Clinton hits the mark with 'deplorables' comment
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Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump touts economic agenda in battleground Ohio The Memo: Campaigns gird for rush of early voting Trump's pitch to Maine lobstermen falls flat MORE ignited a firestorm among many of my white conservative friends and colleagues last week when she stated that "you can put half of [GOP nominee Donald] Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables."

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While the comment made me chuckle due to Clinton's acknowledged use of hyperbole by arbitrarily placing the number at half, she clearly touched a nerve with some Trump supporters who are offended that they have been called bigots in the public square.

In my 44 years of living, if I know nothing else, I know that whites of all ages dread being called a racist. The R-word either raises their blood pressure and ire, or stops water-cooler conversations with black colleagues mid-sentence. I am not completely sure why this is so, but I often have suspected that such is the case because most people in any given race hold highly favorable opinions of themselves and believe that they are incapable of harming another person simply because they are of another race.

But what I also know is that by having grown up in an all-black neighborhood in Tallahassee, Florida and having attending predominantly black Morehouse College and Florida A&M University for my undergraduate and graduate school degrees in history, I was shielded from what I would learn during my first year of law school at the University of Florida, which is that many whites my age, no matter how smart or cool they were, seemed to be completely oblivious to what constitutes racism in America.

How, then, do we define racism? The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as: "prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior."

Cognizant of the above definition, when I debate what racism is in America with white friends, followers or trolls on social media, I challenge each by asking:

  • When did blacks subject whites to 256 years of legally recognized enslavement from 1619 to 1865?
  • When did blacks hold a Constitutional Convention where they declared that enslaved whites would be counted as three-fifths of a whole human being for congressional representation purposes (not that they were allowed to vote)?
  • When did black people, per custom, decree that free whites in the North segregate themselves from blacks in churches, schools and other public accommodations before the Civil War?
  • When did blacks, per law, decree that white slaves who escaped to the free North be returned to bondage in the South per the Fugitive Slave Act?
  • After 12 short years of Reconstruction, when did blacks relegate newly freed whites to nearly 100 years of Jim Crow laws where they were treated like second-class citizens in public education, where they could not be treated at the best hospitals, eat in certain restaurants or try on clothes in stores. Or when blacks, by law, forbade whites from buying land in certain areas, obtaining bank loans to purchase land or enhance businesses, oh, and lest we forget, subjected them to public lynchings where no one was ever convicted of killing them?

No white person in America can counter the above questions because such systemic racial discrimination never occurred in America by blacks toward whites. But from 1619 to 1968, 349 years, whites — by law — subjected blacks to such dolorous conditions on a daily basis.

Now, the more sarcastic among my white friends will reply, "Well, 1968 was a long time ago; when do we move on?" My reply is that 349 years is far longer than 48, and while blacks have made great progress in many fields of endeavor since the late '60s, far too many blacks remain mired in economic conditions that are as bad or worse as the darkest days of the Jim Crow era due to centuries of systemic racism.

My last point often draws puzzled looks and the shifting of blame by some of my white friends, who boast that their families never owned slaves or discriminated against anyone. But such arguments are red herrings that completely miss the point that at this very moment, the U.S. Department of Justice and lawyers across America are prosecuting cases with respect to discriminatory lending and hiring practices, school re-segregation, redlining, voting rights obstruction and the disparate dispensation of criminal "justice."

As such, I suggest to those Trump supporters who were offended by Clinton's comment that if you spent the last eight years under the cloak of computer anonymity typing racial epithets like the N-word whenever President Obama or his wife, Michelle, spoke; if you scream "build that wall" while nodding in agreement when Trump casts Mexicans as criminals; if you believe that San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other blacks who are protesting against America's still unequal justice system should "find another country" or "go back to Africa"; or if you believe that Muslim Americans should be profiled and disqualified from public service based on their religious beliefs, then you are a racist and a bigot, no matter how much you suggest to the contrary.

Hobbs is a lawyer and award-winning freelance writer based in Tallahassee, Florida. Follow him on Twitter @RealChuckHobbs.


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