Tag Archives: Pastor Martin Niemoller

Don’t Wait for Donald Trump

donald_trump_speechIt is no surprise to most Americans that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has made yet another political misstep and refuses to take a step back to examine himself.  Trump recently said that federal judge Gonzalo Curiel, a Mexican American born in Chicago and a graduate of Indiana University, is biased against him.  Trump believes that he would not be fair to him because of his ancestry.  According to Trump, his “race” (Please note: Mexican is not a race though some political commentators have described it as such.) disqualifies him from making sound decisions as it relates to the charges of fraud that Trump University faces.  Trump believes that Judge Curiel would not give him a fair hearing because he plans to build a wall at the U.S.- Mexico border as his solution to immigration concerns.

Trump was given an opportunity to autocorrect himself in several interviews but instead doubled down, adding that he did not trust that a Muslim justice would give him a fair hearing either.  At a rally in San Diego, he even turned the tables on the federal judge, labeling him as “a hater, a hater of Donald Trump.”   Persons from his party to include Newt Gingrich have spoken out against him.  Gingrich called his attack on the federal judge “inappropriate.”

But, I would expect nothing less from members of the media and his party, both of whom seek to appear progressive, tolerant and allies when it comes to diversity.  It’s all about the ratings, the votes and of course, the money.  But, they already know who Trump is and what he stands for.  A story released yesterday from The Washington Post finds in two studies a connection between Trump’s rise in popularity and racial anxiety.  So, why keep asking Trump to say what we want him to say?  Why not say it ourselves?

There is a history of damaging and deadly proportions as it relates to the choice to be silent.  Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote about it from a Birmingham jail in August of 1963 and directly questioned the faith and witness of “white clergy” and the “white church.”  He challenged those who questioned the necessity and timeliness of the movement.  For those who wanted him to wait, he had this to say, “We must see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability.” Pastor Martin Niemoller learned this lesson perhaps during his seven years in a Nazi concentration camp:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.


Well, first Donald Trump came for the immigrants and you did not speak out– because you were not an immigrant.

Then Donald Trump came for women and you did not speak out– because you were not a woman.

Then Donald Trump came for persons of Mexican ancestry and you did not speak out– because you were not a Mexican.

Then Donald Trump came for Muslims and you did you not speak out– because you were not Muslim.

Then he came for you– and there was no one left to speak for you.

First, persons dismissed his bid for presidency.  Next, they denied that he would become the presidential nominee.  Now with votes in hand as the presumptive presidential nominee for the Republican party, it is not enough to denounce his words.  I am not certain as to what persons were waiting for and what else they need to hear before they speak up, but I would suggest that you not wait for Donald Trump to say what needs to be said.



Where’s the problem?

untitledTalking about race may be easier than seeing race, especially when it could hit close to home.  Despite the increased visibility of racist interactions or racialized incidents (to the credit of cell phones and social media), seeing the race problem around us or even within us might prove harder to see.  And it does not matter the number of times that we are faced with unfortunate exchanges involving police officers and citizens or unthinkable tragedies fueled by a racist belief system.

This kind of blindness seems historical as I am reminded of the phrase “the Negro problem” and the writings that included it.  Could it be a case of “that’s your problem, not mine”?  I am also reminded of the powerful poem penned by Pastor Martin Niemoller titled “First they came.”  In it, he confesses that he did not speak up for those who were taken and when persons came to take him, there was no left to speak for him. Still, we are unable to find our voice when it comes to vulnerable communities.

We might convince ourselves, “It’s on the television.  It is a national problem.  That doesn’t happen in my neighborhood and certainly not in my home.”  But, how does this mindset impact our interest in the stories of suffering that are shared?  Do we have to see it firsthand before we get involved?  How close does the problem have to be to us before we feel called to take part in its solution?

An article published last year by the Huffington Post said frankly, “Majority of White People Say There’s Racism Everywhere, But Not Around Them.”  This leads me to question what do European Americans see?  Where do they see the problem if not with race?  With what or whom do these persons take issue?  And if there is no problem, then how do you and I help those for whom this invisible problem is impacting?

It is a familiar request for persons to walk in the shoes of another in order to understand their perspective and experience.  How can I help you see where the problem is?