Donald Trump’s long history of racism, from the 1970s to 2019
Preface to this article:
I don't suffer from TDS. In fact, I say very little about Trump, other than address specific policies. But as a counter-point to an article about Joe Biden, I think it is only fair to look at both men's history regarding racism. You the reader can decide if this is an issue of point in time or a general commentary about the individuals involved.
Trump has a long history of racist controversies
1973: The US Department of Justice — under the Nixon administration, out of all administrations — sued the Trump Management Corporation for violating the Fair Housing Act. Federal officials found evidence that Trump had refused to rent to black tenants and lied to black applicants about whether apartments were available, among other accusations. Trump said the federal government was trying to get him to rent to welfare recipients. In the aftermath, he signed an agreement in 1975 agreeing not to discriminate to renters of color without admitting to discriminating before.
1980s: Kip Brown, a former employee at Trump’s Castle, accused another one of Trump’s businesses of discrimination. “When Donald and Ivana came to the casino, the bosses would order all the black people off the floor,” Brown said . “It was the eighties, I was a teenager, but I remember it: They put us all in the back.”
1988: In a commencement speech at Lehigh University, Trump spent much of his speech accusing countries like Japan of “stripping the United States of economic dignity.” This matches much of his current rhetoric on China.
1989: In a controversial case that’s been characterized as a modern-day lynching, four black teenagers and one Latino teenager — the “Central Park Five” — were accused of attacking and raping a jogger in New York City. Trump immediately took charge in the case, running an ad in local papers demanding, “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE!” The teens’ convictions were later vacated after they spent seven to 13 years in prison , and the city paid $41 million in a settlement to the teens. But Trump in October 2016 said he still believes they’re guilty, despite the DNA evidence to the contrary.
1991: A book by John O’Donnell, former president of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, quoted Trump’s criticism of a black accountant: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day. … I think that the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault, because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control.” Trump at first denied the remarks, but later said in a 1997 Playboy interview that “the stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true.”
1992: The Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino had to pay a $200,000 fine because it transferred black and women dealers off tables to accommodate a big-time gambler’s prejudices.
1993: In congressional testimony, Trump said that some Native American reservations operating casinos shouldn’t be allowed because “they don’t look like Indians to me.”
2000: In opposition to a casino proposed by the St. Regis Mohawk tribe, which he saw as a financial threat to his casinos in Atlantic City, Trump secretly ran a series of ads suggesting the tribe had a “record of criminal activity [that] is well documented.”
2004: In season two of The Apprentice , Trump fired Kevin Allen, a black contestant, for being overeducated. “You’re an unbelievably talented guy in terms of education, and you haven’t done anything,” Trump said on the show. “At some point you have to say, ‘That’s enough.’”
2005: Trump publicly pitched what was essentially The Apprentice: White People vs. Black People . He said he “wasn’t particularly happy” with the most recent season of his show, so he was considering “an idea that is fairly controversial — creating a team of successful African Americans versus a team of successful whites. Whether people like that idea or not, it is somewhat reflective of our very vicious world.”
2010: In 2010, there was a huge national controversy over the “Ground Zero Mosque” — a proposal to build a Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan, near the site of the 9/11 attacks. Trump opposed the project, calling it “insensitive,” and offered to buy out one of the investors in the project. On The Late Show With David Letterman , Trump argued , referring to Muslims, “Well, somebody’s blowing us up. Somebody’s blowing up buildings, and somebody’s doing lots of bad stuff.”
2011: Trump played a big role in pushing false rumors that Obama — the country’s first black president — was not born in the US. He even sent investigators to Hawaii to look into Obama’s birth certificate . Obama later released his birth certificate, calling Trump a ”carnival barker.” (The research has found a strong correlation between “birtherism,” as this conspiracy theory is called, and racism.) Trump has reportedly continued pushing this conspiracy theory in private.
2011: While Trump suggested that Obama wasn’t born in the US, he also argued that maybe Obama wasn’t a good enough student to have gotten into Columbia or Harvard Law School, and demanded Obama release his university transcripts. Trump claimed , “I heard he was a terrible student. Terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?”
