Let’s talk American History

The U.S. has a uniquely diverse history, parts of which are often glossed over, ignored, or revised in its teaching. That needs to stop … we need to learn the history of the nation — the good, the bad, and the ugly. Those who fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it. Yet, there are those who would simply erase parts of the history of this nation. Blogging buddy Brosephus has once again knocked the ball out of the park with his take on this topic … thank you, Brosephus!

The Mind of Brosephus

American history has been a hot topic as of lately, primarily because of Republicans striking out against what they’re calling “wokeism”, revisionism, or whatever the code word is for the day. There’s been a lot of crap being spewed from the Tennessee Republican claiming the Three-fifths Compromise was passed to end slavery to Tim Scott claiming America isn’t a racist country.

Individually, the statements that have been made are outrageously stupid and wrong. Collectively, these statements all feed into the cult-like behavior Republicans now exhibit where up is down, the sky is green, and grass is blue. This is dangerous because this creates a society ignorant of its own history of accomplishments and mistakes. You can’t know who you are if you don’t what you have and haven’t done.

So, first up is Rick Santorum and his statement on Native Americans. The easiest and quickest way to disprove his statement…

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Filosofa Takes on Mitch

Mitch McConnell has found a permanent home on my radar, it would seem.  Every day he says or does something to spark my temper and this week he’s been on a veritable roll.


Mitch McConnell, aka Moscow Mitch, says we don’t matter!

I have never been a fan of the ignoble, inglorious Mitch McConnell, but now he has crossed my red line.  Referring to President Biden’s plan to increase taxes on corporations and on the wealthy (such as Mitch himself), McConnell claimed he would not support Biden’s infrastructure plan because of the “massive tax increases on all the productive parts of our economy.”  Think about that one for a minute, friends.  “All the productive parts of our economy” in Mitch’s mind, are the wealthy like himself.  We, the people who have worked 40+ hours per week every week of our adult lives, the people who built the cars, mined the coal, grew the food, educated our children, are nothing!  F*ck you, Mitch McConnell!

I had my first full-time job when I was 13 years old, and apart from a few years off to raise three children and earn three college degrees, I worked my entire adult life until I retired in 2008.  Throughout my career, I often worked long hours, sometimes as much as 16 hours a day … but I’m not one of the “productive parts of our economy”???  Today, my daughter works 12-14 hour days as a nurse, but according to McConnell, the rich bastard sheltering his assets offshore is a more productive part of our economy than she is?

President Biden guaranteed there would be no tax increase on anyone earning less than $400,000 per year.  In my wildest dreams, my most profitable year, I came nowhere close to making $400,000 per year, or even $100,000 per year.  Anyone making more than $400,000 per year ought to pay a higher tax rate!  Corporations profiting hand over fist ought to be paying their fair share.  And those millionaires and billionaires who have long enjoyed paying accountants to create tax shelters and loopholes rather than pay their fair share in taxes ought to have to make amends!  For years, the wealthy and the corporations they own have paid a smaller percentage in taxes than the average working stiff.

The backbone of our economy is the people who produce the goods and services, and they already pay more than their fair share in taxes.  They are the productive parts of our economy.  NEVER forget that, Mitch McConnell!


And in other Mitchie-related news …

I wrote in August 2019 about the New York Times venture into history in the 1619 Project

… a worthy project …

The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.

I haven’t spent as much time as I had hoped reviewing the project, but everything I’ve seen of it has been absolutely excellent … a factual, honest view of our history.  But yesterday we learned that Mitch McConnell sent a letter to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona asking him to abandon the factual recounting of the true beginnings of the United States as perpetuated by such as the 1619 Project.  McConnell calls this “revisionist history”!  WHAT, Mitchie … do you think your friggin’ ancestors didn’t own slaves, beat them with whips, and sell their children to the highest bidder?  Do you think that is all a myth?  Do you think that Black people were brought here on tourist cruise boats and made to feel welcome at the Ritz-Carlton???

