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Trump, Casey Affleck, Brock Turner, and the Soft Bigotry of low Expectations

In July of the year 2000, then President George W. Bush spoke about his vision for education at the NAACP’s 91st annual convention. He made headlines from the speech in main part by his use of the term “soft bigotry of low expectations”:

“Discrimination is still a reality, even when it takes different forms. Instead of Jim  Crow, there’s racial redlining and profiling. Instead of separate but equal, there is separate and forgotten…I will confront another form of bias: the soft bigotry of low expectations…we have come so far in opening the doors of our schools. But today we have a challenge of our own…There’s a tremendous gap of achievement between rich and poor, white and minority. This, too, leaves a divided society. And whatever the causes, the effect is discrimination.”

Truer have never been spoken as it relates to challenges we face in education in America, even 17 years later. As I watched the political rise of President Donald Trump and the low bar set for him, however, I find myself finding the “soft bigotry of low expectations” being more and more applicable to him. I have never seen a United States president have such a low bar set for him. The only reason I can find is that he is a rich, famous, white male, and like many others who occupy this group such as Brock Turner, Mel Gibson, Roman Polanski, Ethan Couch, and Ryan Lochte, the ultimate consequences towards these individuals vary, but the initial assumptions about their actions are usually excused or downright defended in ways other people simply are not.

U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte lied about being robbed in Brazil when he and his entourage were the guilty party for vandalizing a gas station. Ultimately he suffered some consequences but initially when his lie was unearthed, some called what he did a “youthful error” though he was thirty years old at the time. Mel Gibson, among other things, told his wife that he hopes she gets raped by a “pack of niggers” and sat front row at the Oscars in 2017. Roman Polanski admits to raping a child yet still in this decade receives standing ovations for his movies at the Oscars while some of our favorite stars appeal for his exoneration. Collegiate star swimmer Brock Turner received 6 months in a county jail for rape, or what his father called, “20 minutes of action” and was released after 3 months. Lastly, Ethan Couch committed vehicular homicide and got off because he suffered from “affluenza meaning he was too rich and spoiled to be held responsible for his actions. What these men have in common is that they are rich, popular white males and therefore they are given a benefit of the doubt, which so many other groups are denied, as Sady Doyle wrote in her brilliant article: “What we lose when we give awards to men like Casey Affleck.” Enter Donald Trump.

Throughout the campaign and well into his presidency, Trump has demonstrated a level of incompetence that we have never witnessed. All one has to do is compare the analysis of his campaign to that of Hillary Clinton. Despite Clinton’s many flaws and flawed campaign, the fact of the matter is that she, like President Obama, have had to be twice as good in their campaigns to receive just half the accolades showered upon Trump. Hillary Clinton by many accounts won all of the presidential debates, knew her facts when discussing the issues, and made her campaign about policy, demonstrated by her ability to speak knowledgeably on the issues. Trump focused much of his campaign on bombast, rhetoric, hate, hyperbole and outright lies and was praised by many because he “tells it like it is.” What does “tell it like it is” mean when what you “tell” is a lie?

From stating that President Obama wiretapped him, that he saw Muslims in New Jersey celebrating 911, that millions of people voted illegally for Clinton, and countless other fabrications, Trump has repeatedly lied and when he gets called out on his lies, he is excused because he is a “businessman” and not an actual politician. It’s so weird because, for everyone else, once you decide to run for political office, you’re a politician. It’s sort of like 1+1=2 for most of but for many Trump apologists, 1+1 can actually = 1.5 if he says so. Furthermore, Obama spent his entire two terms working imperfectly to unify America through his policies and social commentary in the face of massacres like Sandy Hook, while Trump gets called “presidential” for being able to read calmly from a teleprompter for an hour. This is the presidential equivalent of Chris Rock stating that fathers shouldn’t expect to receive praise for actually raising their own children.

At the end of the day, too many of us in America are quick to excuse the actions, ignorance, and downright crimes of white men of status, while we are quick to turn boys into men when they are murdered at the hands of law enforcement and others as we did with Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown, who had just reached the age of adulthood at 18. Comparatively, Ethan Couch was a juvenile when he actually killed four people and went home to sleep in his own bed simply because he was rich. President Donald Trump, a man well into his 70s, continues to get a pass and even be praised for his downright ignorance of basic common knowledge. He can say it’s OK to sexually assault a woman and call it locker room banter and it’s OK. He can admit to being a racist and an anti-Semite and it can be excused because he said he is the “least” of these. The list is exhaustive and will continue to grow until some of us in America make the conscious decision to no longer give rich white men a pass because the bar we set for them is set so low. This soft bigotry is indeed a new type of discrimination and is having hard consequences for the entire country.

