Trump could undermine civil rights progress more than any other president
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After barely eight months in office, President Trump has secured his legacy: If left unchecked, he will undermine civil rights progress in this country more than any president in modern history.

This week has shown previews of this dangerous agenda. And not for the reasons you’re thinking.

While Trump’s back and forth on whether he would condemn the white supremacist groups behind the deadly tragedy in Charlottesville lent the weight of the United States presidency to a racist worldview, we must also focus on the series of actions that prove those remarks are already being translated into an equally oppressive policy agenda.

Since beginning his campaign, Trump has fanned the flames of racism, bigotry, and xenophobia – from calling Mexicans rapists, making a border wall one of his central campaign promises, implementing a Muslim travel ban, and using dog-whistle politics to talk in veiled terms about black communities.

While Trump may have campaigned in taglines, he has governed in tantrums, and, as a result, he has been ineffective at implementing much of this rhetoric, thanks to political and legal challenges. His most recent comments threaten to derail an already stalled agenda even further. However, despite a number of challenges to some of his more high-profile attacks on communities of color, Trump has effectively used executive action to significantly roll back civil rights enforcement in this country.

This month, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would investigate and potentially sue universities over affirmative action policies in admissions. Prior to that, DOJ made headlines when it argued that the Civil Rights Act does not protect people from discrimination against sexual orientation—an argument which reversed the DOJ’s previous position and contradicted an appellate court’s recent decision.

The DOJ’s briefing came on the heels of the president announcing — via Twitter — that he would ban transgender service members from serving in any capacity in the U.S. military. Such a ban would overturn the Defense Department's policy of allowing open service, and create an untenable level of uncertainty for the 15,000 transgender troops currently serving.

These high-profile announcements have come amidst of several less-reported but troubling civil rightsdevelopments, including announcements that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is dropping a crucial case on exclusionary housing policies; the administration plans tosignificantly limit the offices of civil rights at several agencies; and DOJ intends to take civil rightsenforcement out of the hands of career employees.

Just this week, amidst Trump’s comments that have further emboldened white supremacists who see an opportunity in his presidency, HUD dealt another huge blow to fair housing when they announced the suspension of a rule that helps low-income families move to lower poverty communities. Without this rule, low-income families – often families of color – will continue to be segregated into lower opportunity communities, and it will be more difficult to achieve integrated neighborhoods.

By themselves, these announcements represent an all-out attack on principles of equality and fairness for vulnerable communities. But taken together, they illustrate a craven agenda singularly focused on destroying decades of progress on civil rights achievement and enforcement. We are being confronted with an administration that is emboldening white supremacists while simultaneously weakening civil rights protections. Viewed in this context, Trump’s comments no longer seem terrifying because they were bizarre. They seem terrifying because they were not.

Maya Rupert is senior director for policy at the Center for Reproductive Rights. Cashauna Hill is executive director of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center. They are Public Voices Fellow of The OpEd Project.


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