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Trump: I’m not Racist, but…

February 20, 2017


“I am the least racist person that you have ever met.” Donald Trump, interviewed by CNN’s Dan Lemon, 12/9/2015.   “Number one, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism, the least racist person.” Trump press conference, 2/16/2017

Usually when someone insists “I’m not a racist” it’s because he really is racist, or is about to do or say something racist.

The second quotation above, occurred after a Jewish journalist (wearing a yarmulke) asked Trump about the recent rise of anti-Semitic hate crimes in the US. Trump took umbrage at the question, and after rudely telling the reporter to sit down, said that it was “not a fair question” and “a very insulting question”, all the while failing to actually answer it.

Only a few minutes later, Trump recognized veteran African-American journalist April Ryan (saying “this is going to be a bad question”), who asked about his campaign pledge to help inner cities and an anticipated executive order on historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Regarding the order, Trump said only that it would be coming out soon. [As of this writing, it has not been made public. Omarosa Manigault reportedly is involved in the project, and it may turn out to be a vehicle to cast Trump in a favorable light relative to Obama, who had a somewhat strained relationship with HBCUs.]

Trump then launched into an extended boast about how well he had done with black voters. [Factual note: He received an estimated 8 percent of the black vote versus Romney’s 6 percent in 2012 running against an incumbent African-American president.] And Latino voters. And women voters. This then segued into the familiar trope about what “hell” America’s inner cities are.  He said nothing about any plans except “great people” are “working very hard” on inner cities.

Ryan followed up by asking if Trump planned to involve the Congressional Black Caucus, at which point Trump turned strangely hostile and confrontational, asking her if she “wanted to set up the meeting” and if the CBC were friends of hers. When she pointed out that she was just a reporter, he challenged her to “set up the meeting” as if that were her role. He then claimed that Rep. Elijah Cummings had pulled out of a meeting, probably at the instigation of Senator Schumer “or some other lightweight”.  [Note: The transcript of this portion of the press conference is appended at the bottom of this post.]

Reportedly, no meeting had been officially scheduled, and Rep. Cummings stated that he had “no idea why President Trump would make up a story about me like he did today,” adding that “of course, Schumer never told me to skip a meeting with the president.”

All of this followed Trump’s excruciating February 1 remarks on Black History month. [Full transcript here.] Flanked by Omarosa and Ben Carson (maybe the only black people Trump actually knows?), he began his remarks by bragging about the election, and then said, “Well this is Black History Month, so this is our little breakfast, our little get-together.” In the midst of talking mostly about himself, he managed to mention a few iconic black historical figures (Dr. King, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman) and then said, “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I noticed.” [Pause for embarrassed laughter.]  Perhaps someone had told him something about Douglass, but failed to mention that he has been deceased for over a century.

Several things stand out here. One is Trump’s disdain for “our little breakfast”, for which he clearly did utterly no preparation.  Obviously, his staffers didn’t bother to set him up for this either, which says a lot about the level of White House interest in black voters in general. Another is his failure to acknowledge anything about the outstanding achievements of African-Americans or the vital role of ordinary black citizens in contemporary society or the continuing discrimination that black people encounter in our country.  His only reference to present-day challenges was to harp again on the “terrible” state of the “inner city,” without any idea of what he might propose to address problems, except to have Carson “work very hard.”

Then there was  Trump’s pre-inauguration Twitter attack on civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis, after Lewis stated that he didn’t see Trump as “legitimate president” because of Russian meddling in the election.  Trump angrily tweeted: “Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk – no action or results. Sad! Congressman John Lewis should finally focus on the burning and crime infested inner-cities of the U.S. I can use all the help I can get!”

Aside from the sheer effrontery of saying that Lewis, who was savagely beaten by white segregationist Southerners during civil rights protests, was “all talk”, it turns out that Lewis’s district is actually doing quite well, thank you, and is far from the “burning and crime-infested” ghetto of Trump’s uninformed imagination.

All of this has occurred against the backdrop of the most blatantly racist campaign since George Wallace’s.  Here is what Shaun King, of the New York Daily News recently had to say about that:

You were given a resounding endorsement by the KKK. Current and former Klan leaders have sung your praises for years now. Neo-Nazis literally give the Nazi salute to you and your presidency. Bigots, be they young ones or old ones, commit hate crimes against Jews, immigrants, Muslims and people of color, and frequently say they are doing so in your name. In other instances, they chant your name and your name alone as a form of ethnic intimidation. When graffiti is left on buildings to intimidate people, right alongside racial slurs and swastikas, your name is tagged on buildings and playgrounds and cars across America. Have you ever wondered why white supremacists and neo-Nazis didn’t use George Bush’s name like this? Or Bill Clinton’s? Or Barack Obama’s? It’s because they were not seen as white supremacist superheroes and you are.

