The Dark Art of White Supremacy: What Trump's 'Lynching' Comment is Really About


Donald Trump lives in a self-imposed prison of superlatives. His hands are big. His calls are perfect. His walls are the tallest. His letters are beautiful. His crowds are the biggest. His wisdom is unmatched. He has the best people. His opponents are the most corrupt.

Donald Trump is obsessed with his place in history, and he is upset that it won’t be a flattering one.

That world of superlatives features just as prominently when things don’t go well for Donald Trump. He doesn’t just view himself as God’s greatest gift to humanity, he sees those who seek to hold him accountable as the worst of nature. He doesn’t simply see himself as the greatest of heroes, but also the most misunderstood, the most mistreated, the most unappreciated, the ultimate victim. It is this fantastical sense of grandeur and grand paranoia that propels him to believe he is above the law, to demand his party’s blind and unwavering loyalty, to assert that only America’s enemies would seek to hold him to account.

It is with this combined sense of superlative ego and superlative victimhood that Donald Trump claimed today that the process of impeachment - the sole power of which the Constitution invests in the House of Representatives - for his proven act of enlisting foreign help to obtain domestic political help is akin to one of the most horrifying acts of mob violence and execution, lynching.

According to the NAACP, 4,743 instances of lynching were documented between 1882 and 1968. Suffice it to say that this number is a floor rather than a ceiling, because it is difficult to properly determine the actual number of lynchings, as a great many of them were undocumented and unreported. Of the documented instances, 73% of the victims, or 3,446, were black. 1,297 were white. Many of the white victims, the NAACP notes, were lynched for the courageous act of helping black people or opposing lynching.

Lynching was not merely an act of violence. It wasn’t just an act of racism. It was an act of terror. White racists would band together, beat, murder, and hang black citizens for make-belief crimes. You weren’t spared if you stood with blacks, even if you were yourself white. Lynchings weren’t about petty revenge. They were about proudly displaying brutality and sending a message: the South may have lost the Civil War, but blacks were not, most definitely, free, let alone equal.

Observes the NAACP

Most of the lynchings that took place happened in the South.  A big reason for this was the end of the Civil War. Once black were given their freedom, many people felt that the freed blacks were getting away with too much freedom and felt they needed to be controlled.  Mississippi had the highest lynchings from 1882-1968 with 581. Georgia was second with 531, and Texas was third with 493. 79% of lynching happened in the South.


Comparing these acts of racist terror against those who lacked access to the machinery of justice with a legal, constitutional, and due process of the people’s representatives considering the bribery scheme of a president who has an entire branch of the US government at his command is abhorrent.

It is outrageous. It is beneath the dignity of any public office. It is historical garbage. It’s racist.

Still, it’s important to understand where this comes from - because I assure you that the deplorables Trump is howling at do. It comes from an insecure president’s insistence that anything that threatens his power - even when used illegally and unjustly - is violence because he deserves the power to do what he wants. One can draw a straight line from this line of thinking white race anxiety: the belief that being white entitles one to status and lifestyle above others, and competition from others is tantamount to a crime against that entitlement. No law, no Constitution, no grand principles of equity and fairness can ever interfere with that First Principle of White Supremacy.

But Trump’s use of the word ‘lynching’ goes beyond that. Since he became president - no, since he started running for office - Donald Trump has attempted to establish the horrific and the crazy as normal. “Everybody” would take foreign help in elections. “Anyone” would take a meeting with a Russian agent offering dirt on your political opponent. “Very fine people” were marching on the Nazi side. 

What Trump - and those supporting his disgusting, vile tweet, like Lindsay Graham - is really saying is not only about invoking the bloodstain on our national soul that is lynching to fill his sense grand self-victimhood. It is also about allowing his white racist supporters - who see themselves as victims in a diverse society with an emerging threat to white supremacy - to feel good, or at least morally indifferent, about actual lynching.

And that is dangerous.