“Law and Order:” Code words for White Lives Matter Most

The National Republican Convention’s theme should have been White Lives Matter Most. That was presidential nominee Donald Trump’s central message to passionately receptive, mostly white, delegates in Cleveland. His code words were loud and clear.

“In this run for the White House, I am the law and order candidate,” Donald Trump declared. (“Donald Trump’s dark speech to the Republican National Convention, annotated,” By Philip Bump and Aaron Blake, The Washington Post, July 21, 2016) The strongly applauding delegates knew what he meant.   Just two weeks before, a black Army veteran, armed with a rifle, killed five white Dallas police officers, who were providing security for a protest against recent police killings of a black man in Baton Rouge and another in Minneapolis. A few days after the Dallas officers were assassinated, Trump responded by calling himself “the law and order candidate.” (“Donald Trump: I Am The Law And Order Candidate,’” By Christina Wilkie, www.huffingtonpost.com, July 11, 2016). He doubled down on “law and order” at the Republican National Convention – much to the delight of the delegates.

Safety in American is about protecting white police officers — not black persons, or Mexican immigrants, or Muslims, or refugees, or women’s reproductive rights and health, or the safety of LGBTQ persons whom Donald Trump promised to protect from “a hateful foreign ideology.” Trump’s words resonated with knowing white Convention delegates. “I have a message to every last person threatening the peace on our streets and the safety of our police: When I take the oath of office next year, I will restore law and order to our country. Believe me. Believe me.” (“Donald Trump’s dark speech to the Republican National Convention, annotated, Ibid) The delegates believed Trump, and cheered him on.

And on Donald Trump went, spouting more code words. Such as, “The irresponsible rhetoric of our President, who has used the pulpit of the presidency to divide us by race and color, has made America a more dangerous environment for everyone than frankly I have ever seen and anybody in this room has ever watched or seen. He added: “This administration has failed America’s inner cities. Remember: it has failed America’s inner cities.” Actually, Obama has bent over backwards to avoid commenting on issues involving “race and color,” which reveals that “race and color” are uppermost in Trump’s mind.

There is more than one way to call a black president the n-word. As a leader of the birther movement, Donald Trump sought to delegitimize Barack Hussein Obama’s presidency in falsely claiming he was not born in the USA, and could be a Muslim. A master of innuendo, exaggeration, and lies, Trump is reported as charging that Obama’s failure to say the words, “radical Islamic terrorism” suggests he’s “got something else in mind . . . And the something else in mind, you know, people can’t believe it. . . . There’s something else going on. It’s inconceivable.” (“Trump attacks Obama: ‘He’s got something on his mind,’” By Nick Gass, POLITICO, June 13, 2016) Like a dark, treacherous sympathy for Muslims lurks in the White House. Here the m-word is followed by the n-word.

The Republican presidential nominee portrays himself as a messiah, who is actually promising to make white America great again. “I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon – and I mean very soon – come to an end,” Donald Trump told the fired up, applauding delegates. “Beginning on January 20th, 2017,” he continued, “safety will be restored.” And with “law and order,” “prosperity” will come. And, “I will outline reforms to add millions of new jobs and trillions in new wealth . . . to rebuild America.” So, for “the forgotten men and women of our country . . . who work hard but no longer have a voice, I AM YOUR VOICE,” Trump declared to sustained applause. (“Donald Trump’s dark speech to the Republican National Convention, annotated, Ibid)

The Republican delegates were looking for a messiah, and they got a dictator, which evidently serves the same purpose, as they cheered lustily in response to Donald Trump’s autocratically-laced statements:

Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it. I have seen firsthand how the system is rigged against our citizens. When I am President, I will work to ensure that all of our kids are treated equally, and protected equally. Every action I take, I will ask myself: does this make life better for young Americans in Baltimore, in Chicago, in Detroit, in Ferguson.

Only weeks ago, in Orlando, Florida, 49 wonderful Americans were savagely murdered by an Islamic terrorist. This time, the terrorist targeted our LGBTQ community. . . . As your President, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.

I have a message to every last person threatening the peace on our streets and the safety of our police: When I take the oath of office next year, I will restore law and order to our country. Believe me. Believe me.

I am your voice. . . I’m With You, and I will fight for you, and I will win for you. (Ibid)

Donald Trump told the Republican Convention delegates that he has “seen firsthand how the system is rigged against our citizens.” He should know. He used the system to exploit citizens, leaving a trail of bankrupt casinos in Atlantic City, and then being quoted as saying, “I made a lot of money in Atlantic City and I’m very proud of it.” Never mind that a reported “thousands of people los[t] their jobs and investors los[t] billions of dollars in a city ‘’left to whither.’” (“Trump’s Bankruptcies: ‘A lot of people got stuck holding the bag, and he didn’t,” By Lefty Coaster, www.dailykos.com, Aug. 7, 2015)