I don’t know if Trump is personally a racist or not–maybe he just feels entitled to act like an asshole to anyone.  But there is no doubt in my mind that many of his ideas are racist, and that he has consciously courted racists and white nationalists as supporters. The fact that his words and actions are denounced as racist probably just solidifies his base support.

He obviously finds it uncomfortable to be accused of racism, but in the final analysis, he just doesn’t really care.

[From the press conference]:

TRUMP: Yes, oh, this is going to be a bad question, but that’s OK.

QUESTION: It doesn’t(ph) have(ph) to be a bad question.

TRUMP: Good, because I enjoy watching you on television. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, thank you so much. Mr. President, I need to find out from you, you said something as it relates to inner cities. That was one of your platforms during your campaign. Now you’re —

TRUMP: Fix the inner cities.

QUESTION: — president. Fixing the inner cities.


QUESTION: What will be that fix and your urban agenda as well as your HBCU Executive Order that’s coming out this afternoon? See, it wasn’t bad, was it?

TRUMP: That was very professional and very good.

QUESTION: I’m very professional.

TRUMP: We’ll be announcing the order in a little while and I’d rather let the order speak for itself. But it could be something that I think that will be very good for everybody concerned. But we’ll talk to you about that after we do the announcement. As far as the inner cities, as you know, I was very strong on the inner cities during the campaign.

I think it’s probably what got me a much higher percentage of the African American vote than a lot of people thought I was going to get. We did, you know, much higher than people thought I was going to get. And I was honored by that, including the Hispanic vote, which was also much higher.

And by the way, if I might add, including the women’s vote, which was much higher than people thought I was going to get. So, we are going to be working very hard on the inner cities, having to do with education, having to do with crime. We’re going to try and fix as quickly as possible — you know, it takes a long time.

It’s taken more a hundred years and more for some of these places to evolve and they evolved, many of them, very badly. But we’re going to be working very hard on health and healthcare, very, very hard on education, and also we’re going to be working in a stringent way, in a very good way, on crime.

You go to some of these inner city places and it’s so sad when you look at the crime. You have people — and I’ve seen this, and I’ve sort of witnessed it — in fact, in two cases I have actually witnessed it. They lock themselves into apartments, petrified to even leave, in the middle of the day.

They’re living in hell. We can’t let that happen. So, we’re going to be very, very strong. That’s a great question and — and it’s a — it’s a very difficult situation because it’s been many, many years. It’s been festering for many, many years. But we have places in this country that we have to fix.

We have to help African American people that, for the most part, are stuck there. Hispanic American people. We have Hispanic American people that are in the inner cities and their living in hell. I mean, you look at the numbers in Chicago. There are two Chicagos, as you know.

There’s one Chicago that’s incredible, luxurious and all — and safe. There’s another Chicago that’s worse than almost any of the places in the Middle East that we talk, and that you talk about, every night on the newscasts. So, we’re going to do a lot of work on the inner cities.

I have great people lined up to help with the inner cities. OK?

QUESTION: Are you going to include the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional —

TRUMP: Well, I would. I tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting?

QUESTION: — Hispanic Caucus —

TRUMP: Do you want to set up the meeting?

QUESTION: No — no — no. I’m not —

TRUMP: Are they friends of yours?

QUESTION: I’m just a reporter.

TRUMP: Well, then(ph) set up the meeting.

QUESTION: I know some of them, but I’m sure they’re watching right now.

TRUMP: Let’s go set up a meeting. I would love to meet with the Black Caucus. I think it’s great, the Congressional Black Caucus. I think it’s great. I actually thought I had a meeting with Congressman Cummings and he was all excited. And then he said, well, I can’t move, it might be bad for me politically. I can’t have that meeting.

I was all set to have the meeting. You know, we called him and called him. And he was all set. I spoke to him on the phone, very nice guy.

QUESTION: I hear he wanted that meeting with you as well.

TRUMP: He wanted it, but we called, called, called and can’t make a meeting with him. Every day I walk and say I would like to meet with him because I do want to solve the problem. But he probably was told by Schumer or somebody like that, some other lightweight. He was probably told — he was probably told “don’t meet with Trump. It’s bad politics.”

And that’s part of the problem in this country.

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