I had an annoying three-and a-half-hour layover at Philadelphia International Airport. Like most grownups in such a situation, I went on a hunt for food and booze to fill the time. I spotted two seats open at a bar that sold both things and had the Orioles game on as a bonus. As I approached the empty chairs, I heard two middle-aged white men singing Trump's praises. One even referred to Hillary as a "naggy bitch" who steals, before birthing a huge chuckle.
“Can I help you, brotha?” the bartender said.
“Yeah, I’ll take a menu.”
They looked at me, saw I was black and muted their conversation as if I were Bill Clinton, wearing an “I’m with her" shirt. I thought nothing of it.
* * *
A week later I took a trip up to ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, to discuss a show segment that will be created around an article I wrote. Some editors and I decided to skip the onsite food and head to a little Mexican joint not too far away from the network's campus. The restaurant was on a block straight out of Mayberry: I kept waiting for that kid Opie to come through on a Huffy bike with a stack of newspapers in a wicker basket strapped to the front. We parked about three doors away from the restaurant and headed over.
There was an unoccupied storefront with a huge glass window next door to the restaurant. A few people were walking around, checking out the inside. I noticed a huge stack of Trump-Pence signs sitting in the window sill. I pointed at the signs and we joked about the irony of Trump supporters setting up shop next to a Mexican restaurant. Do Trump supporters eat Mexican food? Will they build an additional wall between the two spaces, and if so, who will pay for it?
* * *
The food was delicious; we inhaled it and made our way out of the restaurant. I glanced at the window and the signs had been flipped upside down.
“Yo! They saw us laughing and moved them!” I said.
We shared a laugh as a woman peeked out of the door. “This is America!" she said. "Right? Everyone is entitled to a choice!”
There was no time or energy to go back and forth with her. And to me, she’s not the problem. She was brave enough to declare her support. I don’t know who flipped those signs over, but they were flipped for a reason. The same reason those guys abandoned their conversation at the airport bar. It’s because people like that are the most dangerous adversaries in our battle to enhance social relations — they are the closet Trump supporters, deniers of racism or, in the worst cases, the secret racists.
* * *
Why would a person hide their support for Trump? The only logical reason is that they know he's a racist, running a racist campaign, who is 100 percent unqualified to be the president of anything except a second-rate local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.
If you haven’t been paying attention over the last year, Donald Trump publicly trashed a person with special needs, disrespected our military by making fun of the Purple Heart, offered no real economic or policy plans in general, lied about his relationship with ex-Klan leader David Duke (and with Vladimir Putin), lied by promising that Mexico will pay for a wall but was scared to ask the Mexican president when he had the chance, lied by saying he could deport 11 million immigrants, encouraged the Russians to hack and basically attack us, mismanaged and misused campaign funds, used charity money to pay his legal fees and lied about raising $6 million for veterans. To name a few. PolitiFact has reported that roughly 70 percent of Trump statements were false, collectively naming his utterances as their “2015 Lie of the Year.”
And he also has zero political experience coupled with a collection of bankrupt companies sitting on top of his I’m-a-successful-businessman platform. Donald Trump is so bad that George H.W. Bush, the next-to-last Republican president, isn’t even voting for him. So obviously the Trump woman from that Connecticut store was just clueless; I refuse to believe, however, that every Trump supporter is the same. Many Trump supporters are aware of the multiple shortcomings and all the things he’s done to disqualify his candidacy. They still support him because a vote for Trump maintains white supremacy.
Anybody could see that Trump's visit to an African-American church in Detroit was a staged joke. All his black-church visits just look stupid, and any attempt at black outreach by Trump is 100 percent political symbolism. In case you think he was even a little bit sincere, he tapped Fox News' Sean Hannity, the undisputed heavyweight champion of American racism, to host a town hall at a black church in Cleveland. It’s these Hannity-type decisions, treating racism as a joke or flat-out denying its existence, along with the faint David Duke affiliations, that excite the closet racists -- the dangerous ones who want to make America hate again.
I'm talking about the kind of racist who doesn’t own white robes, won’t shout out the N-word in front of a group of black people and won't burn a cross on your lawn; no, they’ll just deny you a well-deserved job opportunity, turn you down for a loan you're qualified for, declare you guilty before your trial starts and justify police murder while saying things like, “Racism doesn't exist anymore! I know because I have a black friend!”
I like my racism to be slam-dunked in my face, like Jordan from the foul line or Shaq in his 20s. I prefer Klan rallies, bright-blue Trump 2016 shirts, "soggy Make America Great Again" snapbacks, and dusty overalls held up by extra-large and extra-shiny Confederate flag belt buckles. Give me swastika face tattoos any day, as disgusting as they may be -- at least that’s honest. Knowing who is against me and who’s with me makes it easier to navigate American reality. These closeted Trump supporters who want to hide in the closet and conceal their racism pose a more difficult roadblock on our way to equality -- whatever that is.