Editor’s note: I’m hot, I’m tired and since I really do intend to send this letter to ESPN, I will make this editor’s note extremely brief. Today’s post is one part Recommended Reading, one part Amerikan Musik and one part desperate plea for a billion dollar media corporation to do the right thing for once. Please be advised that I will not respond well to demands for “proof” that Donald Trump is a white supremacist on social media because it will clearly indicate that you have not clicked on all the links in this story – although, you can skip my sports articles because they aren’t really important:
To whom it may concern,
my name is Nina Illingworth and I’m a lifelong Wolverines fan from Detroit who has long since moved to Canada. I should also mention at this time that I’m forty years old and white; I’m not a Democrat and I did not vote in the 2016 US Presidential election but if I had, it would not have been for Hillary Clinton (or Donald Trump.) Although that may seem an odd way to start a conversation, I’m mentioning all of this now so you’ll understand that I’m not writing to you as a matter of politics or fandom, but rather of justice, reason and dedication to the principle of truth-telling.
Although you don’t know me, I can say without hyperbole that as a woman with a lifelong passion for American professional sports, I’ve literally grown up with ESPN as a semi-permanent fixture in my life. As a cable subscriber who grew up in a home full of cable subscribers, I’ve been watching your network from its days as primarily a highlight showcase provider, to the secretly underrated “boo-yah” era and through to your more recent, somewhat perplexing “Embrace Debate” re-branding. Although I have never written to ESPN before, I’m contacting you now to discuss your short-sighted, borderline Orwellian decision to publicly discipline host (and Spartans superfan) Jemele Hill for the following Tweet:
Now that you know a little bit about me and why I’m writing to you, let’s break this discussion down to its two most important points; the fact that Hill is completely correct when she says US President Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has surrounded himself with other white supremacists in government and why your decision to publicly censure Jemele at this critical time in our shared history is not only morally unacceptable but disastrously ignorant in light of the realities facing marginalized Americans as we speak:
Yes, Donald Trump is a White Supremacist
While I realize that a certain percentage of immoral, reactionary conservatives in the United States will never accept that President Trump is a white supremacist unless the swine emperor comes out on stage in Klan robes while tossing up Nazi salutes and reciting “the fourteen words” the simple truth is that these people are themselves bigots and cannot be allowed to define what is considered reasonable discussion. Informed, rational adults can and should look at the preponderance of evidence in regards to Trump’s racism, Islamophobia, symbiotic relationship with white nationalists and his disturbingly fascist actions thus far into his presidency and come to the reasonable conclusion that Trump is indeed a white supremacist.
Let’s examine just some of that evidence, keeping in mind that the majority of articles I’m sharing with you here come from large, mainstream media corporations with roughly the same social and legal obligations as ESPN:
Donald Trump’s long history of racism, from the 1970s to 2017 – this “living” history article over on Vox.com seeks to catalogue a significant, but not definitive portion of the swine emperor’s history of known, overt racism from his emergence into public life as an accused discriminatory landlord in the 1970’s to his horrifying use of “both sides-ism” to defend the actions of violent white nationalists after a neo-nazi riot that left an innocent 32 year old protestor dead. Other highlights include Trump’s full on commitment to racist “birtherism” conspiracy theories during the Obama presidency, his repeated demonization of both Mexicans and Muslims during his election campaign, as well as his long-running attempts to persecute five minority men who were wrongfully convicted of a brutal NYC rape and then later exonerated by DNA evidence (as well as a confession from the real perpetrator) in a 1989 case known as “The Central Park Five” that has been described as “” – as mentioned during Jemele Hill’s tweet-storm.
Donald Trump, Neo-Nazi Recruiter-in-Chief – this blunt August 2017 article from New Republic takes a look at the obviously symbiotic relationship between President Trump and the violent, rapidly growing white supremacist movement in the United States. Naturally, they weren’t the only people who noticed as The Nation and Vox also ran similar stories looking at the effect Trump’s support has had on the reemergence of white supremacy. This sentiment was hardly limited to openly left wing publications however; in the wake of his Charlottesville statement respected national publications like Time, the Economist and The New Yorker all clearly had no problem identifying Trump’s connections to and empowerment of white supremacy in America. Emory University professor, author and racial violence expert Carol Anderson also had no problem pointing out that Trump has “embraced this virulent, white supremacist wing in the American body politic” in public. Nor did venture capitalist Roger McNamee. Frankly, even Trump’s own rhetoric and speeches have made it abundantly clear that he’s purposely supporting white nationalists. If that isn’t enough to convince you, try asking US white supremacists and neo-nazis themselves; many of whom have gone on record to note that Trump’s presidency has “helped them so much.” At some point the sheer preponderance of evidence that Trump is indeed a white supremacist has to outweigh cultural respect for the office of POTUS and by my calculations, we’ve passed that point several months ago.
White Nationalism in the White House – moving on to Herr Donald’s government, this November 2016 article from Slate explores the ramifications of Trump’s decision to name known white nationalist provocateur Steve Bannon as a senior advisor and while Bannon has since departed the administration, that seems unlikely to change the overtly racist nature of the Trump government. Please keep in mind that Bannon isn’t the only open white nationalist who has served in Trump’s nightmare fuel administration at one time or another. Still not convinced? Consider Trump’s appointments of demonstrably racist Attorney General Jeff Sessions, his shockingly Islamophobic CIA Director Mike Pompeo or any one of the numerous openly bigoted generals the swine emperor has installed in key roles at the White House. In light of the people Herr Donald has chosen to bring with him into government, I find Hill’s statement that Trump has “largely surrounded himself with other white supremacists” more than fair.
