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Juan Williams: Trump's war on civil rights

Juan Williams: Trump's war on civil rights
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He calls Omarosa Manigault NewmanOmarosa Onee Manigault NewmanTrump attacks fuel GOP fears about losing suburban women Feehery: Are you (October) surprised? Juan Williams: Trump's war on civil rights MORE a “dog.”

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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 ClintonMueller's team asking Manafort about Roger Stone: report O'Rourke targets Cruz with several attack ads a day after debate GOP pollster says polls didn't pick up on movement in week before 2016 election 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 SessionsMcGahn departs as White House counsel The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump requests Turkey's evidence on missing journalist | Takeaways from Texas Senate debate | Key Mueller findings could be ready after midterms The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — GOP faces ‘green wave’ in final stretch to the midterms MORE, unlike his predecessor Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderTwo Minnesota Republicans report attacks Now is not the time to reject civility Former Clinton aide Reines: ‘Party of snowflakes’ suddenly remodeled as 'angry mob of terrorists’ 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.