President Donald Trump always has a nasty nickname or insult ready when he perceives an enemy. For detractors who are black, Trump usually goes after their intelligence, tapping into a traditional racism that, unfortunately, resonates with some supporters.
Trump has called Rep. Maxine Waters “a real low-IQ individual.” He tweeted that HBO host Bryant Gumbel is “really dumb.” He called former MSNBC host Touré “a really stupid guy.” And now he’s come after CNN host Don Lemon and basketball superstar LeBron James, tweeting, “Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!”
James’ foundation is contributing about $2 million a year to help establish an elementary school in Akron, Ohio. The school for some of the city’s neediest children will offer a longer-than-usual school day and year, counseling, health checkups, food pantries, clothing and tutoring. James also will pay tuition at the University of Akron for students who graduate high school. And every student gets a bike.
But on Lemon’s show last week, James said Trump was using sports to divide the nation, referring to Trump’s attacks on NFL players who kneel during the national anthem. James also called Trump a “bum” last year when the president rescinded a White House invitation to the NBA’s Steph Curry after Curry, who is black, made it clear he would not go. And Lemon has called Trump a racist.
Trump might like Michael Jordan because Jordan is legendary for never commenting on social issues, but “Mike” praised James after Trump’s attack for his work in the community. Melania Trump lauded James and signaled that she’d be open to visiting the Akron school.
Trump responds to opponents aggressively; that’s his prerogative. But consistently degrading the intellect of black people who disagree with him — while rarely doing so to his white detractors — is racist. Just as Trump’s attacks on the physical appearance of female opponents, a strategy he almost never employs against men, are sexist.
Trump won’t improve because his strategy is attacked. But the nation will suffer if it isn’t.