Juan Williams: Trump is tearing the racial fabric

Is it really shocking that so many black Americans think the White House is currently occupied by a white supremacist?

The better question is this: Why do so many white Republicans look past Trump’s racist comments and policies?

The facts are evident.

{mosads}Rapper Snoop Dogg expressed his feelings in profane terms during a Sirius XM interview last week, saying that he believed anyone who liked Trump was “[expletive] racist.”

Here’s Mandela Barnes, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of Wisconsin, expressing the same frustration albeit in more erudite terms:

“The Trump administration has shown they have this over-willingness to make people feel less than human,” Barnes said.

He pointed to Trump separating migrant children from their parents as well as a litany of racist comments.

“It speaks to the way they treat people at the border, it speaks to the whole concept of building a wall. It’s like a race to create a superior race in many aspects, and it can seem very extreme but that is the direction that we are headed. We have to do everything that we can to stop it.”

In my new book “‘What the Hell Do You Have to Lose?’ — Trump’s War on Civil Rights,” I document the racial division created by the president through his words and deeds.

Trump is distorting American identity by making it into a club that only admits his fans.

The alarm among black Americans is reflected in a USC/Los Angeles Times poll released last week showing 91 percent of African-American voters disapproved of his handling of race relations. Just 26 percent of Americans of all races approve of Trump’s handling of race relations.

Those findings confirm a Fox News poll that found 58 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of race relations. Another poll by Politico/Morning Consult found that 55 percent say race relations are worse under this president. And 49 percent say outright Trump is a racist, according to a Quinnipiac University poll done this summer.

But Trump has persuaded his followers to treat his racism as a minor issue, a quirk not sufficient for any white Republican to stop backing him.

He pushes the fear button to stir anxiety among white Americans against people with different skin colors and then excuses it as just talk.

But there are new policies and practices behind the talk that can’t be ignored.

The reality is Trump has no senior black person in the White House advising him on issues of racial justice. Nor does he have any white advisers with a record of working to advance civil rights issues.  

He does, however, have a cadre of current and former white advisers like the stridently anti-illegal immigration Stephen Miller, as well as Stephen Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, who have disturbing ties to the alt-right movement, which is associated with white nationalism.

In this way, Trump is an outlier to all modern Republican presidents. The absence of constructive advisers on racial issues stands in contrast to Republican past presidents.

President Eisenhower had E. Frederick Murrow advising him at the dawn of the civil rights movement. President Nixon had Bob Brown advising him in the White House.

If Trump had advisers in this tradition, they might be able to challenge him on the policies that are ripping at the fabric of racial comity that has held Americans of all colors together for most of my lifetime.

These policies include proposals to cut the number of legal immigrants; eliminating programs to spur the growth of minority-owned businesses; and even removing requirements for all contractors to prove they have good records of hiring women and black people. 

Trump doesn’t see the real harm these policies cause to people of color. He only sees an opportunity to roll back more Obama-era regulations.

The Trump administration has repeatedly targeted community development institutions and initiatives as well as block grants for community development. He’s also opposed protections to guarantee white-collar workers overtime pay, something that hits especially hard against minorities climbing the economic ladder.

In Trump’s distorted view, there are only two types of black people: wealthy entertainers and athletes on one side, and poor people on the other. He has no appreciation of the growing black middle class. 

He seems to have never dealt with black entrepreneurs or top black policymakers. He has no idea that the majority of black Americans are now firmly in the middle class, with 40 percent earning between $35,000 and $100,000 per year, and 12 percent more earning between $100,000 and $200,000.

That kind of ambition and industry should be celebrated, not derided, by the nation’s leader.

The new Trumpian brand of racialist politics is on full display in Florida’s gubernatorial race. 

Trump-backed GOP nominee Ron DeSantis, a former congressman, is running against the mayor of Tallahassee, Andrew Gillum, who is African American. 

DeSantis kicked off his campaign by saying Gillum would “monkey up” the state’s economy. DeSantis denied any racial connotations to his remark.

Though I’m only at the start of my book tour, the question I am most frequently asked by interviewers and readers is whether I think Trump is a racist.

I try, as best I can, to avoid that label because I don’t think labels are particularly helpful at this point in our history. Moreover, that label might shut down real and important conversations about race relations with white Americans.

The better question, to my mind, remains how so many white Republicans can close their eyes to the damage Trump is doing to American race relations.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel. His latest book, “‘What the Hell Do You Have to Lose?’ — Trump’s War on Civil Rights” is out now, published by Public Affairs Books.

Tags Alt-right civil rights race relations Racism Ron DeSantis Sebastian Gorka white nationalism

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