For many people, none of these incidents, individually, may be totally damning: One of these alone might suggest that Trump is simply a bad speaker and perhaps racially insensitive (“politically incorrect,” as he would put it), but not overtly racist.
But when you put all these events together, a clear pattern emerges. At the very least, Trump has a history of playing into people’s racism to bolster himself — and that likely says something about him too.
And of course, there’s everything that’s happened through and since his presidential campaign.
As a candidate and president, Trump has made many more racist comments
On top of all that history, Trump has repeatedly made racist — often explicitly so — remarks on the campaign trail and as president:
- Trump launched his campaign in 2015 by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” who are “bringing crime” and “bringing drugs” to the US. His campaign was largely built on building a wall to keep these immigrants out of the US.
- As a candidate in 2015, Trump called for a ban on all Muslims coming into the US. His administration eventually implemented a significantly watered-down version of the policy .
- When asked at a 2016 Republican debate whether all 1.6 billion Muslims hate the US, Trump said , “I mean a lot of them. I mean a lot of them.”
- He argued in 2016 that Judge Gonzalo Curiel — who was overseeing the Trump University lawsuit — should recuse himself from the case because of his Mexican heritage and membership in a Latino lawyers association. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who endorsed Trump, later called such comments “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”
- Trump has been repeatedly slow to condemn white supremacists who endorse him, and he regularly retweeted messages from white supremacists and neo-Nazis during his presidential campaign.
- He tweeted and later deleted an image that showed Hillary Clinton in front of a pile of money and by a Jewish Star of David that said, “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” The tweet had some very obvious anti-Semitic imagery, but Trump insisted that the star was a sheriff’s badge, and said his campaign shouldn’t have deleted it.
- Trump has repeatedly referred to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as “Pocahontas,” using her controversial — and later walked-back — claims to Native American heritage as a punchline.
- At the 2016 Republican convention, Trump officially seized the mantle of the “law and order” candidate — an obvious dog whistle playing to white fears of black crime, even though crime in the US is historically low . His speeches, comments, and executive actions after he took office have continued this line of messaging.
- In a pitch to black voters in 2016, Trump said , “You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?”
- Trump stereotyped a black reporter at a press conference in February 2017. When April Ryan asked him if he plans to meet and work with the Congressional Black Caucus, he repeatedly asked her to set up the meeting — even as she insisted that she’s “just a reporter.”
- In the week after white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia , in August 2017, Trump repeatedly said that “many sides” and “both sides” were to blame for the violence and chaos that ensued — suggesting that the white supremacist protesters were morally equivalent to counterprotesters that stood against racism. He also said that there were “some very fine people” among the white supremacists. All of this seemed like a dog whistle to white supremacists — and many of them took it as one, with white nationalist Richard Spencer praising Trump for “defending the truth.”
- Throughout 2017, Trump repeatedly attacked NFL players who, by kneeling or otherwise silently protesting during the national anthem, demonstrated against systemic racism in America.
- Trump reportedly said in 2017 that people who came to the US from Haiti “all have AIDS,” and he lamented that people who came to the US from Nigeria would never “go back to their huts” once they saw America. The White House denied that Trump ever made these comments.
- Speaking about immigration in a bipartisan meeting in January 2018, Trump reportedly asked , in reference to Haiti and African countries, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” He then reportedly suggested that the US should take more people from countries like Norway. The implication: Immigrants from predominantly white countries are good, while immigrants from predominantly black countries are bad.
- Trump denied making the “shithole” comments, although some senators present at the meeting said they happened. The White House, meanwhile, suggested that the comments, like Trump’s remarks about the NFL protests, will play well to his base. The only connection between Trump’s remarks about the NFL protests and his “shithole” comments is race.
- Trump mocked Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign, again calling her “Pocahontas” in a tweet before adding, “See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz!” The capitalized “TRAIL” is seemingly a reference to the Trail of Tears — a horrific act of ethnic cleansing in the 19th century in which Native Americans were forcibly relocated, causing thousands of deaths.
This list is not comprehensive, instead relying on some of the major examples since Trump announced his candidacy. But once again, there’s a pattern of racism and bigotry here that suggests Trump isn’t just misspeaking; it is who he is.
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