition. Once this change is established, future behavior is shaped by this internal transformation.
My prayer for President Trump is that he truly enters into this process for his sake and for the common good of our nation and world. My fear is that he is incapable of considering as equals people who do not look like him or support his views. While he argues for a physical barrier to impede brown immigrants, it seems that he has already erected a wall within himself that makes him incapable of empathy towards others.
In “Moral Man and Immoral Society,” Reinhold Niebuhr wrote: “While it is possible for intelligence to increase the range of benevolent impulse, and thus prompt a human being to consider the needs and rights of other than those to whom he is bound by organic and physical relationship, there are definite limits in the capacity of ordinary mortals which makes it impossible for them to grant to others what they claim for themselves.”
The president has a difficult time understanding and relating to others not of his fold. He has a very simplistic worldview. His “America First” mentality is based upon the notion of us-versus-them. He persists in making comments based upon preconceived ideas he has about the world, which often tend to be false stereotypes based upon race.
Niebuhr added, “Human beings are endowed by nature with both selfish and unselfish impulses.” I call upon the president to appeal to his unselfish impulses. He needs to be a president for all Americans.
As a person of faith, I am constantly choosing not to give into the darkness of racism. I truly believe the president can see the light and become the leader America deserves.
The words of Martin Luther King Jr. give me hope: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Is President Trump a racist?
I honestly don’t know, but one thing seems apparent: comments like those listed above lead racists to think the president is on their side and lead those who are targeted by his comments to feel disrespected and abandoned.
The president has an opportunity to change his course, but he must be willing to take the first step.
If Christians truly believe that God loves the entire world, then we must take Paul’s words seriously: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
I hope the president will listen to Paul and act accordingly.
Editor’s note: This commentary, published at EthicsDaily.com and BaptistNews.com, is a collaborative project of BCE and Baptist News Global.
CEO of Good Faith Media.