On July 26, “The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America,” a joint exhibit of the Brooklyn Museum and the Equal Justice Initiative, opened at the museum. Two days later, not far away on Long Island, President Trump gave a speech to law enforcement officers in which, to “significant applause,” he gave a nod and a wink to police brutality.
These two events are part of the single story of America. The first confronts us with truths we seek to evade in the belief that “great art and courageous conversations contribute to a more just, civic, and empathetic world.” The other, the one Donald Trump tells, aims to drive us further apart.
Since the end of World War Two – and its lesson of what happens in a country where groups of people are dehumanized – America has, slowly and against much resistance, broadened the definition of our community.
But today we have a new kind of bully pulpit, from which the president goes after the vulnerable, the marginalized ones, because that’s what bullies do, and suggests that organizations that have struggled to be more inclusive don’t need to do so anymore.
Many are pushing back: the military declined (at least for now) to enforce the transgender ban; the boy scouts apologized for Trump’s speech; the police resisted his call. But many are also cheering. I fear that those who resist will grow tired, while those who cheer will grow bolder, and democracy will erode.
America cannot have an honest, unifying conversation with a president who speaks in divisive, deceitful code. It’s time to join the resistance.