During Central’s recent faculty retreat, I sat down with Dr. Wallace S. Hartsfield II, who holds the Fred E. Young Chair of Hebrew Bible at Central. He also serves as pastor of the Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church of Kansas City, Missouri, a church known for its strong leadership in the community. As we shared a meal, Wallace posed the question: “why are evangelicals so silent about Trump’s regular denigration of women of color?” He was and is their candidate, after all.
The President has called these women “dogs,” “low IQ,” “lowlife,” and “crazy,” as a clear expression of his pernicious racism and sexism. When black women such as Congresswoman Maxine Waters or former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman dare challenge him, he unleashes the most derogatory language to “put them in their place.” Likewise, when he calls those NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem “sons of bitches,” he is by inference insulting their mothers.
Dr. Hartsfield said that this language cannot be interpreted as other than white supremacy and black exploitation. It reinforces the worst stereotypes of black women as being angry, violent, unhinged, and sexually available. It reinforces a world view where white men are on top, and all others are situated to prop up this social order. It offers encouragement to those who yell “you will not replace us.” Hartsfield also warned that this structure of exploitation cannot endure and suggested that the pot of outrage among younger black men is boiling over.
As the occupant of the White House spews daily vitriol there is the danger that the public will become numbed to its effect. It is what we have come to expect, and we can become dismissive about its impact. One of the things we have admired about the late Senator John McCain was his refusal to allow a woman to question President Obama’s heritage or religious faith. He gently corrected her rather than let her allegation go unchallenged.
Evangelicals are selling their souls for a “mess of pottage,” as they turn a deaf ear to Trump’s language. Indulging his penchant for demeaning women in general—and women of color in particular—these Bible-toting Christians claim that more is at stake as the president seeks to remake the judiciary to reflect the values of his base. Sadly, these values continue to exploit women and resist the shifting demographic of the US.
America’s original sin of racism is on full display in our time, and white evangelicals are failing to voice any moral objection to the president’s verbal assault. Why have they accorded such power to a hatemongering politician? Historians of American Christianity will sift this time and wonder how this travesty could occur. Too many have remained silent, to be sure.
Molly T. Marshall
Central prepares leaders for seeking God, shaping church, and serving humanity.