7 reasons this father did not vote for Donald Trump

Senator Hillary Clinton had her issues. There is no question that over her decades of service to the United States and the globe, there were some downright shady practices that could have easily propelled a more polished republican political candidate into the White House but this article is not about Hillary. This article is about the values of fatherhood or lack thereof that I have witnessed from Donald Trump. Regardless of his actual policies, there are just certain values that every father I know stresses and I see none of them being exuded by Mr. Trump and therefore I could have never voted for him. The following are the top 7 values that every father hopes their children exude that Donald Trump simply does not, pre and post election.

1. Be Honest

As a father of 2 girls and a boy ranging in age from 2-10, my wife and I are engaged in constant conversations with them about the importance of telling the truth and having integrity. There is an African proverb that says when you tell the truth you don’t need a good memory. Throughout his 70-year history, Donald Trump has proven to be an individual who will say whatever it takes to anyone to get what he wants and denies what he says when confronted, even if video or audio recording proves his prior comments. During this election, he has flip-flopped on so many issues that I could never know whether he is telling the truth. We teach our kids that if people cannot believe you, they cannot trust you so always tell the truth regardless of the consequences.

2. Don’t call other people names

Every father I know teaches their children to have respect for others. We tell them to not call people out of their names. Donald Trump is quick to refer to anyone with whom he disagrees as ugly, disgusting, fat pig, Ms. Piggy, Ms. Housekeeping, horrible liar, and much worse. We teach our children that everyone was given a name and that name should always be honored. As a child who was often called names like “African bush boogie” and “African booty scratcher” and worse, I grew up knowing exactly how it feels to be minimalized by being called out of my name. I would never let my children call people out of their names and have it go unchecked and I would also remind them of how low they felt when someone else called them out of their names, which has already happened far too often for their young ages.

3: Don’t make fun of people

There have been many actions throughout Trump’s campaign that I have deemed to be extremely ignorant and disrespectful. At the top of the list is his mocking of a reporter with a disability. We teach our children that you do not make fun of people who may appear to be disadvantaged physically, economically, etc. we ask them how they would feel if someone who appeared to be in a better position or status than them mocked them in some way, shape, or form. Kendra & I teach them that if they don’t have anything good to say about someone, do not say anything at all. We teach them to help build up others, not tear them down. We teach them to be upstanders when they see others being picked on and not bystanders like we have seen by so many Trump supporters at his rallies.

4. Put up or shut up

Donald Trump claims that he is a successful billionaire and vows to be a very patriotic individual who will make America great again but he has refused to provide his tax returns to the public to prove that he is indeed a billionaire or for that matter, a patriot. We do not know what foreign entities he owes money to. Furthermore, Trump has a history of engaging in practices that have not put America first from the hiring of illegal immigrants (which he has been fined for) to cozying up with a Russian dictator in Vladimir Putin whose values are diametrically opposed to those of the United States. We teach our kids to not talk about it but to be about it. We teach them that actions speak louder than words so they should not go out bragging about things that are not true or that they cannot prove.

5. Don’t blame others for your shortcomings

We teach our children that no one cares about their excuses, only their results. We tell them to not blame other people for the things they do not accomplish in life. We teach them that regardless of the resources they may not have, they can achieve anything they want if they work hard enough. If they are not successful, we teach them to take responsibility for their failings. Donald Trump blames everyone else for his shortcomings. Any time he seemed like he was in danger of losing a primary state election, he went into a tirade about how the system is rigged and blamed in advance the entire American political system for any possible electoral failures if he lost. We teach our children that part of being a leader is taking responsibility for your actions and remembering that as cliché as it sounds, when you point your finger at others, there are three fingers pointing back at you.

6. Believe people when they show you who they are

We teach our children that a leopard never changes its spots (although my daughter’s response was “Sure it can. It just finds a new spot” as in a place to live). Dr. Maya Angelou said that when people show you who they are believe them. Kendra and I think this is important as they get older and possibly start dating or just in general with their friends and colleagues. We teach them for example, that if someone can hit you they can kill you. We teach them that if people call you negative names, they don’t love you. Donald Trump has shown that he is a racially ignorant, sexist, philandering, islamophobic wanna-be-demagogue who speaks in pedophiliac terms about his own daughter. He cannot be believed when he says he will respect the blue-collar worker because he never has. His continual belief that the Central Park 5 are guilty shows he cannot stomach the idea of being wrong and his history of misogyny proves that we will never demonstrate a healthy respect for women. This is who he has proven himself to be in 70 years. He will never change his spots, even if he does indeed find a new spot.

