Juan Williams: Trump's war on civil rights

Juan Williams: Trump's war on civil rights
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative MORE calls any football player protesting police brutality against black people a “son-of-a-bitch.”

He calls Omarosa Manigault NewmanOmarosa Onee Manigault NewmanScaramucci breaks up with Trump in now-familiar pattern Press: The new Southern Strategy Press: Acosta, latest to walk the plank MORE a “dog.”

He says Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersNadler asks other House chairs to provide records that would help panel in making impeachment decision Bank watchdogs approve rule to loosen ban on risky Wall Street trades F-bombs away: Why lawmakers are cursing now more than ever MORE (D-Calif.) is an “extraordinarily low IQ person.”

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He has complained of being treated unfairly by an American-born judge because the judge’s parents are Mexican.

He has described people immigrating from the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa as “these people from shithole countries.”

And before he ran for president, he fueled false theories that the first black president, President Obama, was not born in the United States.

There is no way to ignore this president’s racist talk.

In fact, 49 percent of Americans, including 11 percent of Republicans, believe Trump is a racist, according to a Quinnipiac University poll earlier this summer. And 22 percent of Republicans told Quinnipiac the president has “emboldened people who hold racist beliefs to express those beliefs publicly.”

So how is it possible that Trump retains nearly 90 percent support among Republican voters?

How can good people excuse such bitter, divisive talk from the nation’s leader as if it is a minor issue, a distraction for overly sensitive snowflakes?

Even more troubling is the ugly reality of Trump’s policies.

In my new book which comes out this week, “What the Hell Do You Have to Lose? — Trump’s War on Civil Rights,” I write about the story behind his tweets and tirades.

That hidden story is this administration’s systematic effort to turn back the clock on minority voting rights, cut protection against employment discrimination, diminish efforts to get more young black people into college, and push to end consent decrees with local police intended to ease tensions with black Americans.

The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and the civil rights movement is on the line.

When Trump first asked the question, “What the hell do you have to lose?,” he was speaking to an overwhelmingly white audience, expressing disdain for black people who favored Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump preps conspiracy theory to explain faltering economy The ideological divide on vaping has a clear winner: Smokers Biden struggles to hit it off with millennials MORE over him.

He never went into a black neighborhood and he never said that to a black audience.

The condescending question revealed that, in his thinking, black people have nothing to lose by voting for him since, in his bigoted mind, all black people live in neighborhoods with constant gunfire, bad schools and no jobs.

The incredible story of the sacrifices made to produce today’s black middle class and black political power — the civil rights movement’s great achievements — went right over Trump’s head.

To this day, he dismisses questions about his demeaning attacks on blacks by talking about the low black unemployment rate.

The fact that about half of black Americans have been able to rise into the middle class or beyond in the last 50 years somehow escaped his notice. He wants to talk about black poverty, misery and crime in front of white audiences. His intention is to paint himself as the hero keeping the barbarians at bay.

But forget the vile rhetoric for a moment.

The heart of the racial divide Trump is exploiting has to do with how he governs and the poisonous signals he sends about the acceptability of white indifference to the nation’s history of slavery, legal discrimination and ongoing racial bias.

Take voting rights as a top-of-mind example heading into the midterm elections.

Trump has packed the federal judiciary with right-wing judges who have shown zero sympathy for — and in some cases outright hostility to — the legislative victories of the civil rights movement. 

There is little in the record of Justice Neil Gorsuch, or embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, to suggest they would defend the Voting Rights Act from further attempts to gut it.

Trump’s Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsA better way to run the Federal Bureau of Prisons Trump admin erases key environmental enforcement tool DOJ should take action against China's Twitter propaganda MORE, unlike his predecessor Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderJuan Williams: Democrats finally hit Trump where it hurts GOP governor vetoes New Hampshire bill to create independent redistricting commission Why target Tucker Carlson? It's part of the left's war on the right MORE, has done nothing to curtail efforts by Republican-majority state legislatures to suppress and disenfranchise minority voters through schemes like Voter ID and the cancellation of early voting. 

This rollback is taking place at a time of fearful racial division in the country. 

A Fox News poll taken late last month found that 58 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Trump is handling race relations. Just 33 percent approve. 

As the author of a major book on the civil rights movement, “Eyes on the Prize — America’s Civil Rights Years 1954-1965,” one question I am often asked is, “Who will be the next Dr. King?” 

There have been some obvious contenders over the years. Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton used media attention to spotlight real issues of racial injustice in our society.

But in many ways, they ended up being celebrities who lacked King’s moral authority to speak to problems inside the black community, such as black-on-black crime, family breakdown due to high rates of out-of-wedlock births, and bad schools in poor, segregated black neighborhoods. 

Now the more pressing question, beyond who will be the next King or even the next Obama, is who will protect America’s civil rights achievements, both symbolic and tangible, from the Trump administration’s siege?

Will America need a new civil rights movement to protect us from the Trump war on civil rights? 

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel. His new book, "What The Hell Do You Have To Lose? — Trump's War on Civil Rights," will be published on Sep. 25 by Public Affairs Books.