McConnell claims these programs such as the 1619 Project “re-orient” the view of American History “away from their intended purposes toward a politicized and divisive agenda.”

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr …

In fairness, Mitch makes a valid point near the beginning of his letter …

“A 2020 survey found that only 51% of Americans can name the three branches of our federal government. A 2019 study found that majorities of Americans in 49 states and the District of Columbia would earn an “F” on the U.S. Citizenship Exam. The most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress found that just 15% of American eighth-graders are “proficient” in U.S. history. School closures during the COVID-19 pandemic have almost certainly intensified these problems by triggering substantial learning losses, particularly for students from underserved backgrounds.”

He is right, our children are not being taught the things they need, and the former Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, added a heaping dose of ignorance to our education system.  But then he continues, putting down the administration’s proposal to update American history curricula to more fully flesh out the consequences of slavery and contributions of Black Americans.

The most ludicrous statement in Mitch’s letter is …

“Americans do not need or want their tax dollars diverted from promoting the principles that unite our nation toward promoting radical ideologies meant to divide us.”

Say WHAT???  I cannot speak for everyone in this country, but for my part I want our children to be taught truth – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Facts, man, just the facts.  Fact:  the United States was a slave-owning nation from 1619 until 1865 … nearly 250 years!  Fact:  even today, in the 21st century, Black people are still fighting for equality, to be treated as equals.  Children need to learn all of the history of their nation, not just the rosier parts.  In the words of Winston Churchill …

“Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”

The U.S. has some very ugly things and dark periods in its history, along with some wonderful, bright moments.  They are all part of our history, from slavery, the Japanese internments, turning away the St. Louis, the white man’s treatment of the original people who were here long before Europeans came.  The United States is no worse, no better than most Western nations and we must remember both the good and the bad.

If the civil rights legislation that was passed in the 1960s were put forth today, no doubt Mitch McConnell would filibuster and ensure it didn’t pass.  Perhaps it is Mitch that needs to be educated.

Please do not rewrite history – there is too much to learn (a still needed reprise)

Our friend Keith has reprised one of his older posts about the whitewashing of history, the attempts to erase the mistakes we’ve made (and there have been many!) throughout the years. But, if we don’t remember our mistakes, we are doomed to repeat them. Thanks, Keith, for an excellent post, a timely reminder.

musingsofanoldfart

The following post was written about six years ago. Unfortunately, the white washing of US history continues as would typically be done in more autocratic regimes. If we do not bother to know history, we are destined to repeat it, especially by some who do not want us to know.

In the US, a few states have acquiesced to the push by some conservative funding groups to whitewash history. The target is the Advanced Placement US History curriculum. The problem the group is solving in their minds is we do not pat ourselves on the back enough and discuss American exceptionalism. I will forego the word exceptionalism as I can devote a whole post to this, but when we try to hide our warts and how we have protested or overcome those warts, we are missinga key part of our greatness – our ability as citizens to protest and…

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Roots Cause Analysis

Blogging friend Brosephus … well, he has written a post that will make you stop and think. Truer words were never spoken than … “Our society has never acknowledged that America was built upon stolen land and became what it is today from stolen labor.” And yet, our society is one of arrogance, of racism, of entitlement. Please read his post, think about what he says. Is there common ground we can find to heal the ‘great divide’? Perhaps, but we are going to have to take a long, hard look at ourselves first. Thank you, Brosephus, for this very thoughtful and thought-provoking post!

The Mind of Brosephus

Root cause analysis, as the website Tableau defines it, “is the process of discovering the root causes of problems in order to identify appropriate solutions”. RCA is used to solve all types of problems, and I thought about this process while digesting the news of the week.

In this one week in 2021, we’ve seen the GOP become the GQP by refusing to reject Marge and her illogical logic. We saw more arrests and indictments come down from the Trump Insurrection of 2021. A country music singer got his music yanked from the radio when a video surfaced of him using a racial slur. In not so mainstream news, there was also the suicide of Lafayette Parish Sheriff Deputy Clyde Kerr III. This particular story hit close to the heart for me because I can empathize with his struggle.

