Does America need to “get over” Donald Trump’s “racism”? Clint Eastwood thinks so. As he told Esquire’s Michael Hainey, he believes that Trump’s willingness to say what’s on his mind rather than worry about being politically correct is a big reason for the Republican nominee’s success. He added that Trump’s willingness to speak without a filter often results in him saying a lot of dumb things, such as bringing up the Mexican heritage of the judge who presided over federal lawsuits against Trump University. However, Eastwood ultimately favors the willingness to risk saying something stupid if it means not pandering to the PC police.
The renowned actor/director/producer believes that “secretly everybody’s getting tired of political correctness, kissing up . . . We see people accusing people of being racist and all kinds of stuff.” While that doesn’t mean that people should be free to speak without consequences, Eastwood’s primary concern was his belief that political correctness has become more important to a lot of people than actually getting things done.
Consequently, when Hainey asked what he would like to see change the most, Eastwood replied “I’d say get to work and start being more understanding of everybody—instead of calling everybody names, start being more understanding. But get in there and get it done.” While that advice is something the Republican nominee should also keep in mind, Eastwood believes it would benefit those who are quick to judge Trump as well.
Is he right? Is America’s political correctness getting in the way of bigger issues? If so, where do we draw the line? Scripture is clear that words have great power and what we say is not to be taken lightly. Solomon warned that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21), and that’s a fundamental part of why Paul warned the Ephesians not to let any “corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
No one should argue that racist or derogatory speech is permissible, or even that it’s not that big a deal. When Donald Trump speaks in a derogatory manner towards members of a particular gender, race, or religion, he reveals some troubling aspects of his character that should not be minimized—especially for someone hoping to be the face of our nation to the larger world.
That said, Eastwood brings up an important point regarding how we often seem to prioritize political incorrectness over a host of other sins. Our evaluation of people is both shortsighted and fundamentally flawed when we act as though a phrase or loose statement reveals the totality of who they are to the neglect of every other trait. To be sure, Trump’s at times racist and derogatory speech is troubling, but that alone should not be the only criteria used to judge him—just as Clinton’s penchant for stretching the truth (to put it kindly) should not be the only standard used to evaluate her fitness for office.
People are more than what they say, even if their words are an important aspect of that identity. To be clear, this article is not meant to endorse a political candidate or party (for what it’s worth, I’m still undecided), but rather to draw attention to an important conversation that has implications stretching far beyond the political sphere.
None of us want to be known for our worst moments. A single loose statement or improper joke should not define anyone. There comes a time when a pattern of such behavior sufficiently reveals crucial elements of a person’s character, but grace should have a place in our response to that person as well. That’s how each of us wants to be treated and, thus, it’s how we should also treat others (Matthew 7:12).
So the next time a political candidate, or the person in the next cubicle, says something he or she shouldn’t, try to find that balance of extending grace to the person without approving of what was said. A time will likely come when we may need the same grace, and Scripture is clear that God expects us to forgive others if we expect him to forgive us (Matthew 6:14–15). How will you measure up to that standard?