What’s On Your Mind?

01/14/2018 12:49 pm ET Updated Jan 15, 2018

Ask a Trump supporter what they like about Donald Trump, and you’re likely to hear, “He speaks his mind.”

More importantly, Donald Trump speaks your mind.

At long last, America has a president who is unafraid to say what millions of Americans are thinking: that brown people should go home. If that home happens to be the United States, well, maybe they should find a new home.

If you’re a non-white immigrant thinking about putting down roots in the United States, you’d best think again. As the president said, people from “shithole” countries like Haiti, El Salvador and pretty much any African country are no longer welcome here.

In fairness, the president suggested he might carve out an exception for Asian countries, as he reckons those folks are good for our economy. When it comes to Asian immigrants, America can’t seem to make up its own mind. Congress blocked Chinese immigrants in 1882 with the Chinese Exclusion Act, and it rounded up Japanese Americans into interment camps in 1942. The moral of the presidential rant seems to be that Norwegian immigrants are welcome anytime and non-white immigrants are welcome when they suit us.

Leading by example, the president has done away with political correctness, one apparently essential checkbox on the way to reestablishing American greatness. Now it’s ok to say what’s been on your mind for a very long time.

The problem, though, is that not being able to say what you’re thinking was never the problem. The problem is what you’re thinking.

In the movie, “Hidden Figures,” about the role African American women played in advancing America’s space program, there is a revealing exchange between one of those women, Dorothy Vaughan, and her white supervisor, Vivian Mitchell.

“Despite what you may think,” says Mitchell, “I have nothing against y’all.”

Vaughan replies, “I know you probably believe that.”

I believe most white Americans believe they are not racists, even those that have the president’s MAGA back.

I grew up in Texas, son of parents who were liberal by Texan standards. Translated: I was a well-intentioned person who lacked awareness. I happened on some awareness years ago when I held hands in public with a woman of color and felt the uncomfortable stares of white people for the first time. Those looks gave me a glimpse into a reality that had been oblivious to me.

Now that our president has enabled millions of Americans to emerge from some very dark closets, the American landscape in 2018 is breathtaking in its bigotry. I knew we had a problem. I had no earthly idea the problem was so heartbreakingly vast.

The president has fired up white fears of brown people – calling them killers and rapists. Making America great again has been squarely equated with finding a solution to its color problem. The plan is to erect a great wall around our whiteness to protect it from harm.

Of the various fears that might be conjured, the most rational one is that when people of color outnumber white people in the United States, they will treat white people the same way that white people have treated them.

I think it could be argued that maybe we whites have it coming. In any case, maybe that fear is a really good reason to treat people of color with the decency and compassion that we would like to be treated. A person of color used that simple concept to sum up a sermon he gave on the Mount of Beatitudes over 2,000 years ago.

America already has a wall, one that separates our fearful base instincts from the reason and kindness of our better angels. When we figure out how to demolish that wall, we will have truly solved America’s immigration problem.

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