Transcript, Web links and Credits below.
Today I want to make a case for you that I don’t think has ever been made before.
It’s a legal case that I think should be debated in Congress and even argued before the Supreme Court. I believe that explicit racism from the President of the United States is an impeachable offense. Trump has been a bigot his entire life, but this week has been the most explicitly racist of his entire presidency.
And I believe that racism from the President is not only a violation of his oath of office — it makes it impossible for him to uphold the Constitution.
I’m gonna make my case. Stick with me here.
Let’s dig in. This is Shaun King and you are listening to (The Breakdown).
Before we begin, and before I press my case, I’d strongly encourage you to listen to Episode 58 & Episode 60 where I explain the gravity and seriousness and danger of what Donald Trump has done this week. I think it’s historic. So listen to those two episodes if you can because I break those issues down there, but I also want to make a quick observation.
The Trump presidency is overwhelming. And I have long since believed that’s by design. If you are a Muslim, if you are a refugee, if you are Black or Brown or a person of color, if you are Native, if you are LGBTQ, if you are a woman — in this presidency, you are under attack. But the attacks are so frequent that it’s genuinely impossible to keep up. Today I want to make a case that I hope will anchor us in the history of the moment we are in right now. Because I know how quickly the news cycle moves, but I today I want us to think and talk about the future of this nation.
Let me break it down.
(Break it down Music)
Donald Trump has a rich, varied history of racism, bigotry, and discrimination going all the way back to at least 1973, when the United States government filed a racial bias suit against him for mistreating Black applicants and tenants all over New York. It was one of the largest lawsuits of its kind back then. That was 46 years ago. In the 46 years since, the list of offenses has piled up. In a better time, all of those things would’ve prevented him from ever being elected, but here we are. He’s president and now he’s openly carrying that bigotry right into the Oval Office. Not only do I think he is violating his oath of office, I think his open, flagrant bigotry is an impeachable offense.
When Trump was craving the front pages of tabloids in between guest appearances on professional wrestling pay-per-views, his racism, misogyny, and even open accusations of sexual assault and harassment were frequently dismissed and forgiven by the general public with a wink and a nod. It was an equal mix of wealth, white privilege, and the public’s obsession with celebrities that allowed him to ride above it all. But now that he’s President of the United States — and not just an NBC employee with a bad reality TV show where not a single apprentice ever developed into an actual, meaningful employee — he is, in theory, subjected to the Constitution and all of the laws governing the presidency. But the thing is — somebody actually has to enforce them.
Do you know the difference between implicit bias and explicit bias? I need to explain it to you in order for what I’m about to say to really make sense. Across the country, corporations and government agencies, including police departments, are offering a wave of what’s called “implicit bias training.” The fundamental theory there is that in this country, otherwise well-meaning employees can be racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, etc. in ways that they may not really even be aware of. This bias is still very real, but is alleged to be unconscious and almost accidental if you will. I’m not saying I buy it, I’m telling you that’s what implicit bias is. It’s the notion that people can often unknowingly discriminate against others in ways that are still painful and problematic, but not overt and explicit. It’s about preferences and promotions, but it’s also about who’s punished and who’s spared. In all of those things, racial slurs might not be used, but bias and discrimination can still be very real. Implicit bias training is designed to teach people how they may be advancing systemic oppression without being fully aware.
Do you know why corporations and agencies have training for implicit bias and not explicit bias? The answer is simple — explicit bias literally violates thousands of laws, codes, and policies across the country. When you are an open bigot on your job, the standard operating procedure is that you don’t need training, you need to be fired. That’s because bigotry is dangerous. It’s dangerous to have a racist doctor or nurse. It’s dangerous to have an openly bigoted police officer. That’s why responsible prosecutors across the country are now banning the testimony of police officers found to have been openly bigoted on social media — it’s impossible to trust that someone can have sound judgment and credibility on people different than them when they also openly, publicly admit to hating those people. It’s common sense. All over the country people are routinely fired for explicit bias. As they should be.
This past week, if it has taught us anything at all, it has taught us that Donald Trump is not implicitly biased. His bias and bigotry are overt and explicit. When he told four sitting congresswomen of color that they should go back to where they came from and that it couldn’t happen fast enough is so overtly, explicitly bigoted and biased that an almost identical phrase is listed on Trump’s own government website for the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) where it says,
“Ethnic slurs and other verbal or physical conduct because of nationality are illegal if they are severe or pervasive and create an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment, interfere with work performance, or negatively affect job opportunities. Examples of potentially unlawful conduct include insults, taunting, or ethnic epithets, such as making fun of a person’s foreign accent or comments like, ‘Go back to where you came from,’ whether made by supervisors or by co-workers.”
