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Navajo 'code-talkers' deserved better from Trump

Ruben Navarrette Jr. on

SAN DIEGO -- Riddle me this: What is more racist? Jabbing at a white person by calling her "Pocahontas," or that same white person claiming Native American lineage in a way that may have taken a job meant for an actual Native American?

I'm going with No. 2.

Donald Trump owns the media. He knows where our buttons are, and how to push them. And now, in what has become standard operating procedure during the Trump era, the media is once again all worked up over the wrong things.

We've been talking for days about how President Trump is "racist" because he ruined what should have been a lovely moment at the White House honoring three Navajo "code talkers" of World War II by appearing to once again refer to Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts as "Pocahontas."

By the way, allow me to make a quick comment about the "r-word." I always cringe when Trump says something racist. Of course, I also cringe when I hear the liberal media call him out for saying something racist. The reason for all the cringing is that I have a fairly good memory.

And here's what I remember: For much of the media, the first whiff of racism from Trump, as a presidential candidate, came in December 2015, when the real estate mogul proposed what became known as a Muslim ban. The Trump campaign would later clarify that what the GOP hopeful was talking about was simply applying stricter scrutiny to immigrants and refugees from a specific list of countries that were known to sponsor terrorists. But it was too late. The idea had taken hold that Trump wanted to ban followers of a particular religion from entering the United States. For many, that was racism.

 

But, as this was happening, in the Latino community, there was a feeling of: "What took you guys so long?" Six months earlier, Trump had kicked off his campaign by kicking Latinos in the head with a scurrilous attack on Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists. He said that Mexico wasn't sending its "best" people, and that the United States had become a dumping ground for its neighbor's problems.

And this wasn't racism? Many media outlets barely used the word. And when they did, it was often framed narrowly as something for Mexicans to worry about -- instead of added evidence of Trump's ugly habit of playing racial politics.

So liberals, spare me your moral outrage now that you've rediscovered Trump's racist tendencies. At this point, it's not worth much.

Instead, in the wake of Trump's "Pocahontas" outburst, Americans should be talking about three things: the story of the "code talkers," which is fascinating; Warren's opportunistic attempt at cultural appropriation, which is foul; and Trump's juvenile psychological defect of saying whatever inappropriate thing pops into his head, which is frightening.

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