Donald Trump Is Making White Supremacy Great Again

President Trump’s hateful rhetoric has always been the cornerstone of his political platform
President Donald Trump (AP)

President Donald Trump (AP)

Co-Written By Kaz Weida

Last week Jemele Hill, co-host of ESPN SportsCenter, stirred controversy when she tweeted that Trump was “a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.” While Sarah Huckabee Sanders seemed to imply ESPN should suspend Jemele, an army of activists mounted a Twitter defense. The Democratic Coalition filed an ethics complaint against Sanders and the #NaziBucketChallenge trended nationally.

President Trump chimed in, calling Ms. Hill’s comments an “untruth.”

The truth is that Jemele was being criticized simply for calling out the elephant in the room by name. Her comments gave voice to what millions of Americans already believe. Donald Trump is not just someone who condones racism, he has repeatedly demonstrated through rhetoric, policy, and innuendo that he himself holds some of these hateful values. From the campaign trail to Presidential pardons, Trump intentionally feeds the dark underbelly of violent rhetoric that enables America’s hate groups to feel superior again.

A Campaign Of Hatred

As the self-appointed spokesperson of the birther conspiracy theories, it’s not surprising that Trump’s Twitter feed is peppered with racist rants predating his candidacy.

But during the campaign, Trump ratcheted up the rhetoric, exhibiting a real talent for reigniting the burning embers of bigotry. He stunned and offended Americans when he spoke about immigrants as criminals who offer no value to this country.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” Donald Trump, June 2015

Encouraged and bolstered by loud cheers from a sea of Caucasian faces in red hats, Trump stumped on the proposal to build a wall to keep out Mexico’s “bad hombres.” This racist rhetoric recalls the Southern Strategy that secured Richard Nixon’s place in the White House and is a reminder of a dark history our country seems doomed to repeat. In Trump’s case, feeding the fires of latent white supremacy for votes appears to be as effective in the rural South as it was when Nixon won in the 1960’s.

Trump acknowledged the appeal of stirring up racial divides among his largely rural base, telling The New York Times that when his events grow “a little boring…I just say, ‘We will build the wall!’ and they go nuts.”

A Platform For Islamophobia

One of Trump’s primary slogans on the campaign trail was “America First.” It can be traced back to the KKK’s New York “America First” parade in 1920 and the America First Committee’s anti-Semitic opposition to the U.S. involvement in World War II. It has resounded in similar ways with white supremacist supporters who interpreted it as code for an anti-immigration stance.

Post-election, Trump signed an executive order within a week of taking office that cemented his beliefs about immigration and the Muslim community. The President’s action, which has been referred to as a “Muslim ban,” immediately halted nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries from gaining entry to the United States for 90 days. The order also specifically barred refugees from war-torn Syria indefinitely.

In February of 2017, The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Trump’s ban for the third time, citing that the order was not well supported by actual facts regarding the dangers of immigration.

“The Government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the Order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States. Rather than present evidence to explain the need for the Executive Order, the Government has taken the position that we must not review the decision at all.”

Courts have repeatedly struck down the executive order as unconstitutional. As recently as September 7, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously against the ban’s limiting of family members, reopening the doors to thousands of refugees and contesting the administration’s narrow definition of “bona fide” relationships. Instead of supporting the court’s decision, the Justice Department publicly minimized the ruling, vowing to continue to appeal to the highest court in the land. The Supreme Court has stepped in and lifted some restrictions on refugees that are part of the U.S. resettlement program. Supreme Court justices will hear cases on the Muslim ban in October…

These kinds of policies feed into a public narrative that profiles Muslims as radical terrorists. Disinformation about Muslims is spread by right-wing media sources, including false statistics like the talking point that 85% of mosques are operated by Islamic extremists. Conservative pundits and politicians have used this fake news to support spying on mosques without warrants and have advocated for Muslim communities to be racially profiled.

Three months after the Muslim ban inspired passionate protests at airports across America, a white supremacist was charged with killing two people and attempting to murder another. Joseph Christian began yelling racial epitaphs against various religions and ethnicities while on a train in Portland. Among those that Joseph targeted were two Muslim women, one of whom was wearing a hijab. When three men attempted to subdue Christian, he attacked them with a knife, stabbing two to death and critically wounding another. Ricky John Best, age 53, died at the scene and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, died later at the hospital. The Muslim woman who was the initial target of the attack survived.

Prior to this attack, Joseph attended a rally in Portland in April and was known as a white supremacist. Throughout the duration of the march, Christian shouted racial slurs and was seen giving the Nazi salute. He posted frequently on Facebook, sharing ideas of violent anti-Semitic, Islamic, and white supremacist views.

Unlike his quick and some would argue premature condemnation of “Muslim” extremists in terror attacks in London, Trump initially declined to comment about Christian. His response came only after intense public pressure from the American people and took the form of one lone tweet, proceeded by a diatribe about “fake news.”

In the face of repeated assertions about Muslim extremists and legislation that actively encourages racial profiling, this condemnation does little to turn the tide. In fact, Trump’s silence is a tactic of acceptance that fuels bigotry and hateful ideology.

We have concrete evidence to prove the correlation between Trump’s campaign and the rise of anti-Muslim hate groups. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is tracking more than 900 hate groups in the U.S. The number of total hate groups is up by 17% since 2014 and the number of anti-Muslim hate groups in the United States has tripled in the last year.

Southern Poverty Law Center via CNN

Southern Poverty Law Center via CNN

One clear example of rising Islamophobia in America occurred on August 6th, 2017, when a Minnesota mosque was the target of a bombing. While no one was injured, it was clearly a hate crime and a terrorist attack targeting Muslims during morning prayers. And rather than messages of solidarity, the Minnesota Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said their Facebook page had been overrun with anti-Muslim messages since the bombing. “Blow up all mosques. Muslim fairy tales have no place inside the United States,” one Facebook message said while another stated, “If they find this person they should give him a medal.”

While the hate was vocal, the silence from the Oval office was deafening. After loudly and prematurely condemning terrorist attacks in London and using the incident as an opportunity to lobby for his travel ban, Trump didn’t seem to have much to say about Minnesota. Not a peep.

This silence is a terrifying reminder of where we currently stand as a nation. Trump’s lack of response to both the Minnesota bombing and the stabbings in Portland can be interpreted as permission for racism, xenophobia, and hateful bigotry among white supremacy groups. But occasionally, Trump has spoken up. And when he does, it has only reinforced the divides in this nation and hearkened back to a shameful history.


President Donald Trump (AP/ Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump (AP/ Evan Vucci)

President Trump has escalated the arrest and immediate deportation of illegals, enlisting ICE to sweep up hundreds of undocumented immigrants. Under John Kelly’s guidance at the Department of Homeland Security, arrests of illegal immigrants increased by forty percent over last year. Trump took to Twitter to express his frosty reaction to public outrage over the increasingly large raids:

In addition to aggressive ICE raids, the administration began rounding up people regardless of criminal history, a significant departure form Obama-era policies. In early August, the DHS announced they had detained over 650 illegal immigrants as a result of raids in various states over the four-day weekend, but only 130 of those detained had criminal records and 120 were children. Trump also threatened to create lists of supposed criminal immigrants to be circulated for local law enforcement, an act that mirrors tactics employed by Hitler’s Gestapo.

There have been discussions of implementing various inhumane policies towards immigrants under the Trump administration, including splitting up families at the border to discourage illegal crossings. Human rights activists sounded the alarm regarding abusive conditions at ICE detention centers but rather than addressing these concerns, the administration chose to shutter the Office of Detention and Policy Planning, whose sole function was to ensure detention centers were properly maintained.

Unfortunately, the cruelty and callousness of this administration doesn’t end there. Two weeks ago, Donald Trump announced the discontinuation of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy enacted by the Obama administration to protect immigrants brought to this country as children. A talking points memo circulated from the White House encouraged DACA recipients to “prepare for departure.”

Trump justified his decision after public outcry rose to a fever pitch by stating that he was giving Congress six months to put legislation in place to protect DACA recipients, known as “dreamers” from deportation.

Several former presidents chimed in to express support for dreamers, including both Obama and Clinton, reinforcing the narrative that these immigrants are the epitome of the American dream.

While Trump has since struck a deal with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to protect dreamers, we have yet to see this agreement materialize into meaningful legislation that could pass both chambers of Congress. The issue of immigration remains a persistent concern of Donald Trump’s base, so we should remain vigilant.


The Resurgence Of White Supremacy

White supremacists walk into Lee park surrounded by counter-demonstrators in Charlottesville, VA — Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017 (AP/Steve Helber)

Since Trump’s campaign began, white supremacist groups have been surging across the country. They feel empowered as they crawl out of hiding and openly flaunt their hateful beliefs.

Southern Poverty Law Center via CNN

Southern Poverty Law Center via CNN

The FBI and DHS reportedly prepared a report dated May 10, 2017, called “White Supremacist Extremism Poses Persistent Threat of Lethal Violence.” Notably, the report asserted that:

White supremacists “were responsible for 49 homicides in 26 attacks from 2000 to 2016 … more than any other domestic extremist movement.”

On June 23, 2017, the Trump administration cut funding ($400,000) from the “Countering Violent Extremism” program which backed an anti-white supremacist organization founded by former neo-Nazis. Trump claims to be tough on terror, but it appears he’s only tough if the terrorists are brown. Less then two months after the Trump administration cut this funding and proved they do not take this threat seriously, the terrorists took off their hoods.

