By Frank Harris III
The Hartford Courant
President Barack Obama, in endorsing Hillary Clinton, bet on the goodness of Americans to reject fear, divisiveness and bigotry.
He lost that bet.
The White House will have its first openly bigoted president in my lifetime.
Donald Trump has won. America is great again.
Indeed, since Trump’s triumph, images span social media documenting that greatness, including in East Windsor, Conn., where a video shows a bonfire with a gathering of jubilant people. One wears a white robe and hood of the Ku Klux Klan, another waves an American flag, and reportedly another sports a cap with the words “Make America Great Again.”
Just as former Confederates in 1865 were emboldened by Andrew Johnson’s presidency after the Civil War, so are Trump’s supporters with his victory.
America is great again.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups in America, has documented more than 400 great-again incidents of harassment and intimidation since Election Day. Anti-immigrant acts of hate lead the way, followed by acts against blacks.
Meanwhile the president-elect, as evident in a “60 Minutes” interview, professed little knowledge of the acts of hate and violence and threats and intimidation in his name.
He offered a tepid “Stop it” to the bigotry he has unleashed – then appointed Stephen Bannon, chairman of Breitbart News, viewed by critics as the platform for white nationalism, as his chief strategist.
And those who voted for Trump who don’t exhibit the out-and-out bigotry of white supremacy groups supporting him profess not to understand why some of us see all Trump supporters as bigots for overlooking that bigotry and giving him their vote.
Yes, there are things in all our lives that we overlook in some of the people we meet, know, love or work with. There are choices and concessions we make on the scale of what matters most.
It’s like the fans who root for the player on their favorite team, despite the fact that he abuses women. Just bring a championship.
It comes down to what matters most.
To me it seems Trump’s supporters put aside any concern about racism, sexism and all forms of bigotry in casting their votes.
So they vote for a bigot because they are persuaded that Hillary Clinton lied about her emails, which they apparently consider worse.
“He says what I want to say,” said one Trump supporter in a TV interview after the election.
Now America is great again.
With that greatness flashes the horror of our history. The terror of our lynching trees. The blood in the spangled banner. Certain folks on their knees. And bonfires.
More than 400 hate crimes now reported, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
And there are people who are afraid.
But I am not afraid.
I will not be bullied. Or cowed.
I will not lower my eyes. Or bend my knees or shuffle.
I will not turn the other cheek. I don’t care how many people I face or what the odds.
I will stand. And I will fight – mentally, morally and physically if necessary.
I will not suffer for my rights without making the other person suffer for trying to take my rights.
I will stand for myself and others who are being bullied, harassed or attacked by an individual or group.
Frank Harris III is a professor of journalism at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. He wrote this for the Hartford Courant.