I honestly believe that a majority of America’s problems could…

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If we don’t know our history, we are destined to repeat it

My jaw dropped when I read the first sentence in this thoughtful and thought-provoking post by our friend Keith. I think yours will too. Trump’s desire to teach revisionist history can only lower us even further in the eyes of the world … it can only be thought of as the ‘dumbing-down of America’. Please take a minute to read Keith’s post and ponder on the direction we are headed. Thanks, Keith!

musingsofanoldfart

I read this week from a UPI article that 60% of millennials and Gen-Zers are unaware that 6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust by the Nazis in World War II. I use the word “exterminated” as that is what the Nazis did by gassing Jews after they rounded them up. If the brashness of this statement offends – I apologize for the needed candor. It is meant to wake people up.

But, the Nazi genocide of Jews is among too many persecutions around the world and over time. The United States has had three persecutions of groups of people, two of which leading to many deaths. We should never forget these sad parts of our history or white-wash (word intentionally chosen) them away.

– European settlers of the US over time seized land from, killed many and moved Native Americans over the course of three centuries. Even today…

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Trump’s Attack on History: The 1776 Project, Racism, Nationalism, and Fraudulent Patriotism to Conform History to his Twisted Ideology

Today, in yet another extreme abuse of the power of his office, Trump signed an ‘executive order’ to demand that public schools teach revisionist history, that they exclude the darker past of this nation. I tried to write about this, but was too furious to put coherent words on paper. Fortunately, Padre Steve was more successful than I, so I share his work with you. Please do read this … it is another step … a huge one … in the destruction of the United States. Thank you, Padre!

The Inglorius Padre Steve's World

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today President Trump launched a major attack on the history of the United States by announcing what he called The 1776  Project, a direct attack on the 1619 Project which aims to tell the story of how the English Colonists introduced what became the institution of slavery and entrenched racism in the United States. I know the subject well, my book which will be published sometime in the next year “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory!” Racism, Religion, Ideology and Politics in the Civil War Era and why they Continue to Matter” deals extensive with this history, and I can say based on his actions and utterances that the President is using this to further divide the country on racial lines and to open American history as his next front of his culture war.

Trump said he would create a national commission to promote a…

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Understanding Juneteenth

Today is Juneteenth, and I would like to start with a few words from President Barack Obama …

Obama“Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory, or an acceptance of the way things are. It’s a celebration of progress. It’s an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, change is possible––and there is still so much work to do.”

I planned to write a piece about Juneteenth, but I found that it had already been done, much better and much more authentically than I could possibly have done it, by Jamelle Bouie, an opinion columnist for the New York Times, and former chief political correspondent for Slate magazine.


Why Juneteenth Matters

It was black Americans who delivered on Lincoln’s promise of “a new birth of freedom.”

jamelle-bouieBy Jamelle Bouie

Opinion Columnist

Neither Abraham Lincoln nor the Republican Party freed the slaves. They helped set freedom in motion and eventually codified it into law with the 13th Amendment, but they were not themselves responsible for the end of slavery. They were not the ones who brought about its final destruction.

Who freed the slaves? The slaves freed the slaves.

“Slave resistance,” as the historian Manisha Sinha points out in “The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition,” “lay at the heart of the abolition movement.”

“Prominent slave revolts marked the turn toward immediate abolition,” Sinha writes, and “fugitive slaves united all factions of the movement and led the abolitionists to justify revolutionary resistance to slavery.”

When secession turned to war, it was enslaved people who turned a narrow conflict over union into a revolutionary war for freedom. “From the first guns at Sumter, the strongest advocates of emancipation were the slaves themselves,” the historian Ira Berlin wrote in 1992. “Lacking political standing or public voice, forbidden access to the weapons of war, slaves tossed aside the grand pronouncements of Lincoln and other Union leaders that the sectional conflict was only a war for national unity and moved directly to put their own freedom — and that of their posterity — atop the national agenda.”

