Former president Jimmy Carter believes that one positive development of the country's current tensions is that the majority of Americans have become aware that racism remains a persistent problem. He points to presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump as the proof.
Carter, 91, who recently overcame a dire cancer diagnosis but is still receiving treatment, has been organizing a diverse summit of his fellow Baptists. The former president told The New York Times that he is committed to use his religious faith as a way of bridging racial divides.
“I don’t feel good, except for one thing: I think the country has been reawakened the last two or three years to the fact that we haven’t resolved the race issue adequately,” Carter said.
The former president said that the election of President Barack Obama signaled some racial progress in the country, but noted that GOP opposition throughout his administration has had “a heavy racial overtone … I think there’s a heavy reaction among some of the racially conscious Republicans against an African-American being president.”
Carter added that Trump, who had spearheaded the “birther” movement questioning the veracity of Obama’s U.S. birthplace, has capitalized on this anger. He said that the business mogul “tapped a waiting reservoir there of inherent racism.”
The former president pointed to Trump’s proposed travel ban on all Muslims from entering the U.S.
“When you single out any particular group of people for secondary citizenship status, that’s a violation of basic human rights,” Carter said.
Trump has done well among evangelical Christians, harnessing their support to defeat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas during the GOP primary. Carter does not believe that many of these voters closely resemble true evangelicals.
“The use of the word evangelical is a misnomer,” Carter said. “I consider myself an evangelical as well. And obviously, what most of the news reporters thought were evangelicals are conservative Republicans. They have a heavy orientation to right-wing philosophy, and [Trump] obviously is a proponent of that concept.”
Carter has been frank about the persistence of racism over the years. In 2013, the former president noted that the legacy of slavery still cast a shadow over the country.
“There’s still a gross disparity in the basic rights and freedom, education, quality, and economic opportunities between African-Americans and Caucasians,” Carter said according to Parade. “African-Americans still suffer from the ancient gravities of slavery and then 100 years of official legal prejudice … We have a long way to go still.”
The former president has said that obvious racism had become dormant during his presidency and that it did not feel as present during the late 1970s.
“After the civil-rights movement was successful — about a hundred years after the end of the [Civil War] — there was a general feeling in this country that the main elements of racism, of white superiority, had finally been overcome,” Carter told The Atlantic.
The former president added “The burgeoning of obvious, extreme racism has been a sobering factor for us.”