Opinion: Trump’s Racist Behavior is Infamous and Long Standing

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Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.

There he goes again. On Sun­day, just before he headed off to his golf club in Sterling, Virginia, Donald Trump once more played the race card. It wasn’t enough that he was terrorizing mil­lions of undocumented fa­thers, mothers and children with the threat of sweeping raids, mass roundups and deportations. This time, he turned his attention to four popularly elected Demo­cratic first-term legislators of color, suggesting that they “go back” to the “total­ly broken and crime-infest­ed places from which they come.”

This vile racist trope was aimed at Rep. Ayanna Press­ley, who was born in Cin­cinnati, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who was born in Detroit, Rep. Alexandra Ocasio- Cortez, who was born in New York and Rep. Ilhan Omar, who was born in So­malia and became a U.S. citizen as a teenager. Trump smeared them as alien or not real Americans. They are, in fact, popularly elected lead­ers of the country.

Trump assailed them while pretending to come to the defense of House Speak­er Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi im­mediately called him out:

“When @realDon­aldTrump tells four Ameri­can congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to ‘Make America Great Again’ has always been about making America white again,” Pe­losi tweeted. “Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power.”

As condemnations poured in for his racist jibes, Trump — as is his pattern — did not apologize. Instead he escalated, accusing the four legislators of “racist hatred” and calling on them to apologize. He criticized Democrats for coming to the defense of the congress­women, who he claimed are “very unpopular and unrep­resentative.” So unpopular and unrepresentative that they were literally popularly elected to represent their districts.

Trump’s racist behavior is infamous and longstand­ing, from his discriminatory record as a real estate devel­oper, his libels of the Central Park Five, his false “birther” attacks on Barack Obama, his defense of pro-Nazi dem­onstrators in Charlottesville, his dismissal of so-called “s—hole countries, to his libel of Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” and his call for a ban on Muslims.

Trump uses charged rac­ist rhetoric and posturing to distract us from the chaos and corruption of his admin­istration and his own crimes and misdemeanors. It isn’t surprising that this latest outburst comes on the eve of the public testimony of Spe­cial Counsel Robert Mueller before the House Judiciary Committee.

Trump appears to have a particular animus for strong women of color, whether it is Rep. Maxine Waters, the four first-term legislators, national political reporters like CNN’s April Ryan and Abby Phillip or PBS corre­spondent Yamiche Alcindor. He smears them as “a loser” or “stupid” or for “having low intelligence.”

Trump’s racial jibes are an insult to his office and to the country. Even if we have come to expect it from him, we cannot become inured to it. America is a diverse coun­try; a politician who uses race to divide us for political gain is spewing a poison that weakens us all. It is simply pathetic that Republicans have, with rare exceptions, once more remained silent in the face of Trump’s provoca­tions. We know what Trump is — and the ugliness and division that he wields as a club. The question now is what are Republicans? Their silence suggests that they ei­ther embrace the president’s cynical racism or are too cowed to stand up for basic decency.

Trump has the biggest megaphone in the country, if not the world. But Amer­ica is a better country than he seems to think. Trump clearly believes he and his party profit politically from fanning racial divisions. In 2020, we can demonstrate that he is wrong.

(You can write to the Rev. Jesse Jackson in care of this newspaper or by email at jj­[email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ RevJJackson.)

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