All of this is apropos of Juneteenth, which commemorates June 19, 1865, when Gen. Gordon Granger entered Galveston, Texas, to lead the Union occupation force and delivered the news of the Emancipation Proclamation to enslaved people in the region. This holiday, which only became a nationwide celebration (among black Americans) in the 20th century, has grown in stature over the last decade as a result of key anniversaries (2011 to 2015 was the sesquicentennial of the Civil War), trends in public opinion (the growing racial liberalism of left-leaning whites), and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Over the last week, as Americans continued to protest police brutality, institutional racism and structural disadvantage in cities and towns across the country, elected officials in New York and Virginia have announced plans to make Juneteenth a paid holiday, as have a number of prominent businesses like Nike, Twitter and the NFL.

There’s obviously a certain opportunism here, an attempt to respond to the moment and win favorable coverage, with as little sacrifice as possible. (Paid holidays, while nice, are a grossly inadequate response to calls for justice and equality.) But if Americans are going to mark and celebrate Juneteenth, then they should do so with the knowledge and awareness of the agency of enslaved people.

Juneteenth-2

Credit…David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Emancipation wasn’t a gift bestowed on the slaves; it was something they took for themselves, the culmination of their long struggle for freedom, which began as soon as chattel slavery was established in the 17th century, and gained even greater steam with the Revolution and the birth of a country committed, at least rhetorically, to freedom and equality. In fighting that struggle, black Americans would open up new vistas of democratic possibility for the entire country.

To return to Ira Berlin — who tackled this subject in “The Long Emancipation: The Demise of Slavery in the United States” — it is useful to look at the end of slavery as “a near-century-long process” rather than “the work of a moment, even if that moment was a great civil war.” Those in bondage were part of this process at every step of the way, from resistance and rebellion to escape, which gave them the chance, as free blacks, to weigh directly on the politics of slavery. “They gave the slaves’ oppositional activities a political form,” Berlin writes, “denying the masters’ claim that malingering and tool breaking were reflections of African idiocy and indolence, that sabotage represented the mindless thrashings of a primitive people, and that outsiders were the ones who always inspired conspiracies and insurrections.”

By pushing the question of emancipation into public view, black Americans raised the issue of their “status in freedom” and therefore “the question of citizenship and its attributes.” And as the historian Martha Jones details in “Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America,” it is black advocacy that ultimately shapes the nation’s understanding of what it means to be an American citizen. “Never just objects of judicial, legislative, or antislavery thought,” black Americans “drove lawmakers to refine their thinking about citizenship. On the necessity of debating birthright citizenship, black Americans forced the issue.”

After the Civil War, black Americans — free and freed — would work to realize the promise of emancipation, and to make the South a true democracy. They abolished property qualifications for voting and officeholding, instituted universal manhood suffrage, opened the region’s first public schools and made them available to all children. They stood against racial distinctions and discrimination in public life and sought assistance for the poor and disadvantaged. Just a few years removed from degradation and social death, these millions, wrote W.E.B. Du Bois in “Black Reconstruction in America, “took decisive and encouraging steps toward the widening and strengthening of human democracy.”

Juneteenth may mark just one moment in the struggle for emancipation, but the holiday gives us an occasion to reflect on the profound contributions of enslaved black Americans to the cause of human freedom. It gives us another way to recognize the central place of slavery and its demise in our national story. And it gives us an opportunity to remember that American democracy has more authors than the shrewd lawyers and erudite farmer-philosophers of the Revolution, that our experiment in liberty owes as much to the men and women who toiled in bondage as it does to anyone else in this nation’s history.

Honouring Racism????

You remember the “Unite the Right” fiasco in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017?  The rally was organized by a large number of different groups, mainly white supremacists and neo-Nazis.  People died, more were injured, some beaten up, others injured when a car plowed into a group of people.  And remember in the aftermath, when Donald Trump said there were good people on both sides?  That rally was in protest of plans to remove a Confederate statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general.

