Before I was even two years old I found myself in a crib in the nursery ward of a hospital in the Bay Area of San Francisco. The memories of that visit are only flashes but they are as clear and concrete as though they were just yesterday.
I remember the smell. I remember the the color of the tiled walls in the operating room. I remember the net the nurses put over the cribs at night to prevent the toddlers from crawling out.
What I also remember, as clear as everything else, is the little black boy in the crib next to me. Unlike me, his mom and dad were not able to be there during the day to keep him company and alleviate his fears. He was just a toddler himself in a strange place with strange people all around him. His cries still ring as a distance echo in my mind.
One of the earliest lessons I every learned was in that nursery. It was a lesson on racism. Or I should say how we can combat racism at an very early age and my own mom was the teacher, living by example.
My mom didn't think twice about playing with both me and this little boy. My mom didn't see a difference in our families economic status'. She didn't see a difference in our skin. What she saw were two little kids who needed the distraction of playing to take their minds off that they were both in a hospital surrounded by a lot of scary things.
This has stood has one of the strongest lessons I learned in my early years. It has stood as an example not only for me, but has been past on to the next generation, a generation who includes my twenty year old daughter who will be voting in her first Presidential election this year.
The things we have heard come out of the mouth of the Republican nominee for President this year, needlessly to say, have angered many. The racism poorly disguised as either off the cuff comments or sarcasm betray what is at the core of Donald Trump.
Even though many will validly argue that the behavior we see exhibited by Trump is self-destructive, disagreeable and narcissistic, those are just the beginning of his less than desirable traits. Racism, unfortunately, is also nothing new when it comes to Trump and his career. After looking at the history of the Trumps, it is not far reaching to believe that he is a product of a family environment, that if not racist, did nothing to counter an “us” & “them” mentality in him. His father, Fred Trump, was no stranger to accusations of racism through out his life.
Though little is known about Fred Trump's life in the 1920's, there is one piece of evidence that may suggest that racism was a part of his early life.
Donald Trump denies the allegations but an article in The New York Times from 1927, lists Fred Trump as one of several individuals arrested during a KKK rally and protest. No charges were ever filed and there is no evidence that Fred Trump had any association with the KKK through out his life, but it leaves one wondering why Fred Trump was at the rally and one of only seven arrest among what was reported as a battle between 1000 Klansman and 100 police officers. If he was only an innocent bystander, why was he represented by the same lawyers as the other six?
Several decades later, singer/song writer Woodie Guthrie immortalized the Trump family racism in his song lyrics after witnessing it first hand after he became a tenant of Fred Trump in 1950. Guthrie wrote “Only Old Man Trump knows just how much racial hate he stirred up in the blood spot of human hearts when he drew that color line. .”
The long lasting discriminatory practices of the Trump Organization lead to a civil rights suit in 1973 by the U.S. Justice Department. The Trump Organization, now under Donald Trump's leadership, faced charges of denying African American applicants from being able to rent apartments.
In response to the Department of Justice suit, Trump made wild allegations aimed at the DoJ in a combative press conference in New York. He alleged that if he was forced to rent to welfare-recipients in his apartment buildings in certain middle-class neighborhoods, there would be a “massive fleeing from the city of not only our tenants, but communities as a whole.”
Donald Trump's record of racism continued into the 21st century with wild allegations against President Barak Obama. In 2011, CBS anchor Bob Schieffer, said in an interview with Katie Courtic, that there is “an ugly strain of racism running through this whole thing”, referencing Trumps accusations and attitude towards reasons why President Obama had been admitted to Columbia University.
Could Fred Trump's lifetime of racially discriminatory practices within the Trump organization and a early connection to the KKK set up Donald Trump in a manner that could be part of the reason he is the the person we see today? Is the racism that we see on display from Trump a product of his environment growing up? There might be evidence that this could be the case.
We have long known that children are constant observers of not only of our words but our actions as well. Some evidence says that as early as ages 3 to 5 years old, racism and the idea that there is an “us” & “them” can be firmly planted in a child's mind.
In an interview with the Boston Globe in 2012, Dr. Mahzarin Banaji, a renowned Harvard University psychologist, brain researcher, and racism and physical prejudice expert, said “As children age, let us say past 10, environment begins to play a tremendous role in how they perceive in-group and out-group people - people who look like them, and people who do not,’’ Banaji went on to say, “So the good news is that even a child whose parents make no conscious effort to teach [him] not to be prejudiced can shed that prejudice if he finds himself in a diverse enough place and consistently observes in-group and out-group people interacting positively and as equals.’’
Of course the opposite is also true. Prejudice and inequality can be reinforced as a child matures if that child is not put into a position to see others as equals or in environments where prejudicial practices are seen as the norm. This can go for not only race, but gender and people of different physical abilities as well. If a child is raised in an “us” & “them” environment, what hope does the child have to develop a mind set of equality?
“It is not the fault of the children that they grow up to see a majority of power and influence concentrated among one race,’’ Banaji says. “So if we don’t act in their lives, as they age, to show context to that imbalance, they may continue to believe that one group is better or worse than the other, based on nothing more than color, features, or expressions.’’