Donald Trump has been widely and roundly called a racist. And depending on your definition of the term, maybe he is. Probably he is. He hasn't really gone out of his way to repudiate it, though that may have something to do with not seeming to repudiate part of his base.
And mixed into that idea is something a little more important.
The idea has circulated that Trump has been accused of racism only since he became a candidate for president; that was the subject of a popular social media meme some months back. The fact-checking site Snopes took up the assertion, and concluded easily that no, there was more to the picture.
From Snopes: "According to the New York Times, one of Trump's first newspaper appearances was in 1973, when the Trump Management Corporation was sued by the Department of Justice and charged for violating the Fair Housing Act of 1968:
'The government contended that Trump Management had refused to rent or negotiate rentals ‘because of race and color,’ ' The Times reported. 'It also charged that the company had required different rental terms and conditions because of race and that it had misrepresented to blacks that apartments were not available.' Trump was also accused of racism in 1989, when he took out full page ads calling for the return of the death penalty in several New York City newspapers. The ads were published a few weeks after a 28-year-old woman was raped while jogging in Central Park." During subsequent protests, activists specifically called Trump a racist.
Snopes also noted "Former employees of Donald Trump have also accused the real estate mogul of racism. John R. O'Donnell, a former president of Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, wrote in his 1991 book Trumped! that Trump frequently used racial slurs: A book written by one of Donald Trump's former casino executives accuses Trump of calling his biggest gamblers 'slobs,' of making racial slurs against black people and of being largely ignorant about the casino business."
There is of course much, much more on the subject of Trump and his attitudes toward race. (The most famous may be his role in propagating birtherism.) But there's another dimension to this too, hinted at by this line from a Fortune magazine report on Trump and race: "For the long followers of Trump’s career, however, none of these incendiary remarks are especially surprising. Trump has a long record as a provocateur on matters of race and ethnicity."
Note that it says he is not simply a holder of certain attitudes, but that he is a provocateur on "matters of race and ethnicity".
He has been a race provocateur on his campaign, not just on a few occasions but repeatedly. In a long list of these instances, the web site Vox earlier this month noted among other things:
"Trump has been repeatedly slow to condemn white supremacists who endorse him, and he regularly retweets messages from white supremacists and neo-Nazis. 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 ... At the Republican convention, he 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."
No major political candidate in the United States has so openly encouraged racism, and encouraged racists to act out their bigotry, since at least the days of George Wallace - and possibly earlier than that. Such encouragement creates an environment in this country far worse than the ugly attitudes of any single man. It creates a toxic country that may need decades more for serious detoxification.
The hatred and attacks generated by Trumpism are cropping up in many places, including the circles of anti-Trump conservatives. In the article "The Price I’ve Paid for Opposing Donald Trump," conservative National Review writer David French starts, "I distinctly remember the first time I saw a picture of my then-seven-year-old daughter’s face in a gas chamber. It was the evening of September 17, 2015. I had just posted a short item to the Corner calling out notorious Trump ally Ann Coulter for aping the white-nationalist language and rhetoric of the so-called alt-right. Within minutes, the tweets came flooding in. My youngest daughter is African American, adopted from Ethiopia, and in alt-right circles that’s an unforgivable sin. It’s called 'race-cucking' or 'raising the enemy.'”
You can read on about where the abuse goes from there, but don't do it on an empty stomach.
It's not just that Donald Trump's attitudes and personal actions are so vile; it's that they spread the vilenesss so broadly an so deeply. Trumpism is America's toxic sludge, and we will need the political equivalent of a superfund to clean it up. - rs