That same year, Trump was a chief instigator in fanning the lynch mob mentality that led to the wrongful imprisonment of five Black and Hispanic teens in the notorious “Central Park Five” case, in which a White woman was attacked while jogging in the park. Even when DNA evidence exonerated the teens, the real estate mogul remained unrepentant, saying, “These young men do not exactly have the past of angels.”
Then, in 1991, former Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino President John R. O’Donnell, in his book Trumped, claimed that Trump once pulled out the old tropes about Jews and greed and Blacks and laziness during a discussion about a finance employee with whom O’Donnell was displeased:
“Yeah, I never liked the guy,” Trump allegedly said. “I don’t think he knows what the f––– he’s doing. My accountants up in New York are always complaining about him. He’s not responsive. And isn’t it funny, I’ve got Black accountants at the Trump Castle and at Trump Plaza. 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. Those are the kind of people I want counting my money. No one else.”
Trump allegedly added, “Besides that, I’ve got to tell you something else. 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 something they can control. … Don’t you agree?”
In a 1997 interview with Playboy, Trump acknowledged O’Donnell’s book was “probably true.” But, he backpedaled a couple years later when seeking the reform party’s nomination for president.
With the popularization of social media, specifically Twitter, Trump’s unvarnished prejudice was given room to breathe, as he trafficked in fear of non-Whites. And, the election of the nation’s first African-American president seemed to provide rich fodder, giving rise to the racist “birther movement” – a tide that would eventually sweep Trump into the White House – which sought to delegitimize Barack Obama’s presidency.
Beginning in 2011, the self-proclaimed Tea Partier began publicly questioning Obama’s citizenship—perhaps prompted by his own aspirations toward the White House, which he publicly mulled over at the time.
“I have people that have been studying [Obama’s birth certificate] and they cannot believe what they’re finding … I would like to have him show his birth certificate, and can I be honest with you, I hope he can. Because if he can’t, if he can’t, if he wasn’t born in this country, which is a real possibility … then he has pulled one of the great cons in the history of politics,” he saidon NBC’s “Today” show.
Trump only publicly declared he was wrong in a brusque statement this September, after years of denying evidence of the president’s birth.
In June 2013, he let loose with stereotypes equating people of color with violent crime.
“According to Bill O’Reilly, 80% of all the shootings in New York City are Blacks-if you add Hispanics, that figure goes to 98%. 1% White,” Trump tweeted. He later added, “Sadly, the overwhelming amount of violent crime in our major cities is committed by Blacks and Hispanics – a tough subject – must be discussed.”
That November, he followed up by retweeting a post which over-inflated statistics related to crime, making it appear that Blacks were responsible for most of the murders in the U.S.
Trump’s racist vitriol did not abate with his candidacy for the nation’s highest office—in fact, it got worse. And, he launched his campaign by smearing Mexican immigrants, calling them “rapists” and “killers.”
In addition, Trump continues to use the definite article “the” when referring to ethnic and racial groups—“the Blacks,” “the Hispanics,” “the Muslims”…. “The” in such cases often acts as a separatist term that erases individuality and paints all members of a racial or ethnic group as one monolithic entity, essentially, “The Other.”
Similarly, Trump often used broad strokes to describe communities of color, often in negative terms. During a Sept. 20, 2016, stump speech in North Carolina, for example, Trump described what he saw as the dire state of all Black communities.
“We’re going to rebuild our inner cities because our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape that they’ve ever been in before. Ever. Ever. Ever,” Trump said , totally overlooking the historical atrocities of slavery, Jim Crow and the like. He piled on the ignorance, saying, “You take a look at the inner cities, you get no education, you get no jobs, you get shot walking down the street. They’re worse — I mean, honestly, places like Afghanistan are safer than some of our inner cities.”
A few days later, during the Sept. 26 presidential debate at Hofstra University, Trump further claimed: “African Americans and Hispanics are living in hell. You walk down the street and you get shot.”
Trump has been just as careless in his characterization of Muslims. During a Republican debate in November 2015, for example, Trump claimed that Muslim-Americans in New Jersey were “cheering” when the World Trade Center was attacked on 9/11—ignoring that police authorities had debunked the claim.
“There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down,” the then-candidate told George Stephanopoulos on the Nov. 22 episode of ABC’s “This Week,” claiming he saw it for himself.
In a Dec. 7, 2015 statement that was removed from Trump’s website on the day of the General Election, Trump announced his plan to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. following the terror attacks in Paris.
“We can be politically correct and we can be stupid, but it’s going to get worse and worse. Until we are able to understand and determine this problem and the dangers that it poses, our country cannot be the victim of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad,” Trump said.
In a November 2015 interview with Yahoo.com, the president-elect said he would deport any Syrian refugees allowed to enter the country under President Obama. The reality TV star also called for increased surveillance of Muslims and mosques in the United States, and did not rule out tactics such as warrantless searches, creating a database of Muslims and giving them special IDs that identify their religion.
“We’re going to have to look at the mosques. We’re going to have to look very, very carefully,” he said, adding, “We’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago…. And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule.”
To be fair, Trump has been an equal opportunity offender, also wielding anti-Semitic tropes and furthering anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. During an address to the Republican Jewish Coalition last December, for example, Trump drew on the common stereotype that paints Jews as money-loving “Shylocks.”
“You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money,” he told the Jewish audience. He also said, “Is there anybody that doesn’t renegotiate deals in this room? Perhaps more than any other room I’ve ever spoken in.”
Just as damaging as the deluge of hateful language Trump has spewed is what he has not said, such as his unwillingness to quickly and firmly repudiate supporters at his rallies who physically attacked people of color or White supremacists who co-opted his campaign.
Zenitha Prince Senior AFRO Correspondent firstname.lastname@example.org