Can we pause there for a moment? The United States government literally lists the very phrase that Trump just uttered as their actual example of unlawful workplace misconduct. The paragraph also alludes to the very reality of why explicit bias is problematic and cannot be tolerated. After Trump first targeted the four congresswomen on social media, his followers then ran with it and gave his initial attack a life of its own when thousands of attendees at a Trump rally in North Carolina began chanting “Send her back! Send her back!” to Ilhan Omar. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — I think it was and is one of the single most bigoted moments in modern American politics. The next day Trump — who has literally told over 10,000 lies in office — told one of the dumbest of them all, saying that he tried to stop his followers from making the bigoted chant. He said that like we don’t have eyes and ears. He basked in the chant. He stopped giving his speech and allowed the chant to grow. And did so for a full 13 seconds. And when he started speaking again — he said nothing of the moment. In fact, he restarted his attack on Ilhan Omar as soon as the chant died down.
And that’s why we don’t have training for explicit bias. Racism and bigotry are a virus. They spread and mutate and shapeshift. They find new hosts and take on new forms. It’s a snowball effect. Explicit bias is a conscious choice with dangerous repercussions. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a single, fair, clear-minded expert on racism and bias say that what Trump has done this week is anything other than open, flagrant, and dangerous bigotry.
Let me share a quote with you. And then I’d love for you to guess who it’s from.
“Donald Trump is not just allowing it to happen, but actively encouraging it to happen, is an indefensible disgrace.
The President keeps insisting he’s not a racist, and I’ve repeatedly said that in the 13 years I’ve known him, I’ve personally never witnessed him being a racist.
But since running for the White House, his inflammatory language has flirted ever closer to crossing the line into overt racism, and now he’s crossed that line. Big time.
Let’s be very unambiguously clear: what happened in North Carolina last night was not just racist-fueled demagoguery but bordered on fascism.
There was the President of the United States whipping his supporters into a hyper-animated state of rage about a political opponent because of her ethnicity.”
That was from the blowhard Piers Morgan — lifelong friend and defender of Donald Trump. Before we applaud him — soon after Morgan made this bold, respectable statement on Trump, he went into his own indefensible attack on Congresswomen Ilhan Omar, but the greater point is this. Piers F— Morgan said it “was not just racist-fueled demagoguery but bordered on fascism.”
Presidents and prime ministers across the world are calling Trump out and openly saying that the bigotry demonstrated by Trump and his followers is depraved and unacceptable. That’s where we are right now. You couldn’t a single serious employer in this nation that would allow an employee to say and do what Trump and his followers are saying and doing.
I’d call that a problem. It basically means that the only reason Trump isn’t fired is because he’s President of the United States. He’d be fired from any other major corporation for this dangerous tomfoolery.
And only Congress has any real power to hold the President of the United States accountable.
And while scores of progressive congresspeople have called for impeachment hearings to proceed, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for whatever reason, is against it.
So let’s examine, for just a moment, first, what the Presidential Oath of Office actually says. It’s one simple sentence. It says, “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
I have questions.
Can we sincerely say that a man who has done what Trump did is honoring that oath? The question it comes down to is this: Can an explicitly biased person “faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States?” Can an overtly racist person “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution?”
I emphatically say, “Hell no!” In my opinion, a case could be made that an explicitly racist person cannot “preserve, protect, and defend” the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. See, both of those clauses were authored at times when the nation was in great crisis, trying to protect groups of people who would likely, otherwise, be marginalized. They’ve been challenged and successfully defended for over 150 years because they were designed to ensure that all American citizens are treated equally. When Trump became President, he swore an oath that he, too, would play by these rules.
Can a person who is explicitly, overtly racist treat everyone equally under the law? I feel dumb even asking such a question. Now if you let them tell it, they’ll tell you yes a hundred times. But letting a racist be the judge of whether or not their racism negatively fuels and shapes the way they think and make decisions is dumb. It’s the very reason why overtly racist people are fired from every single type of place of employment. If you are an overtly racist person, Wal-Mart will fire you from bagging groceries. Uber will fire you from driving cars. Amazon will fire you from packing boxes. McDonalds will fire you from making burgers. Because you are a liability and can no longer be trusted.
The market has already worked out what the government seems unable and unwilling to acknowledge — which is that simply being President of the United States is not permission to be racist. The exact opposite should be true. The President of the United States should be held to a higher standard than an entry level employee at any Fortune 5000 company in this country. And right now, he isn’t.
And only Congress has the power to change that.
Produced by Willis Polk II