Many people—in the media, in Congress and in the street—condemned all this as “classic” racism and xenophobia, an ugly echo of toxic cries once commonly hurled at Catholic, Jewish, Irish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese and many other immigrants or sons and daughters of immigrants. As a child of color growing up in the South, I sometimes heard “Go back to Africa” hurled at me and others. I never expected a sitting American president to echo it. Despite knee-jerk protestations from most of the GOP, it is inarguably right to call Trump’s echo racist. No one should need me to tell them that.
While President Donald Trump was keeping up his attacks on four Democratic congresswomen of color at a rally in North Carolina, Merriam-Webster tweeted out that the most searched term in its online dictionary at that time was racism.
Today’s American communities are diverse, as are the families within those communities. The police are of these communities. Like the modern American military, today’s police forces reflect the diversity of our communities and our families. If you tell recent immigrants or the sons and daughters of recent immigrants to go back, if you tell people of color to go back, if you tell Muslims to go back, a great many of the people you are wounding with your divisive words are American soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and law enforcement officers. Every one of them has sworn to serve and protect, even at the cost of their own lives. And you are telling some of them—you don’t even know who—to leave. Go back, Mr. President, go back to the Constitution. Read it—or have it read aloud to you. Study Article II especially hard. Come back only when you finally comprehend it, are able to embrace it, and are willing to lead according to it. We need that from you. We need this from you, the chief magistrate, the top law enforcement executive in the nation. Unless you, Mr. President, in perfect harmony with the Constitution and the laws that flow from it, set an example of faithfully executing the laws without dividing the nation or alienating any of its racially and ethnically diverse communities, law enforcement will become an all but impossible enterprise in America. You have an opportunity and an obligation to support the police by both living and delivering the message that police and public form one nation, indivisible under law.
Some of the past facts and issues with racism that involved President Trump before he was President. Workers at Trump’s casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, accused him of racism over the years. The New Jersey Casino Control Commission fined the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino $200,000 in 1992 because managers would remove African-American card dealers at the request of a certain big-spending gambler. A state appeals court upheld the fine.
The first-person account of at least one black Trump casino employee in Atlantic City suggests the racist practices were consistent with Trump’s personal behavior toward black workers.
“When Donald and Ivana (the first of his three wives) came to the casino, the bosses would order all the black people off the floor,” Kip Brown, a former employee at Trump’s Castle, told The New Yorker for a 2015 article. “It was the ’80s, I was a teenager, but I remember it: they put us all in the back.”
Trump allegedly disparaged his black casino employees as “lazy” in vividly bigoted terms, according to a 1991 book by John O’Donnell, a former president of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino.
“And isn’t it funny. I’ve got black accountants at Trump Castle and Trump Plaza. Black guys counting my money! I hate it,” O’Donnell recalled Trump saying. “The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.”
“I think the guy is lazy,” Trump said of a black employee, according to O’Donnell. “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 told an interviewer in 1997 that “the stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true,” but in 1999 accused O’Donnell of having fabricated the quotes.
In 1989, Trump took out full-page ads in four New York City-area newspapers calling for the return of the death penalty in the state of New York and the expansion of police authority in response to the infamous case of a woman who was beaten and raped while jogging in Manhattan’s Central Park.
Five teenagers ― four blacks and one Hispanic ― were arrested in the case. “They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes,” Trump wrote, referring to the so-called Central Park Five and other violent criminals. “I want to hate these murderers and I always will.”
The public outrage over the jogger’s rape, at a time when the city was struggling with high crime rates, led to the wrongful conviction of the five teenagers. After they’d spent years in prison, the men’s convictions were overturned in 2002 when DNA evidence showed they did not commit the crime. Today, their case is considered a cautionary tale about a politicized criminal justice process.
Trump, however, in a 2013 tweet, indicated he still considered the men guilty.
And after Ava DuVernay’s Netflix show on the case aired in mid-2019, Trump refused to alter his stance.
“You have people on both sides of that,” Trump told reporters outside the White House in June, when asked if he would apologize for his 1989 call to execute the five teens falsely accused of rape. “They admitted their guilt.” Is President Trump a Racist? I’ll let you review the evidence for yourself and make a decision based on the facts.
Sarah Ruiz-Grossman contributed to this report.