What LeBron James gets exactly right about Donald Trump and race

On Monday, L...

Posted: Jul 31, 2018 2:09 PM
Updated: Jul 31, 2018 2:09 PM

On Monday, LeBron James sat down for an interview with CNN's Don Lemon to promote a new public school that his charitable foundation -- along with the Akron school system -- helped build. In the interview. James and Lemon talked about race, President Donald Trump and the state of the country.

It's worth checking out the entire interview -- it's only 15 minutes long -- but one line from James in it really jumped out at me. Asked by Lemon whether life was harder as an African-American living during Trump's presidency, LeBron responded: "No, I think it's always been there, but I think the President in charge now has given people -- they don't care now. They throw it in your face now."

RELATED | LeBron: Trump is using sports to divide us

That's an important insight from James -- and something that the debate that rages over whether Trump is actually racist or not misses. In some ways, it doesn't matter whether Trump is actually a racist. What matters is how his actions both provide cover for those who hold bigoted views and also serve as a sort of encouragement for these sorts of noxious views to be aired publicly.

Do I know that Trump's "both sides" reaction in the wake of the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, was born out of some sort of inchoate racism? No, I don't. But what I do know is that equating peaceful protesters with white supremacists emboldens those who hold bigoted views. It affords them some semblance of credibility; the President said the counterprotesters were just as responsible as we are for this violence!

And, I don't know that Trump's baffling unwillingness to distance himself from Klansman David Duke during the 2016 campaign -- Trump initially suggested he wasn't familiar enough with Duke to offer an opinion about his endorsement -- is the result of a deep-seated racism within the President. But I do know that by not forcefully condemning Duke from the get-go, Trump allowed the likes of Duke to appropriate his message and his campaign for their purposes.

The point here is that by playing in the swamp of racism -- and weaponizing race for political gain -- Trump has created a racial climate in this country in which people who hold those toxic views feel more empowered than ever to voice them without fear. Actions have consequences. If you talk about race -- from Charlottesville to Colin Kaepernick to the Golden State Warriors -- the way Trump has, there will be an element of people in the country who use those words as cover for their hateful views. If the President can say it -- or suggest it -- why can't I? goes the thinking. If he's not willing to condemn us, then why should we apologize for what we think and believe?

To be clear: Donald Trump didn't create racism in this country. As James rightly notes, "it's always been there." But, what the sort of campaign Trump ran and the sort of statements he has made as President have done is allow views that were once, rightly, confined to small pockets of online and offline communities to step more into the light. To assert themselves. To try to expand.

That is a very bad thing for society. And whether or not Trump has purposely brought about the situation, his words and actions have helped seed the ground for it.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 159036

Reported Deaths: 3879
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10563104
Hinds10414204
Harrison7397113
Jackson6655128
Rankin6057107
Lee540396
Madison5120107
Forrest394786
Jones376188
Lauderdale3663147
Lafayette341053
Washington3321108
Lamar301950
Oktibbeha255262
Lowndes252867
Bolivar248084
Panola237353
Neshoba2280122
Marshall225051
Leflore211191
Monroe209778
Pontotoc208131
Lincoln200566
Sunflower194155
Warren183058
Tate180451
Union172926
Copiah170840
Pike166760
Scott161330
Yazoo161340
Itawamba159936
Alcorn159328
Pearl River158969
Coahoma155943
Prentiss154931
Simpson154053
Adams147252
Grenada145445
Leake141844
Holmes134461
Covington130040
Tippah130030
George129525
Winston128726
Hancock127641
Wayne123024
Attala122834
Marion121447
Tishomingo114043
Chickasaw110732
Newton110529
Tallahatchie99427
Clay96127
Clarke94853
Jasper87023
Stone82015
Calhoun79513
Walthall79330
Montgomery78426
Carroll75515
Lawrence74614
Smith74216
Yalobusha74228
Noxubee73317
Perry68726
Tunica63019
Greene62422
Jefferson Davis59617
Claiborne59216
Amite57615
Humphreys55219
Quitman5107
Benton50418
Kemper48018
Webster47714
Wilkinson40722
Jefferson38312
Choctaw3637
Franklin3635
Sharkey32917
Issaquena1214
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 256828

Reported Deaths: 3711
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson34214511
Mobile20299366
Madison13925150
Tuscaloosa13591156
Montgomery12659238
Shelby1095877
Baldwin9163137
Lee792566
Morgan710851
Etowah677467
Calhoun6695121
Marshall665757
Houston548239
DeKalb504738
Cullman472043
St. Clair451857
Limestone447546
Lauderdale436054
Elmore427564
Walker3818111
Talladega374457
Jackson350723
Colbert336443
Blount310043
Autauga287342
Franklin259734
Coffee254115
Dale242054
Dallas232932
Chilton230841
Russell22813
Covington227934
Escambia206131
Tallapoosa189191
Chambers185950
Pike162214
Clarke161819
Marion146136
Winston141924
Lawrence135336
Pickens127720
Geneva12638
Marengo125224
Bibb123938
Barbour120629
Butler118842
Randolph105922
Cherokee105524
Hale99732
Fayette96316
Clay93525
Washington93319
Henry8946
Monroe83811
Lowndes82129
Cleburne79914
Macon76522
Crenshaw72930
Conecuh72414
Lamar7138
Bullock70919
Perry6927
Wilcox64918
Sumter58922
Greene44218
Choctaw43519
Coosa3724
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Overcast
49° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 45°
Columbus
Overcast
52° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 52°
Oxford
Broken Clouds
41° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 37°
Starkville
Broken Clouds
52° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 52°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather