How Donald Trump Is Codifying His Racism Into Policy
Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric isn’t new — but his ability to turn it into law is
On January 12th, the President of the United States made the following remarks in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“Today, we celebrate Dr. King for standing up for the self-evident truth Americans hold so dear, that no matter what the color of our skin or the place of our birth, we are all created equal by God.”
Less than 24 hours earlier, he had issued a different set of remarks, in a conversation regarding immigration policy. According to multiple Senators that were present in the room, Donald Trump called Haiti, El Salvador, and nations in Africa “shithole countries,” and made clear his desire to accept more immigrants from places like Norway (a predominately white country) instead.
So much for equality regardless of skin color or place of birth.
This discriminatory slur is simply the latest in a far-reaching line of racist rhetoric. Trump has a well-documented history of promoting attitudes of white supremacy, since long before his foray into the political world. The first public example of his racism goes back to 1973 when he was sued by the Justice Department over accusations of housing discrimination.
In 1989, he took out full-page newspaper ads to call for the death penalty for the Central Park 5 — five black and Latino teenagers wrongly accused of raping a white woman. He continued to claim they were guilty nearly a full decade after DNA evidence exonerated them. The same year, he spoke to NBC and claimed that “well-educated black[s]” actually have more advantages than he did at the current time.
And then, of course, one must remember that Trump made his way back into the public sphere by spearheading the birtherism movement, which claimed that President Obama was born in Kenya, rather than the United States.
An 'extremely credible source' has called my office and told me that @BarackObama's birth certificate is a fraud.
Trump continued to use racism as a way to build up his public presence in 2015 when he called Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists during his presidential campaign announcement. Since this moment, there has been an ever-expanding litany of discriminatory rhetoric that Trump has espoused for years. Including, of course, the moment when he called the neo-Nazis who marched down the streets of Charlottesville “very fine people.”
So it is of little surprise to hear reports of the crass language he most recently used. It fits with a well-documented pattern of behavior.
Trump in Alabama says NFL owners should "get that son of a bitch off the field!" when a player kneels during anthem
However, the level of influence that accompanies this racism has now changed. No longer is this discrimination relegated to his housing or employment practices. Armed with a complacent GOP and more extremist backers, Donald Trump can now craft policy based on his long-held racist beliefs.
And this has far wider reaching consequences than morally repugnant language, as policies can last far longer than presidencies. They create the institutionalized forms of discrimination that oppress citizens from generation to generation.
When Rhetoric Becomes Law
From the moment he entered the White House, Trump has attempted to uphold one of his major campaign promises — the call for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
On January 27, 2017, he issued an executive order to “indefinitely suspend the resettlement of Syrian refugees and temporarily ban people from seven predominantly Muslim nations from entering the United States.” Protestors flooded streets and airports, and the issue was almost immediately taken to the courts. Almost a year later, and we’ve faced three executive order based travel bans and multiple nationwide blocks in response.
Despite loud public criticism, the Trump administration has continued to defend these travel bans suggesting that they are not racially-motivated — rather they are designed with the safety of American citizens in mind. However, multiple studies have shown the minimal correlation between immigration and criminal activity.
In the defense of his immigration proposals during the campaign, Trump referenced keeping quotas within “historical norms.” This phrase is rife with its own problematic connotations, as it originates from policies passed by Congress in the 1920s, which limited immigration from certain countries that had high concentrations of particular ethnics groups.
Given the contextual knowledge of the President’s comments about black and brown immigrants, it is clear that his immigration policy is molded out of his own prejudices (and by extent, the prejudices of those who are willing to enact them).
One needs to look no further than the decision to end Temporary Protected Status for and order the mass deportation of 200,000 Salvadorans, most of whom who have been in the United States for around 17 years, after the earthquake in 2001. This status was also rescinded for Haitian immigrants, who according to the President, “all have AIDS.”
Or one can explore his decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. He argued that the Obama-era policy, which protected law-abiding children who immigrated to the country without authorization, hastened the spread of the MS-13 gang, although there has been no evidence to prove such a claim.
When Trump and his administration are unable to provide facts to support their given reasons for attempting to enact such harsh, unprecedented, and seemingly unnecessary policies — one must consider the most obvious alternative.
It is not reality on which the President crafts his policy — it’s racism.
Voter suppression & the lie of voter fraud is systemic racism. Attacking & deporting immigrants is white supremacy. Gutting the government to give a tax break to the wealthiest Americans disproportionately impacts black and brown people. That's systemic racism.
Beyond immigration, there are plenty of other examples to look at. In regards to the criminal justice system, which is permeated with racial discrimination, the current administration has taken multiple actions to roll back civil rights protections and boost mass incarceration.
From Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ statement directing prosecutors to pursue the most serious sentences when it comes to drug crimes — which will contribute to the over-incarceration rates of African Americans, who are jailed at a rate of 5.1 times white citizens — to the reversal of the DOJ’s plan to reduce its use of private prisons, this administration has made choices again and again which will heighten the racial and ethnic disparity in our prison system.
It is well-documented that our criminal justice system and the procedures by which we prosecute individuals have been skewed by racial discrimination. Rather than attempt to combat this, as previous administrations were beginning to focus on, the White House has taken steps in the opposite direction — instead enacting policies and orders which will further institutionalize racism.
When it comes to education, we see the same story. The U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos is a vocal advocate of school vouchers, which have a sordid history of being used to continue de facto segregation and are detrimental in the fight for equitable public education funding.
Additionally, there have been multiple instances of attempted rollbacks of civil rights protections, which were put in place to prevent the education system from being used as a tool to discriminate. When we consider how Donald Trump has spoken about children of color in the past (from his baseless attacks on the Central Park 5 to his use of Dreamers as props to forward his agenda), it is once again clear that his racism is being codified into law and promoted by the members of the GOP that support his agenda.
This codification is far more terrifying than the comments expressed by the President recently. Shocking language will always draw media attention — discriminatory policy is much more likely to fly under the radar.
Beyond that, these policies often do not take effect immediately, which means we must, in our culture of limited attention spans, remain both angry and vigilant in order to combat these particular forms of systemic oppression.
And we must recognize the way unfair laws have to be combatted — through litigation, through mass public outcry, and through the courtrooms — and organize respectively.
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A Many-Headed Monster
It has become clear, over the past year, that the extremist, barbaric, and discriminatory language used by the President isn’t going away. In fact, it’s been here since the beginning — especially in regards to the way he speaks about different racial groups. Condemning this outward hate speech is just one aspect of the fight to swing the pendulum back towards justice.
However, the insidious use of politics to incorporate an individual’s (or a group of individuals’) racial bias into the laws of our land should be countered with equal vitriol. It’s worth noting that many people are doing this exact thing. The brilliant work executed by the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund come to mind immediately.
Certain citizens of this country — this diverse, multi-ethnic country — though reckoning with a history flawed in unforgivable ways have always striven to right the moral course of this nation back to justice. If we hope to continue along the path they’ve set out for us, we must be willing to combat systemic racism, sexism, and all other forms of discrimination every place they rear their heads.
Our President is racist, and his policies have been built around his racism. We cannot stand for either. Those that do, reveal their own prejudices.