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George Wallace and Donald Trump—two bigots, one repentant

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george-wallaceThe mark of a man is his ability to admit his errors. Former governor of Alabama, George Wallace, after trying his best to prevent integration, publicly apologized for his bigotry. Donald Trump, who has displayed at least the same level of bigotry, doesn’t even know he should.

The photo you see is from the day Wallace stood in front of the doors of a classroom building at the University of Alabama to block the the entrance of black students. Not long before in his 1963 gubernatorial inaugural address, Wallace exclaimed “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever!”

In 1972 Wallace ran for President in the Democratic Party primaries. During the course of the campaign he was shot in an assassination attempt. Confined to a wheelchair after the shooting, Wallace developed a change of heart. Funny, how a close brush with death can affect perspective.

Columnist Larry Provost tells the story of Wallace apologizing in 1974 to the Selma marchers whom he had turned back at the Edmund Pettus Bridge with police and dogs. Wallace also made amends with James Hood and Vivian Malone, the students whose path he had blocked at the University of Alabama.

In 1979, Wallace made an unannounced Sunday morning visit to the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, the church where Martin Luther King Jr. had pastored. The moment was captured by author Stephen Lesher in “George Wallace: American Populist.” Wallace asked for forgiveness. “I have learned what suffering means. In a way that was impossible [before the shooting], I think I can understand something of the pain black people have come to endure. I know I contributed to that pain, and I can only ask your forgiveness.”

In 1995, when he was too ill to deliver a speech at the St. Jude School in Montgomery, an aide read Wallace’s remarks as he sat in silence. According to the Baltimore Sun, his words were, “Much has transpired since those days. A great deal has been lost, and a great deal has been gained, and here we are. My message to you today is, ‘Welcome to Montgomery.’ May your message be heard. May your lessons never be forgotten. May our history be always remembered.”

donald-trump-4Trump’s story is equally impressive—but for other reasons. The Huffington Post carries what appears to be a complete list of everything bigoted about Trump. He has cast Mexicans as a criminals and rapists. Until just a week or so ago, he was an ardent “birther” proponent, asserting that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. Trump refused to denounce an infamous KKK member and was sued twice for racial discrimination, once for not renting and once for not employing blacks. He has stated openly that “laziness is a trait in blacks”… not anything they can control.”

The New Jersey Casino Control Commission fined Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino $200,000 in 1992 because managers would remove black card dealers at the request of a certain big-spending gambler. You can read more in “Trumped!” by John R. O’Donnell, who was president of Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino for a year before resigning.

The list goes on.

And for all this, what did Trump have to say when asked by Barbara Walters if he’s a bigot? “Not at all, probably the least of anybody you’ve ever met.”

It would take humility and self-awareness to acknowledge one’s own bigotry, and no one has ever accused Trump of possessing either quality.

But when you are humble and come to grips with your own sins, you find redemption, and with redemption, you are able leave the brokenness of your past. John Lewis, a freedom marcher from the 1960s and now a Congressman, wrote eloquently about Wallace.

“I can never forget what George Wallace said and did as governor, as a national leader and as a political opportunist. But our ability to forgive serves a higher moral purpose in our society. Through genuine repentance and forgiveness, the soul of our nation is redeemed. George Wallace deserves to be remembered for his effort to redeem his soul and in so doing to mend the fabric of American society.”

I’d wager Trump would have no idea what Congressman Lewis was talking about.

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Jack D’Aurora writes for considerthisbyjd.com

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Discussion

  1. Roy Smith  September 26, 2016

    Jack, thank you for this blog. Congressman Lewis said it well, at least George Wallace made efforts to
    help us heal, to mend the fabric of American society. Being a leader means encouraging people, groups, to work together, strengthening the community for the benefit of us, all of us.

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  2. Brent Rosenthal  September 26, 2016

    I think it is premature to compare Trump to Wallace. To date, all they share in common is being bigoted demagogues and race-baiting. Wallace took that several steps further. As the duly elected governor of the state of Alabama, he had the imprimatur of the entire state behind him. He also used the resources of the state – including military assets – to deprive African Americans of their rights. He used his position to scheme with his peers – other southern governors – to protect and further Jim Crow in the south. And he had southern congressmen to further his efforts. Has Trump’s rhetoric been damaging, hateful and “deplorable?” Without doubt. Has he given voice to and emboldened other “deplorables” who until recently exercised the good sense to keep their bigotry to themselves? Sadly, yes. But he has a long way to go before we can compare his bombast to George C. Wallace’s actions which gave legs to his rhetoric.
    If you want to look at people who are modern day heirs to Wallace and his ilk, you need look no further than legislators in North Carolina, Texas, Ohio, etc., Chief Justice John Roberts, and wealthy right wing Republicans who are behind the conspiracy (and it is truly that in the strictest sense of the word) to gut the Voting Rights Act.

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  3. David Wood  September 27, 2016

    At least 50% of Americans are tied of being called a bigot for disagreeing with a Democrat. Can you imagine if Clinton wins? Every time a Republican disagrees with her they are going to be called a sexist. Hopefully enough people are fed up with this kind of rhetoric that Clinton will be defeated but who knows? We are tired of the name calling.

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    • jdaurora@behallaw.com  October 6, 2016

      I don’t see things the way you do.Trump’s bigotry is not evidenced by anything he has said in disagreeing with Clinton. His bigotry is evidenced by what he says and does in everyday life.

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  4. Jim Cowardin  September 28, 2016

    The definition of the word has been changed to “Hilliary Clinton.” She also has copped the definition of the words such as liar, pay-for-play, graft, failure in all attempted foreign policy, etc. I wonder how long someone would remain employed by any employer (except the current administration), when they say, “Well I take responsibility for setting up my own server and using numerous unprotected devices to pass mountains of information into the ether for anyone to see that are critical to the operation and safety of our organization (the USA). I hired numerous skilled technical people to manage my system, and then told them to clam up should anyone ask them anything. I used my leverage on the Federal Bureau of Investigation to force them to commit extreme violations of the law. I had my employees “BleachBit” all the incriminating files after they were sopeanaed. And just for good measure, I lied to the mother of public servant who was killed in the Bengazi attack. it would be inconvenient if any of this was held to the lowest standard of law in this country, because I am a candidate for president. Thank you very much. Trump is not a saint, but even though he may smell bad, he is not rotten to the core like his opponent.

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