A conservative white man said President-elect Donald Trump isn't racist and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is having none of it. The critically acclaimed Nigerian novelist and feminist showed just how easy it can be to shut down arguments that Trump is not a racist Friday while appearing on BBC Newsnight.
Adichie joined BBC reporter Emily Maitlis and R. Emmett Tyrrell, editor-in-chief of the conservative magazine American Spectator, on the program to discuss Trump's victory in the U.S. election. When the discussion turned to Trump's repeated use of racist language, Tyrrell was quick to jump to the president-elect's defense.
When Maitlis pointed out the Ku Klux Klan had endorsed Trump, Tyrrell argued the group was "utterly marginal," making it "inappropriate to talk about the KKK in the same sentence as Donald Trump." He claimed simply that Trump "hasn't been racist." (I guess Tyrrell didn't hear about the time Trump was sued by the U.S. Department of Justice for racial discrimination, or about the multiple times he called Mexican immigrants rapists, murderers, and drug dealers, or his anti-Muslim rhetoric.)
While many of us may be scratching our heads at the fact that whether or not Trump is racist remains a debatable question, Adichie calmly, but firmly, let Tyrrell know she wouldn't allow him to redefine the parameters of racism. "I am sorry but if you are a white man, you don't get to define what racism is. You really don't," she said. "No, you don't get to sit there and say that he hasn't been racist when objectively he has... It's not about your opinion, racism is an objective reality and Donald Trump has inhabited that reality."
Tyrrell, then accused Adichie of playing into the Marxist theory of false consciousness. "I can't even open my mouth here because I am a white male," he said.
While Adichie remained polite throughout the exchange — even when Tyrrell was at his most patronizing — her face said it all. "No, of course you can," she said. "I am just saying to you that Donald Trump has shown us and said things that are objectively racist."
Adichie argued the campaign Trump ran in the primary and general election served as the best measurement of what kind of leader he would be. "I think what we should do is look at Trump for who Trump has told us and shown us that he is," she said. "Let's look at what he said on the campaign trail. The only way we can judge the kind of president he will be is on the campaign that he ran."