7. Facts matter

I know we live in an anti-intellectual climate where the average American reads one book a year after completing school and we look at professional wrestling and reality shows as real but the professor in me still believes that facts will one day matter again, maybe after this election. Donald Trump is quick to say “A lot of people I talk to are saying…” or “A lot of people saw Muslims in America celebrating 911” or “A lot of people are asking for Obama’s birth certificate”, etc. without pointing to any facts. We teach our children that they need to back up their accusations with facts. With my American University students, I tell them that they can’t just make generalized statements and expect to pass my course or anyone’s course for that matter. As Joe Madison says, facts to many people today are like kryptonite to Superman. We teach our children to arm themselves with facts and most people will run away from them when they shoot out any word of truth.

At the end of the day, Donald Trump is 70-year old boy and he is proud of it, given his acknowledgment that he is the same person he was since he was 8 years old. I personally found that disrespectful to the thousands of compassionate, honest, and service-oriented 8 year olds I have met around the world but that is a story for another day. He proudly touted his comments of assaulting women as locker room banter though no father I know speaks like that. His wife Melania says raising him is like having two teenage sons and many of us found it amusing. There is nothing funny to me about a man who violates the basic tenets of fatherhood in his quest to become Kin…President of the United States. We know that all of our kids our watching. We need to ensure that they do not pick up on his foolishness and try to emulate it for it will be a recipe for disaster in their personal and professional lives.

Beyoncé the latest example of women held to a higher standard than men

It has been more than a week since Super Bowl 50 and the world is still taking about Beyoncé’s performance, which was captivating at best, or a slap in the face to the family friendly event at worst. From The Jacksons to former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the performance either made you proud, angry, or somewhere in between. As some prepare to boycott the NFL or Beyoncé in anger, it seems that there is one point that we are missing—Beyoncé was not the only performer on stage, but she was the only woman. The critique she is receiving is yet another double standard in the way women are treated harshly for their actions while men get a pass.

Starting with Beyoncé, I find it shameful that few people are mentioning the fact that Coldplay and Bruno Mars also performed. While many on social media jokingly thanked Coldplay for opening up for Beyoncé and Bruno Mars, the fact remains that it was Coldplay’s performance and they added Beyoncé. Since they clearly rehearsed for the performance, Chris Martin knew exactly what Beyoncé was going to do as it relates to her Black Panther attire. Should he not be protested as well? What about Bruno Mars? Was he not also dressed in the traditional black leather attire of the Black Panthers? I started to wonder how common situations like this occur and I instantly harkened back to Super Bowl 38. 

At the end of the halftime show of Super Bowl 38, superstar singer Justin Timberlake, ripped off part of Janet Jackson’s costume and exposed her right nipple. This event, commonly referred to as the “wardrobe malfunction” or “nipplegate” led to Janet Jackson’s music being blacklisted by Viacom, CBS, MTV, Infinity Broadcasting, and Clear Channel. Justin Timberlake received no such penalty. I then found myself asking—are the Beyoncé and Janet Jackson examples both sexist and racist? Miley Cyrus reminded us that it is not always about race.

In 2013, Miley Cyrus performed her hit song “We Can’t Stop” at the Video Music Awards. She invited R&B crooner Robin Thicke out to sing his new hit song “Blurred Lines.” During his song, Miley Cyrus bent over and “twerked” (grinding her behind against his groin region) while the crowd raucously applauded. Many on social media and in the press, however, did not applaud. Miley was roundly criticized for her raunchy performance and Robin Thicke got a pass, even though Cyrus claims that the move was Thicke’s idea, they did rehearse it, and he wanted her to look “as naked as possible” to reflect the women in his video. None of that mattered though. America sided with a then 36-year old married man who was somehow seduced by a teenage girl. America has a problem.

While the three events written about here represent mainstream pop culture, we can see every day how in 2016, men are still held to a lower standard than women. It is evidenced in Secretary Clinton being condemned for “yelling” though I’ve heard every male candidate in this election yell at some point with the exception of Dr. Ben Carson. It is evidenced in the continued praise heaped over the great American dance icon Fred Astaire while few struggle to remember the name of his partner Ginger Rogers, who did everything Astaire did but backwards and wearing heels, as President Obama noted. When will we wake up?

So as the protests against Beyoncé or the #beycott continue, Coldplay and Bruno Mars play on with no repercussions. We shame Beyoncé but do not shame an America for not knowing that the bay area where the NFL celebrated its 50th Super Bowl is the same place where the Black Panthers also started 50 years ago. We do not shame America for the sweeps of homeless populations living around the San Francisco 49ers stadium while those inside the Super Bowl ate hot dogs with gold flake toppings, celebrating American excess at its best. No. At the end of the day, we condemn the sole female performer who used her opportunity to shed light on a moment in American history that too many of us are either unwilling or incapable of studying and understanding and that is the real affront to American values.