In the days following Charlottesville, Confederate  statues began falling:  activists in Durham, North Carolina, used ropes to tear down a statue of a Confederate soldier outside the city’s former courthouse; authorities in Baltimore moved to take down the city’s Confederate monuments; and the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, where state law prohibits the removal of a Confederate monument from a city park, ordered it covered up with plastic.

Confederate statues are a source of great controversy, as some claim they are a valuable part of U.S. history, while others say they enshrine evil – the evil that was slavery.  Some accuse those who want the statues removed of attempting to “wipe out any pride Southerners should have in their heritage.”  Trump argued that the removal of these monuments amounted to “changing history,” adding, “I wonder, is it George Washington next week?”; then later, tweeting that “the history and culture of our great country” are “being ripped apart” by those who wish to see the monuments gone.

There remain some 1,500 memorials to the Confederacy around the nation today.  One such is a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest that stands 25 feet high and depicts Forrest on a horse, shooting behind himself, flanked by Confederate battle flags.  The sculptor of the statue is Jack Kershaw—who is primarily known for defending the assassin of Martin Luther King Jr.  The statue is located in Nashville, Tennessee, in plain sight of Interstate Highway 65.  Since it is located on private property, it cannot be removed by state or county officials, and efforts to use landscaping to obscure it from view have failed. Forrest statue.jpegLet me tell you just a bit about Nathan Bedford Forrest …

Forrest was a Confederate Army general during the American Civil War.  On April 12, 1864, he led the Battle of Fort Pillow, also known as the Fort Pillow massacre, at Fort Pillow on the Mississippi River in Henning, Tennessee.  Fort Pillow was an African-American Union fort, and even thought the troops surrendered, they and their families who were residing within the fort were brutally tortured and murdered.  The total deaths were estimated at 350, including women and children, and there were almost as many injured or captured.

Nathan_B._Forrest

Nathan Bedford Forrest

Then in 1867, after the conclusion of the Civil War, Forrest became the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, a position he would hold for two years.  The Klan, with Forrest at the lead, suppressed voting rights of blacks and Republicans in the South through violence and intimidation during the elections of 1868.  Near the end of his life, he denied his role in the Fort Pillow Massacre, and claimed he had never been a member of the KKK, but his words are proven to be lies in the annals of history.

So why, you ask, am I giving you a history lesson today?  Because yesterday, the State of Tennessee celebrated the life of Nathan Bedford Forrest.  It is bad enough to have a statue of a Confederate figure, but to celebrate a man who was responsible for the deaths of African-Americans solely because their skin is dark … that, my friends, is an abomination.

Bill-Lee

Governor Bill Lee

In 1921, a state representative named John Travis of Henry County, Tennessee, got a bill passed marking the 100th birthday of Nathan Bedford Forrest, and every year since, the state’s governor has signed a proclamation to observe “Nathan Bedford Forrest Day”.  This year was no exception, and current Governor Bill Lee signed the proclamation on Thursday.

Even Republican Senator Ted Cruz, for whom I have more pity than respect, spoke against honouring a man who should have been tried as a war criminal …

“This is WRONG. Nathan Bedford Forrest was a Confederate general & a delegate to the 1868 Democratic Convention. He was also a slave trader & the 1st Grand Wizard of the KKK. Tennessee should not have an official day (tomorrow) honoring him. Change the law.”

proclamation.jpgMy friend Herb tells me that I am too critical of the South.  Things like this might explain why.  Racism is alive and well all over the United States, but in most places it simmers beneath the surface, while in the South, they embrace it, they are proud of the heritage of slavery, proud to be the home of the KKK.  Sorry, folks, it’s time to change the law that honours a slave trader, murderer and racist extraordinaire.  You won’t find statues honouring Adolf Hitler in Germany, nor will you find a day dedicated to honouring his memory there.

We cannot forget the shameful past of this nation, nor should we.  But we do not have to celebrate it!

