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Guest column: Racism and bigotry betray American values

Regardless of the topic under discussion, President Trump has all too frequently chosen to speak or tweet comments that are clearly racist and bigoted. This is no liberal conspiracy; the president’s own words betray his prejudices. The problem is compounded by the rationalizations of the president’s apologists and the deafening silence of mainstream Republicans. The president’s racist and bigoted remarks hurt America and Americans in many ways. 

First, racism and bigotry contradict the very basic tenets of American values and ideals. There is no place for racism or religious or ethnic bigotry in a nation that advocates tolerance, justice and equality.
Second, racism and bigotry make scapegoats of innocent citizens and divide our nation, creating angry discourse that leads to further polarization. The President of the United States must be the president of all Americans and should never intentionally be a divisive force.

Third, racist remarks perpetuate the ignorant and incorrect belief that some notion of race exists based upon the pigmentation of one’s skin. Science has indisputably established that there is only one human race. We are literally all people of color carrying the same genes that provide the beautiful palette of hues that has allowed our species to adapt to a variety of different environments. Which particular gene variants are expressed in the skin color of any individual reflect the environmental experience of that individual’s ancestral gene pool, and nothing more.

Fourth, when the president spouts racist views, he legitimizes groups such as white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK and gives them license to spew their message of hate with impunity. Emboldened by the president’s remarks, as well as his unwillingness to condemn their extremist positions, these horrific groups spread their gospel of ignorance and intolerance and our country suffers. And contrary to the president’s claim, there are no “fine men” who are members of these groups; their advocacy of intolerance and hate disqualifies them on moral grounds.

Finally, bigotry leads to stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination, which hurt real people. As a teacher, the best part of my job was having the privilege to work with kids. I have taught young men and women from virtually every race, religion and ethnic group and I can personally attest to the fact that there are no differences in character, intelligence, work ethic, behavior or morality among these diverse individuals.

The majority of these students were white, and they were great. But in these contentious times, I find myself thinking of the black students I have taught, the Muslim students, the Latinos. These fine young men and women have contributed to American society in so many ways. They have served in the military, become financial advisers, college administrators, nurses, medical specialists, police officers, teachers and social workers. They do not deserve to be disparaged, especially by the President of the United States.

Today, America needs leaders who unite our great country, not small-minded, myopic individuals who can’t see past their own ignorance, prejudices or partisan motivations. And we need leaders from both political parties willing to take a stand and speak out loudly against bigotry, racism and injustice whenever and wherever they rear their ugly heads.

Mr. Gibbons is a former U.S. Naval officer and Vietnam veteran. He taught social studies at Mattituck High School for 35 years and is currently an assistant professor of education at Long Island University.