Robert Rivard’s recent commentary offers a spirited defense of several of the wealthy Trump supporters listed in a tweet by U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro. His defense, unfortunately, disregards the potentially harmful impacts of their contradictory donor histories.
He points out, for instance, that Bill Greehey supported the founding of Haven for Hope and donated millions of dollars to children’s cancer research programs at UT Health. Yet, through his donation to the Trump campaign, he supported a president that has proposed $8.6 billion dollars in funding cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He supported a president that has pushed for billions of dollars in cuts to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and has actively worked to eliminate coverage for children and adults with preexisting conditions.
Kit Goldsbury, Rivard points out, gives generous scholarships to Hispanic students at the Culinary Institute of America campus dedicated to Latin cuisine. Yet at the same time, Goldsbury donates the legal maximum to a president who has referred broadly to Hispanics as “criminals” and “rapists” and portrays them as invaders.
Rivard writes this off as a harmless business calculation: “such support affords them access and consideration they can’t afford to forgo.” But a desire to access power does not resolve the moral contradictions of their actions. Their donations to this president lay bare a larger contradiction in American philanthropy, including here in San Antonio. We celebrate wealthy people who donate to causes that exist because of the very forms of structural inequality that powerful politicians have produced. That is, these donors monetarily support the political conditions that make their philanthropic support necessary in the first place.
This is not a new phenomenon, but the grotesquely explicit hatred for difference and disregard for suffering propagated by President Trump makes such a contradiction even harder to bear. When these wealthy donors give money to Donald Trump – whose policies and rhetoric produce greater income inequality, reduce access to health care, gut services for the homeless, and normalize race-based discrimination and hatred – they are producing the very social and economic problems that Rivard’s commentary credits them for solving.
I have yet to see a single one of the listed donors acknowledge the contradictions embedded in their donations. I have seen one donor refer to the Castro brothers as “piss ants.” Another said, “You bet I will give more to Trump.” I have not seen a donor acknowledge the real hurt that this president has caused here in our community, in this country, and our world. I believe that people like Goldsbury and Greehey do genuinely care for San Antonio, but until they have the courage to make that simple gesture to our community (and I hope they will), I don’t think they require Rivard’s sympathy or mine.