A SLAP In The Face …

In April 2016 the U.S. Treasury Department announced that Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the center of a new $20 bill.  The change was to have occurred next year to mark the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States.  Why?  Because there have been only a few women on U.S. currency, and those were on the $1 coins. We thought it was about time.  There has also never been an African-American of either gender on U.S. currency. We thought that in honour of our winning the battle 100 years ago to convince men that we had a brain that functioned well enough to do something other than birth babies, cook and keep the house tidy, it would be nice to recognize a woman who had made notable contributions during her lifetime.

Harriet-Tubman.jpgI was excited to think of a woman finally appearing on a bill, and especially excited to see that woman be Harriet Tubman.  I used to teach a Black History class every February for Black History Month, and while there were many men and women who fought the fight against slavery, and then later to gain civil rights, Ms. Tubman was always one of my favourites.  Her courage and dedication were exceeded by none.  Not only did she devote her life to racial equality, she fought for women’s rights alongside the nation’s leading suffragists.

Andrew-JacksonSo, she was to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.  Let me tell you just a little bit about Andrew Jackson.  He was a slaveowner, known for his cruel treatment of slaves. At one point, he owned as many as 161 slaves and was well-known for brutally whipping them in public and putting them in chains.  He was also the man who was responsible for the forced removal of Native Americans from their ancestral lands.  Jackson’s Indian Removal Act resulted in the forced displacement of nearly 50,000 Native Americans and opened up 25 million acres of Native American land to white settlement.  Tens of thousands died during forced removals like the Trail of Tears in what is now Oklahoma.

Trail-of-Tears

Trail of Tears

And now, let me tell you a bit about Harriet Tubman.  Harriet Tubman was born into slavery in 1822. Early in life, she suffered a traumatic head wound when in a fit of temper, her owner threw a heavy metal weight intending to hit another slave but hit her instead.  In 1849, following a bout of illness and the death of her owner, Harriet Tubman decided to escape slavery in Maryland for Philadelphia. Rather than remaining in the safety of the North, Tubman made it her mission to rescue her family and others living in slavery via the Underground Railroad.  

Harriet-Tubman-3Altogether it is believed that she made some thirteen trips to guide a total of approximately 70 slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad, and then came the Civil War.  Harriet Tubman remained active during the Civil War. Working for the Union Army as a cook and nurse, Tubman quickly became an armed scout and spy. The first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, she guided the Combahee River Raid, which liberated more than 700 slaves in South Carolina.

Harriet-Tubman-4Compare these two people.  Andrew Jackson’s face is on the $20 bill, and Harriet Tubman’s was scheduled to be as of next year, but those plans have been nixed until 2028.  Why???  Because Treasury Secretary and bootlicker Steve Mnuchin does not wish to upset Donald Trump, whose hero is the abhorrent Andrew Jackson, that’s why!

See, Trump was on the campaign trail when the decision to put Ms. Tubman’s image on the currency was announced, and he expressed his displeasure, calling it “pure political correctness” …

“Well, Andrew Jackson had a great history, and I think it’s very rough when you take somebody off the bill. I think Harriet Tubman is fantastic, but I would love to leave Andrew Jackson or see if we can maybe come up with another denomination.”

He then suggested that perhaps Tubman could grace the $2 bill … a denomination that is no longer being printed.  In this writer’s opinion, Trump’s statement was a slap in the face, not only to Harriet Tubman, but to women, and particularly African-American women, throughout the nation.

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Steve Mnuchin

Steven Mnuchin’s attempt to justify the postponement was laughable b.s., something pertaining, he said to ‘security’ and ‘counterfeiting issues’.  The reality, however, was reported in the New York Times on Wednesday …

Mr. Mnuchin, concerned that the president might create an uproar by canceling the new bill altogether, was eager to delay its redesign until Mr. Trump was out of office, some senior Treasury Department officials have said.

And there you have it, folks.  A great woman, a courageous woman who saved many lives, cannot be honoured because it might upset the idiot-in-chief who is a fan of a misogynistic racist.  It is said that Trump has called Jackson a populist hero who reminds him of himself.  He even has a portrait of Jackson hanging in the Oval Office.  If you ever doubted that Donald Trump is a racist and denigrator of women, wonder no more … this is the proof.