"Race relations have been worse than ever in this country." That is what one young woman claimed on CBS News, during a morning segment featuring Millenial voters. The discussion was on race relations, and her whole response is as follows:

"Trump hasn't been in the White House, so to say that Trump tore our country apart at the seams and created this racial division...no way. President Obama was the one in the White House for eight years, and race relations have been worse than ever in this country. Let's look at who was in office, an African American man, who has torn apart this country. We need to look at that." 

I was actually speechless when I heard that last week. I studied American History and Political Science as an undergraduate, so I know that my understanding of both subjects is wider and deeper than the average American's (and clearly more so than this young woman's), but I could not believe those words came out of her mouth. Her comment shows an incredible lack of historical understanding. Thankfully, one young man responded ever so calmly and clearly,

"To say that race relations have gotten as bad as they've ever been under President Obama shows a lack of historical depth. America is built on racial division and Donald Trump's rhetoric, this 'otherism,' builds into that narrative that has long been the narrative American society."

I could not have said it better myself. People such as the young woman need to understand the historical context under which we are operating and how it influences politics today. To say that race relations are worse than ever is a complete dismissal of America's entire history and shows a lack awareness of how far we have come in that department. Do we still have a long way to go? Definitely. But she said race relations have been worse than ever. She needs to read U.S. history and learn about the genocide of Native Americans, about slavery, Jim Crow, and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Although it may seem to this young woman and, to many like her, that racial tensions have gotten worse,  I imagine that what really is happening is that a blindfold is coming off of their eyes, a blindfold loosened by each social media post documenting another race-related tragedy in our country. They see video after video exposing what has already been going on for years, and they see people less afraid to fight back and exercise their constitutional rights to assemble and protest. It's scary to them. It seems out of the ordinary. It seems like tensions are rising. And maybe they are. But I can assure you that they are not worse than ever. 

But for the sake of argument, let's say they are worse than ever. Is President Obama to blame? Absolutely not. He is not to blame for the actions of police officers or for the poor training they undergo that leads some of them to shoot first and ask questions later. He is not to blame for the rising xenophobia targeted at Muslims and refugees after a terrorist attack. Just because these events and tensions have been happening while President Obama has been in office does not make him to blame. Let's not confuse correlation with causation.

Is Donald Trump to blame for all of these events? No, but when he unites people using inflammatory rhetoric inciting violence, when he calls Latinos and Mexicans criminals, rapists and murders, and when he promotes a ban on people from an entire religion, HE absolutely bears responsibility for exacerbating existing tensions and divisions, and he must be held accountable.

I am floored by the incredible lack of understanding and historical perspective that this young woman's comment demonstrate, and terrified because I know she's not alone. I understand that many Republicans (and even Democrats) feel conflicted. They don't have a candidate representing their views, and that is truly unfortunate. But that does not mean that they should blindly support a blatant tantrum-throwing, racist demagogue who has no experience or business holding the most powerful position in the world.


Photo attribution: By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Donald Trump with supporters) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Published by Alix Collins