A proud Donald Trump shared with the Republican Convention delegates the work ethic his father taught him at his “youngest age . . . to respect the dignity of work and the dignity of working people . . . bricklayers and carpenters, and electricians . . . I love those people.” (“Donald Trumps’ dark speech to the Republican National Convention, annotated, Ibid)

It is not just about Trump’s bankruptcies. The USA TODAY NETWORK investigated Trump’s business practices, and “found hundreds of people – carpenters, dishwashers, painters, even his own attorneys – who say he didn’t pay them for their work.” Also, “at least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other governmental filings reviewed by the USA TODAY NETWORK, document people who have accused Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them for their work.” (“USA TODAY exclusive: Hundreds allege Donald Trump doesn’t pay his bills,” By Steve Reilly, USA TODAY, June 9, 2016)

Donald Trump promised the Republican Convention delegates that when he is elected president he “will work to ensure that all of our kids are treated and protected equally.” To make that happen, he said, “Every action I take, I will ask myself: does this make life better for young Americans in Baltimore, in Chicago, in Detroit, in Ferguson.” (“Donald Trump’s dark speech to the Republican National Convention, annotated,” Ibid)

Here is Donald Trump in an autocratic nutshell. If he were actually committed to “what makes life better” for young Americans in Baltimore and Chicago and Detroit and Ferguson, he would ask them. Not himself!

But Donald Trump does not want to hear what “makes life better for young Americans in Ferguson.” The last thing he wants to know is what black 18-year-old Michael Brown’s mother and father would tell him about the murder of their son by white police officer Darren Wilson. Nor would he want to hear from black Ferguson residents, who would tell him about a Department of Justice investigation:

that revealed “ ’a pattern and practice’ of racial discrimination . . . Just about every branch of Ferguson government – police, municipal court, city hall – participated in ‘unlawful’ targeting of African American residents such as [Loistine] Hoskin for tickets and fines.’ ” The Justice Department also found that “millions of dollars in fines and fees paid by black residents served an ultimate goal of satisfying ‘revenue rather than public safety needs.’ ” (“Policing for profit: How Ferguson’s fines violated rights of African, Americans,” By Michael Martinez, Alexandra Meeks and Ed Lavandera, CNN, March 6, 2015) In Ferguson, policing was not about protecting and serving, but occupying black people’s neighborhoods and exploiting them.

Nor does Donald Trump want to hear from young Americans of color in Baltimore about “what makes life better.” They have seen the video of six police officers putting black, limp 25-year-old Freddie Gray into a wagon, in which he end up with a fatal spinal cord injury, and all six officers, charged with manslaughter and murder, went free.

Donald Trump would much rather ask himself, than young people in Chicago, about what “makes life better for them. They also have seen a video: of black, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald walking away from police, and being shot 16 times. It was not about “law and order,” but legalized murder.

Nor does Donald Trump want to learn from “Young Americans in Detroit” what “makes life better” for them and their families and communities. Detroit‘s bankruptcy was said to be caused by wealthy white persons, like Trump, fleeing the city as the black population grew. An uninquisitive know-it-all would not want to read that “a white state legislature and white governor took over the city and forced it to file for bankruptcy against the will of its elective representatives,” and that “white governors and the white state legislature failed to provide Detroit with its fair share of state tax revenues – a significant contributor to the city’s financial distress.” (“Detroit’s Bankruptcy Reflects a History of Racism,” by Ross Eisenbrey, Economic Policy Institute, www.epi.org, Feb. 25, 2014)

Donald Trump called the Republican Convention delegates’ attention to “49 wonderful Americans” in Orlando, who “were savagely murdered by an Islamic terrorist.” He said, “As your President, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.”

Ironically, most of the delegates Trump was addressing have their own hateful anti-LGBTQ Christian ideology. On top of that, he had just selected as his vice-presidential running mate an evangelical Christian governor who, in 2015, signed a religious freedom law that allowed word-for-word-Bible-believing Christians to discriminate against LGBTQ citizens. Only after businesses threatened to leave Indiana did he sign a more inclusive amendment.

Donald Trump is going to protect LGBTQ persons? There is also the matter of the “hateful” anti-LGBTQ Republican platform. A New York Times editorial reports:

The platform also makes homophobia and the denial of basic civil rights to gays, lesbians and transgender people a centerpiece. It repudiates same-sex marriage . . . . invokes ‘natural marriage’ and states’ rights for determining which bathrooms transgender people may use, and it defends merchants who would deny service to gay customers. (“The Most Extreme Republican Platform in Memory,” July 18, 2016)

LQBTQ persons cannot rely on Donald Trump’s word to protect them from a hateful Christian ideology, let alone a “hateful foreign ideology.” He was in favor of transgender people using the bathroom of their choice – Caitlyn Jenner could use any bathroom at Trump Tower, he said. But, during the primary campaign, appearing in North Carolina after opposing that state’s newly enacted anti- transgender bathroom bill, he thought better of his pro-transgender position, and was quoted as “tweaking” his opposition. “I think that local communities and states should make that decision . . . The federal government should not be involved.” (“Donald Trump amends stance on North Carolina transgender bathroom law,” By Reena Flores, CBS NEWS, Apr. 22, 2016)

