by Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler and Ariel Gold
We don’t know what dishes were served at the dinner Trump hosted last month for Ye (aka Kanye West) and Nick Fuentes, but the meal has given much of the country indigestion. Real or feigned, following Trump’s dining with Fuentes, who describes himself as being “just like Hitler” and diminishes Jim Crow, numerous leaders of the Republican Party offered sanctimonious denunciations and apologies.
The breakneck speed with which GOP leaders made condemnations might have caused someone not paying much attention to think the Republican Party suddenly, and with horror, had become “woke” to the damages of racism. But, the reality is far more cynical.
As news broke of the dinner, reporters chased down prominent Republicans to see who would denounce and who would remain silent.
“There is no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy,” said Mitch McConnell and Rick Scott.
Marco Rubio described Fuentes as “a nasty, disgusting person.”
“Nick Fuentes and his views are nowhere within the Republican Party or within this country itself,” chimed Kevin McCarthy.
Even Marjorie Taylor Greene, who along with Rep. Paul A. Gosar of Arizona attended Fuentes’s America First Political Action Conference in February said she agreed with McCarthy’s statement and hinted that Ye might be behind Fuentes’s prominence.
It’s plainly absurd of the GOP to feign shock. Trump’s dinner with Ye and Fuentes represented zero aberration from the behavior he’s been displaying since throwing his hat into the 2016 presidential ring. From his “good people on both sides” response to Charlottesville to referring to Black Lives Matters protesters as “thugs,” to the clearing of Lafayette Park to raise a bible for a Mussolini-like photo-op, never mind sending insurrectionists with Confederate flags to parade through the halls of the US Capitol, dinner with Ye and Fuentes was simply business as usual.
What’s changed hasn’t been Trump’s behavior but the GOP’s political strategy. Just as chattel slavery was based on making human beings into a commodity, white supremacy is today a commodity bought and sold in America, enriching white elites with both money and political power.
In 2019, the white nationalist hate group VDARE, raised $4.3 million, eight times more than the year before. But, the 2022 midterm results are causing the GOP to question if their fascist leanings are still as in vogue as a few years ago. Rather than a genuine change of heart, their condemnations of Fuentes are but a farcical political game to bide time while assessing if the seas of hatred and bigotry are still flowing as plentifully as they were previously. Should they determine the waters to still be warm to Trump’s brand of overt racism, they’ll surely plunge back in.
The media, with its ongoing coverage, is gifting Fuentes free publicity and a far larger audience than he previously enjoyed. While accurately describing him as a “noted racist and Holocaust denier” they’re doing little to cover the root causes of the problem, the insidious ways, such as extra-judicial killings and excessive force by law enforcement, that America’s original sin continues to reside within society. It’s less a question of whether Marjorie Taylor Greene and her ilk will or will not continue to participate in Fuentes-led events and more the fact that condemnation comes out of the side of her mouth, the identification with Christian nationalism and its hateful racist ideology simultaneously comes out of the other.
Ye, for his part, is a deeply emotionally, mentally, and spiritually disturbed man. Unable to resist his lust for attention and relevancy, his admiration for Trump, appearance in shirts reading “White Lives Matter,” and outrageous antisemitism lets people know how mentally he is off kilter. This is not in any way to excuse Ye’s behavior but to place it in proper context and perspective. The danger of rising antisemitism that American Jews are legitimately facing right now is not from a (manufactured) Black-Jewish divide but shows through such actions as police officers fist-bumping the racists proclaiming “Kanye was right.”
Contrary to Fuentes’s prideful arrogant calls for “Catholic Taliban rule in America,” the true teachings of Christ are a universal embrace of humility and love. Jesus’s affirmation of the Samaritans who faced cultural and theological hatred, and his healing of lepers demonstrate without question his belief in inclusivity and an anti-racist world. We need not guess how he, history’s biggest challenger of the powers of oppression, would feel about his name being used for the purposes of spreading hatred and inciting violence.
Fuentes can be placed in the dustbin of history. But we must realize that the problem he represents is much deeper. Conscientious objection to racism, antisemitism, misogyny, Islamophobia, trans and homo-phobia takes far more than sanctimonious condemnations for political point scoring. The GOP will only find hatred repugnant when we, the public, require that of them.
Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler is an advisor with FOR-USA and the founder and president of Faith Strategies USA. Until retiring from his position in 2022 Hagler was Senior Minister at Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C.
Ariel Gold is the executive director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation USA (FOR-USA), the oldest interfaith peace and justice organization in the US.