Trump’s Arpaio Pardon Signals To White Supremacists ‘I’ve Got Your Back’ – all of which of course brings us to the numerous openly racist actions undertaken by Trump and his white supremacist government so far; of which the shockingly immoral pardon of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is just one example. There’s also Trump’s increasingly impossible to defend Muslim “travel ban” executive order, the administration’s decision to focus it’s counter-terrorism programs solely on Islam and the selection of racist voter suppression guru Chris Kobach to head up the government’s Orwellian voter fraud investigation. One must also consider Trump’s mindbogglingly evil decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program; an action that will likely lead to the deportation of up to 800,000 migrants who’ve spent most of their lives in the United States and exists as part of a larger Trump administration crackdown on undocumented migrants that has resulting in a 38% increase in immigration related arrests and an Immigration and Customers Enforcement agency that feels empowered to engage in stunningly cruel activities to arrest (otherwise innocent) undocumented migrants. Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions just gave the green light to increased federal asset forfeiture and wants to reignite the so-called War on Drugs; law enforcement policies that have been proven to disproportionately affect marginalized and minority Americans. Shouldn’t any reasonable, impartial observer be able to draw an obvious connection between a President who openly implores police officers to rough people up more during arrests and his Department of Justice’s decision not to prosecute six cops involved in the murder of Freddie Gray?
Admonishing Hill is Shameful Act of Appeasement
Now that we’ve established beyond a reasonable doubt that Donald Trump is indeed a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself with other white supremacists in government, let’s talk a little bit about why chastising Jemele Hill for stating the obvious (while she’s being dog-piled by angry racists on Twitter) is an immoral, craven act of corporate cowardice. In a time of increasing racially motivated violence, bowing down to a vocal minority of reactionary racists who don’t watch your network anyway is an unconscionable surrender to the forces of white supremacy:
What We Have Unleashed – this July 2017 article at Slate was actually written before the neo-nazi murder of left wing activist Heather Heyer at the Unite the Right white nationalist rally and it examines connections between the Trump presidency and the already (at the time) shocking increase of extremely violent hate crimes in America. These crimes include but are not limited to a racially motivated stabbing in Oregon that left two dead, a while supremacist who purposely traveled to New York from Baltimore to murder a black man before turning himself in and multiple fatal shootings in which the attacker specifically indicated a racist or nativist motive. These shocking atrocities coincide with a surge in reported anti-Muslim hate crimes and numerous, terrifying reports of (thankfully) non-fatal hate crimes against minorities and marginalized Americans. Furthermore, experts agree that Trump’s recent behavior in the wake of the fatal Charlottesville car attack by a white supremacist makes further violence and copy-cat assaults far more likely. Finally of course, raw polling numbers suggest that white supremacist views and public support of neo-nazis are at alarmingly high levels; making calling out the latent white supremacy around us simply a matter of survival for marginalized Americans.
The FBI Has Quietly Investigated White Supremacist Infiltration of Law Enforcement – this terrifying January 2017 piece at the Intercept takes an in-depth look at one possible reason that law enforcement in the US largely appears to be siding with right wing, reactionary bigots and against (often minority) peaceful protestors; some of them are actual white supremacists themselves. Whether we’re talking about Charlottesville, Phoenix or Boston, the police have often appeared indifferent at best when it comes to protecting marginalized protestors against white nationalist violence; a fact that organized white supremacists are fully aware of and more than happy to exploit to provoke an aggressive response from protestors. Even when US authorities do take action and warn the administration about possible right wing violence however, Trump has objectively ignored it.
All of which brings me to where you fit in ESPN; in this exceptionally dangerous time for both marginalized Americans and those who would oppose violent reactionary racists, portions of the mainstream (ostensibly liberal) media are actively helping white nationalists by drawing a moral equivalency between violent fascists and defending yourself from violent fascists. As an African American, Hill’s tweet to raise awareness that Trump is a white supremacist is a matter of self defense; as a member of the media, Jemele’s tweet is an act of moral and even civic responsibility. When you allow racist mouth-breathing Fox fans to troll you into placing Hill’s action on the same level as Curt Shilling posting hate speech on Facebook, you too are empowering white nationalists ESPN. This is bigger than Tim Tebow, an openly gay late round defensive end and yes, even the cord cutting problem that’s keeping you guys awake at night. Already the White House is pressuring you to fire Hill for telling the truth about our white nationalist president; this won’t stop until the only speech allowed is hate speech, until the only thought allowed is fascist thought.
The United States of America stands at a very dark crossroad, and with it your company – ESPN has a choice to make. You can choose to stand with what’s morally responsible, what’s true and your host’s right to defend herself against an oncoming wave of state sanctioned, violent white nationalism; or you can choose to stand with a vocal minority of angry racists who already hate you anyway. Whatever you do choose, know that history will be watching you and time does not forget failures of cowardice.
The only thing Jemele Hill should have to apologize for is being a Michigan State Spartans fan. Go Blue.
- Nina Illingworth
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