“When I take the oath of office next year, I will restore law and order in our country. Believe me,. Believe me.” These are the words of a presidential candidate who would violate international laws in saying, “I would bring back waterboarding . . . and I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.” (“Trump calls for ‘hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,’” by Jonathan Swan, The Hill, Feb. 6, 2016) A “law and order candidate,” who also would stop fighting a “politically correct war” against ISIL, and “take out their families. . . . They care about their lives. Don’t kid yourself. . . . You have to take out their families.” (“Trump: We have to take out ISIL members’ families,” By Nick Gass, POLITICO, Dec. 2, 2015)

America’s so-called “global war on terrorism,” with its criminal wars, and the killing of countless families in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, has led to blowback violence. People strike back because they do care about the lives of their families. America will not get rid of ISIS by violent means. The violence our bipartisan government has unleashed, with its unnecessary wars in pursuit of global domination, is what gave rise to ISISI – and creates endless enemies to swell its ranks.

In a like manner, domestic blowback violence occurs when the oppression of America’s people of color reaches a boiling point. Thus the serial-like killings of black men and women and youths by white police officers, culminating in the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, and, a day later, the killing of Philando Castile by a Minnesota police officer, were too much for certain black persons to take.

Black Army veteran Michael Johnson reacted with irrational retaliatory rage. Armed with a rifle, he killed five white police officers, and wounded seven more and two civilians. A standoff ended when the police killing Johnson with a weaponized remote robot. Dallas police chief David Brown reported that, during the standoff, “the suspect said that he was upset about the recent police shootings . . . upset about white people. The suspect stated that he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.” (“Five Dallas Officers Were Killed as Payback, Police Chief Says,” By Manny Fernandez, Richard Perez-Pena and Jonah Engel Bromwich, The New York Times, July 8, 2016)

A similar motivation of revenge was expressed by black army Marine veteran Gavin Eugene Long. His reported outrage over the killing of Alton Sterling led him to shoot and kill three police officers in Baton Rouge and wound three others. Long is reported to have left a “series of videos, photographs and online writings, about perceived law enforcement injustices against black people. . . . ‘You gotta fight back,’ Long urged viewers in a video recorded a week ago.” (“Baton Rouge shooter Gavin Eugene Long – retired Marine – was outraged at police for Alton Sterling death.,” By Nicole Hensley, Alfred Ng, and Leonard Greene, www.nydailynews.com, July 18, 2016)

In seeking to establish the motivation of Michael Johnson and Gavin Eugene Long’s behavior, the aim is in no way to justify their horrible killing and wounding of police officers. The aim is to understand and address America’s white-controlled hierarchy of access to political, economic and legal power, and the inequality and hatred that white-favored hierarchy continues to fester.

The fact that the Black Lives Matter movement is such a threat to many white people reveals the extent to which white supremacy is ingrained in our society. Black Commentator’s editorial writer Bill Fletcher, Jr. provides a helpful corrective commentary on the real mission of the Black Lives Matter movement. He writes, “This is both an organization as well as a much larger movement that correctly argues that we – as Black people – live in a society that devalues Black lives and has since we were first brought to these shores in chains in 1619.” Fletcher continues, “This is a movement that does not assert the superiority of Black lives, but instead asserts our humanity, and that our humanity and human rights must be respected. In that regard,” he says, “the movement for Black lives is well within the tradition of those like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and so many others who raised the clarion call of human rights.” (“Jackie Robinson and Black Lives, www.blackcommentator.com, July 21, 2016)

But that “clarion call of human rights” is threatening to those who are conditioned to believe white lives matter most. Mr. Fletcher touches the soft underbelly of those who are rallying around the likes of a Donald Trump. He ends his commentary with, “Suffer the whips of oppression in silence and everyone loves you. Dare to struggle; dare to reject victimhood, and we become the object of fear and, from the political Right, overt hatred.” (Ibid)

People of faith should not have “the option of silence.” Silence is what Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump calls for at the end of his nominating address: “I am your voice.” America desperately needs a president – and other political leaders – who will seek out, hear and listen to everyone’s voice. America also desperately needs people of faith to speak reality and moral truth to power.


Rev. William E. Alberts, Ph.D., a former hospital chaplain at Boston Medical Center is both a Unitarian Universalist and United Methodist minister. His newly published book, The Minister who Could Not Be “preyed” Away is available Amazon.com. Alberts is also author of The Counterpunching Minister and of A Hospital Chaplain at the Crossroads of Humanity, which “demonstrates what top-notch pastoral care looks like, feels like, maybe even smells like,” states the review of the book in the Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling. His e-mail address is wm.alberts@gmail.com.