Heather Mallick: One day, possibly today, U.S. President Donald Trump will use the N-word. What then?
It was strange to watch his little White House ceremony on Friday honouring Martin Luther King, Jr. and see him emphasize the word "African" in his mention of "African-Americans." Uncomfortable as I am with excremental references, the subtext was there if you had the strength to consider it. You come from a s---hole, he was saying to the descendants of slaves. And then he scuttled from the room as reporters called out questions to his turned back.
Trump's remarks on Thursday about the "s---hole countries" of the African continent were a success for him, at least in his eyes. Republican politicians did not condemn him, white supremacists cheered, coverage of the highly critical Michael Wolff book vanished, and of course he had people around the world saying "s---hole." Tell me how that is not a win.
It was a win for me in that I was shocked, and then relieved to know that it is still possible for Trump to shock. I cannot say why no guests at the MLK ceremony spoke up to protest Trump's words — it could have been phrased elegantly enough — and why it was left to reporters to ask Trump if he wished to apologize.
On Friday, Agence France-Press reporter Andrew Beatty tweeted, "As we wait for Trump's MLK event in the Roosevelt Room, one of Trump's guests tells reporters you 'vultures' better keep your questions in order today."
The guest was Pastor Darrell C. Scott, a member of Trump's presidential transition team. He finds the press "VERY RUDE, TACKY and UNPROFESSIONAL." He even tweets like Trump. But we know what vultures feed on. The implication that Trump is a corpse came straight from his mouth.
Paul Ryan said Trump's remarks were "very unfortunate, unhelpful." Those are good words for me Krazy Gluing my fingers together trying to repair a Christmas tree ornament. I had eight seconds to detach and lost a goodly amount of skin. It was fair to say my remarks at the time were unfortunate and unhelpful. I was bleeding.
But when the president says such a foul thing, it's really Ryan's job to say something brave for once in his life. Say Trump's words were racist, unpresidential and set a foul example for American schoolchildren.
He didn't say that. No Republican did. The U.S. ambassador to Panama, John Feeley, resigned in protest over working for Trump but it turns out he did it before Trump did his racist twirl.
Here you see how Trump-watching leads you into a trap of your own making, into darker tunnels. What does that mean? How did Trump intend it to be understood? What will he do next? Is this a racist dog-whistle or one long loud protracted saxophone solo for Americans without passports? Does Trump even plan ahead? He is so easy to goad that reporters predict his outbursts, correctly.
When he is mocked, he lashes out. The Steve Bannon debacle was probably behind his bad temper this time.
"Why do we need more Haitians?" Trump said, "Take them out." It sounded as if he was calling for assassinations, but no, he was referring to Haiti's presence on a list of nations whose citizens would be allowed to continue a temporary stay in the U.S.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world. Trump has said that such countries sent the U.S. their worst. In fact, it is often the best who leave because they have the best shot at success in the West.
It's an awkward debate. Should Canada and the U.S. welcome the most educated and trained people from poor countries if that means that their homeland gets poorer? Immigration is a gift for us, a loss for them. Is this not another postcolonial cruelty?
To return to my original question, if black people didn't like Trump's insult and American neo-Nazis did, how will they react when Trump finally uses the N-word? It is quite mad for Trump to keep feeding his base — he already has these voters — but he does enjoy it so.
What could Trump say that would start civil disturbances followed by a race war? Americans are already gunned up. I hope African Americans are able to defend themselves as local police forces — now with tanks — seem reluctant to defend black individuals or blacks en masse.
There will be blood.
Heather Mallick writes opinion for Torstar.