Trump mirrors racist attitude of D.W. Griffith

Tyler Mead, Senior Staff Writer [email protected]

A man who has escalated racial tension and is dangerously close to The White House slithered back into the public eye. Two men, if you count presidential candidate Donald Trump.

D.W. Griffith’s landmark film, “Birth of a Nation,” based on the book “The Clansman” reentered modern discussions when the new “Birth of a Nation” came out Oct. 6. The new film focuses on an uprising among slaves, a sharp contrast to Griffith’s original film praising the Ku Klux Klan for keeping black men and women in their place.

Griffith’s film played at The White House in 1915, where President Woodrow Wilson praised it. The film paints black people as a threat to the country.

White actors in blackface parade around like apes and rape white women, feeding into ignorant fears of the nation at the break of the century. It sounds eerily similar to issues debated in the 2016 election and the rhetoric used by Trump’s campaign.

I’m personally saddened knowing D.W. Griffith will always be an ugly mark in American film history. Even worse, 100 years later, the same kind of fear mongering, racist egotistical monster could actually become president.

Trump’s willingness and, more alarmingly, eagerness to give voters a scapegoat for their problems usually gets tied back to Adolf Hitler, but in fairness that’s a bit extreme. His claims that Mexicans are rapists and thieves, and that Muslims are a threat paints the same image Griffith had of black people in America.

Griffith’s film also galvanized militant whites to reform the KKK after its release. Trumps rallies affect his followers similarly with videos coming out almost weekly of his supporters harassing and attacking black, Latino, Muslim and female members of the audience.

Both are also definitively racist. This statement is no longer a theory. Trump’s claims and actions throughout his life in the public eye should be more than enough to prove he looks down on people of color. If voters want to turn a blind eye to strong evidence that he frequently uses the N-word during shootings of “The Apprentice,” or his sweeping claims about brown people, that’s their prerogative.

Trump even shares in Griffith’s most prominent personality trait: ego. They manifest themselves in different ways. While Griffith never went on tirades about his giant hands to prove he had sizable genitals or his huge policies, “Birth of a Nation” runs for two hours and 45 minutes. Griffith’s film “Intolerance”: Love’s Struggles throughout the Ages,” runs for three hours and 17 minutes.

Griffith believed audiences wouldn’t be able to tear their eyes away from his cinematic vision. While I wouldn’t call “The Apprentice” cinematic, the parallel of overestimating how much audiences actually want to see old time-y racism on screen still holds up.

As I said, I’m reluctant to compare Trump to certain Nazi fascists. Through the lens of American pop-culture though, the idea that Trump and Griffith are a little too similar is more than enough to leave me shook. My biggest takeaway from the eye-opener that Trump and Griffith would totally be best friends is that voting matters. It would be in voters’ best interests to not elect the guy who received an endorsement from the very group Griffith re-established.

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