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One of the most revealing truths from the presidency of Barack Obama was the depths of latent racism in America. While we celebrated the election of the first African American president, indicating a seminal achievement in the fight for equality in America, lurking behind the achievement were the embers that sometimes burned brightly of continuing racism.

It was amazing that so many of our fellow citizens found fault in virtually everything this intelligent, well read, erudite, immaculately dressed, morally certain and imminently qualified person accomplished.

When there was no legitimate criticism, there was feigned outrage for things such as his wearing of a tan suit, or when he put his feet on the White House desk. It became a slogan of criticism whenever anything was not perfect in the federal government to say, “Thanks, Obama.”

President Obama, in his good-natured way, even made a video making fun of the phrase.

When in a senior staff meeting at West Virginia University sometime after the 2012 election, an official used that phrase when discussing a piece of federal tax policy. When she made the statement some of the people around the table nervously chuckled and looked at me and the only other African American in the meeting. I remember thinking “if she says this while I’m here, I can only imagine the discussion when there were no people of color in the room.”

During the Obama presidency, an inarticulate, billionaire celebrity land developer and grifter from New York financed the birther movement to discredit the legitimacy of the first Black President. After being embarrassed by Obama’s wit at the annual Press Club Dinner, Donald Trump decided to run for president, something he had flirted with before.

Trump ran a presidential campaign that appealed to the lowest nature of his followers based upon latent and sometimes overt racism, xenophobia and pride. To the absolute surprise of the establishment, he won the presidency.

We are now at the end of a tumultuous four years of the failed presidency of Donald J. Trump that has culminated in over 350,000 of our fellow citizens dead from his mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic. The economy is in shambles, our standing worldwide at an all-time low and the U.S. Capitol was stormed by his followers.

I would like to reappropriate the phrase directed at President Obama and say “Thank you, President Trump.”

Thank you, President Trump, because without your presidency, mainstream America would not acknowledge the level of racism that often lurks below the surface. Since it is the truth that sets us free, it is important for us to know the true level of our racial destitution so that we can work on improving it.

Trump’s racism and response to police killings of African Americans gave us a rejuvenated Black Lives Matter movement that had been ignored for a long time. After the police killing of George Floyd and Trump’s inept response, the nation had to confront the reality of police involved killing of people of color.

Thank you, President Trump, for showing us the fragility of our democracy. Trump’s lack of preparation and ignorance has shown us that we must be careful when we choose our leaders. Hopefully, we have learned the lesson and will no longer allow a populist message from a novice to outstrip measured and prepared leadership.

The scenes from Wednesday’s assault on the nation’s Capitol by Trump supporters hopefully shows us that when we sow to the wind, we reap the whirlwind.

Rather than making America great, Trump has shown us what it looks like to flirt with autocracy, and it is an ugly sight.

Thank you, President Trump, because under your leadership it is crystal clear how white supremacy works in this country. You have shown the world that the white evangelical church is less about the Christ they profess to serve and more about preserving white privilege and superiority. Evangelicals backed Trump in telling tens of thousands of lies, in his support of white supremacist groups and his marginalization of people of color.

Trump and his followers have shown that the guise of patriotism was nothing more than a ruse to subvert the Constitution of the United States. Trump’s followers are not patriots, they do not support law and order and will resort to whatever means they can to retain as much whiteness in America as possible. We have been shown that the best of America is found when we embrace diversity in humility and not a look back to a past that never was.

Thank you, President Trump for the realization that to be wealthy does not make you smart, competent or moral. West Virginia has its own buffoon billionaire in Gov. Jim Justice who acts more like Mr. Haney from Green Acres than the head of state. Justice allowed a COVID-19 superspreader event at his Greenbrier resort for a New Year’s celebration while advising others to not gather and pushing back spring sports for our high school students. He has spawned politicians after his kind as evidenced by West Virginia Republican Delegate Derrick Evans filming himself storming the U.S. Capitol grounds.

We need to get back to competence in governing.

Finally, thank you President Trump, in showing us that God does not honor our pride and vanity. Trump and his Make America Great Again pride has led us to shambles and to the brink of destruction just as the wise person of color King Solomon informed us of in Proverbs. It is time for America to repent for following Donald Trump or risk a complete fall.

David M. Fryson is pastor-elect of The New First Baptist Church of Kanawha City. He is an attorney, a diversity professional and is the retired founding vice president of the Division of Diversity for West Virginia University. He is a longtime contributing columnist for the Gazette-Mail.