On August 13th in Charlottesville, Virginia a planned white supremacist rally by a group called Vanguard America turned violent. This “Unite the Right” rally was organized by high-profile leaders in the white supremacist movement, including Jason Kessler and Richard Spencer. Despite early indications online from the organizers that the rally was specifically intended to incite violence, a judge granted the permit.

The night before the rally, white supremacists filled the streets of Charlottesville. Some of the white supremacists were spotted wearing “Make America Great Again” hats.

The rally started with hundreds of white supremacists, carrying tiki torches and periodically doing Nazi salutes. They gathered at the statue of Robert E. Lee, a monument the city proposed removing that had become a lightning rod for racism. The demonstration escalated into shouts of “nigger” at passing people of color, shoving, pepper spray attacks, and in some cases, outright fist fights.

The second day of the rally, these white supremacists were joined by Neo-Nazis, KKK members, and ex-klan leader David Duke.

“We’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump to take our country back.” — David Duke, former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan

As the day progressed, violence escalated quickly as wooden sticks were used as weaponry. A state of emergency was declared and the National Guard was called in to clear the streets. As the rally at the city park was winding down, a mustang with tinted windows barreled into a group of peaceful counter-protesters. A 32-year-old activist, Heather Heyer, was killed on impact, and some 34 others were injured.

While the nation mourned, Justin Moore, grand dragon of the North Carolina-based Ku Klux Klan, left a voicemail for a reporter at WBTV in Charlotte, NC. “I’m sorta glad that them people got hit, and I’m glad that girl died,” Moore said.

When pressured to address the terrorist attack, Donald Trump hedged. His comments that there were “good people” on “many sides,” ignited national outrage. Many of Trump’s fellow GOP members publicly rebuked the President’s comments, insisting that his language not only condoned but endorsed violence and white supremacy.

“You had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.”- Donald Trump, August 15, 2017

White supremacists groups cheered the speech, finding solace in the remarks from the President.

After years of falsely self-proclaimed suffering under a black President, white supremacists and neo-Nazis felt as if they’d found an ally in the White House.

An UnPresidential Pardon

President Donald Trump listens to reporters questions in the lobby of Trump Tower, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 in New York. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Donald Trump listens to reporters questions in the lobby of Trump Tower, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 in New York. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

While the nation was still reeling from the horrific events in Charlottesville, Trump dealt American values another blow by pardoning Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a noted bigot who’s engaged in racial profiling and inhumane acts of abuse.

Arpaio had been convicted of criminal contempt for deliberately violating federal court orders, but his offenses are much more disturbing than that. Decades of accounts indicate he routinely violated the constitutional rights of people of color in his community. In addition to ordering that people be stopped based solely on suspicion of immigrant status, Arpaio was also known for deplorable jail conditions and inhumane treatment of prisoners.

In his inhumane outdoor jail or as he called it, a “concentration camp,” of illegal immigrants, he forced a pregnant woman to give birth in shackles and reportedly tortured a paraplegic until he broke his neck. But to President Trump, who had been eager to pardon the former Sheriff for months going as far as to ask Attorney General Jeff Sessions if there was a way to drop the case, Arpaio is a “patriot” and the pardon was justified.

Trump’s pardon, first indicated at his rally in Phoenix, shocked even those who had come to expect the worst from this President. And it reiterated what most have always strongly suspected of him. That he is not only condoning racists and their belief system but is, in fact, a bigot himself.

Recently, some in the media have questioned whether the measured restraint and discipline of the new White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly, was finally having an effect on Trump. The deal reached Wednesday evening on DACA with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi seemed indicative of a fresh approach to issues of race and immigration, but the Trump administration swiftly dispelled that notion.

“The wall is already going through extensive renovations. They’re already building sample walls. That part is already moving forward. The president is 100 committed to the wall.” –Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Fox News

And Friday, after news that he’d had a productive conversation with African American Republican Senator Tim Scott about the implicit racial bias in his comments after Charlottesville, Trump doubled down on his “both sides” narrative. Sticking with his belief that there are some “pretty bad dudes” in Antifa groups, Trump seemed to be insisting he was right not to hold white supremacist groups responsible for the violence in Charlottesville.

Last week, after another terrorist attack in London, America woke to a Trump tweetstorm advocating for his unconstitutional travel ban and insisting that being “nasty” was the way forward in the battle against ISIS and extremism.

The return to racist rhetoric seemed inevitable, as predictable as a reflex for Donald Trump. At every turn, he confirms our worst fears that no matter the situation, he and his administration (especially Attorney General Jeff Sessions) can be counted upon to reinforce prejudice and institutionalize racism. For a country that has always been at war with itself, we should be able to unite behind one simple statement of fact: Donald Trump represents the very worst of who we are as a country.

News // Donald Trump / Journalism / Racism / Terrorism