When a president’s name is a call to racism

The recent incident at a basketball game in Canton (Connecticut) underscores just how frustrating it is to talk to people whose entire world centers on a rigidity of thought that many of us believed no longer existed.

What happened in brief: a small group of Canton fans shouted “Trump! Trump! Trump!” at players from Classical Magnet in Hartford, a school whose students are primarily black and Latino. Every school has its share of knuckleheads—perhaps Classical does too—and after the incident Canton’s reaction was fine: an apology and a promise to deal with it.

Then came the adults, and suddenly the knuckleheads looked like valedictorians. One of them, a Stephen Roberto, said at a recent meeting that he couldn’t see how anyone could find any racial intent by shouting out the president’s name during the game, adding “They [students?] are proud Republicans, they are proud of their conservative values, they don’t consider it a racist slur.”

If I might quietly offer a rebuttal: it’s a freakin’ basketball game, not a political rally!

Sorry for yelling, but let me add this: I’ve been to many sporting events, and though I coach tennis now where crowds are generally subdued, I’ve coached well over two-hundred volleyball games when fans grew almost maniacal and the tensions rose rapidly. Never did I hear shouts of “Reagan! Reagan! Reagan!” when an opponent stepped to the line to serve, even though I know there were many “proud Republicans” among the spectators. It certainly would have been funny, but it never happened. (Carter, H.W., and Clinton were also pretty much absent from the cheering sections at those matches.)

Mr. Roberto was not alone in his assessment: a Guerry Dotson attributed the strong negative reaction to people who are still upset that Trump won the presidential election, and Theresa Dotson added that many of the chanting students are involved in their churches as well as efforts to help needy people. This is Trumpian deflection at its best—don’t address the issue: talk about something else.

So let me confess, I am upset that Trump won, but I also know that he won because good God-fearing people “involved in their churches” chose to abandon every principle they had, including those that spoke against sexual assault and racial discrimination and the abuse of the poor and the inordinate worship of Mammon. All those Evangelicals with their Christian testifying found it pretty easy to look the other way when their candidate was groping women or refusing to pay his taxes or colluding with the Russians or inciting some gun owner to shoot his opponent because (Oh my dear God!) she used a private email server. Message to you Trump apologists: don’t sit there now like some opposite-day-Solomon, hide behind the Good Book, and tell Christians like me that your sons and daughters wouldn’t act the same and that you’re not responsible for it. You’re a proud Republican? Own it.

Trump apologists probably won’t see this blog, but it wouldn’t matter if they did. I would just drop into the “sore loser” category, or I’d be a heathen for not remembering how Jesus said it was okay to ignore the sick and downtrodden while providing the mentally imbalanced with guns. Sore loser? I can live with that judgment. I hope they can live with theirs.

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Chuck Radda

I'm a former high school English teacher, currently a literacy volunteer and novelist. I invite your responses right here or to chuckradda@gmail.com. You can also follow me on Facebook and on Twitter—where I tweet annually at @chuckrad45.

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