Juan Williams: Trump paved road to racial unrest

The hellish road to the racial turmoil of the last few weeks began the day Donald Trump was elected president.

I predicted this more than a year ago in my book “What the Hell Do You Have to Lose? — Trump’s War on Civil Rights.”

“When African Americans protest repeated cases of young black men killed by police,” I wrote, “President TrumpDonald John TrumpProtesters tear down statue of Christopher Columbus in Baltimore 'Independence Day' star Bill Pullman urges Americans to wear a 'freedom mask' in July 4 PSA Protesters burn American flag outside White House after Trump's July Fourth address MORE sees only valiant police protecting white America against a race of people with high rates of criminal activity. He is oblivious to black people as fellow Americans suffering injustice.”

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Since then Trump has dedicated himself to reversing civil rights progress and denigrating people standing up for equal rights.

Long before George Floyd died under a policeman’s knee, Trump attacked NFL players kneeling in peaceful protest against police brutality as unpatriotic “son[s] of ... bitch[es].”

And with him as president, personal hate crime attacks against blacks, Jews, Latinos and immigrants have spiked, according to the FBI.

Some people say Trump is appealing to his base.

But keep in mind that Trump now stands apart from the 68 percent of white Americans, in a Washington Post poll last week, who say Floyd’s killing is not an isolated event but part of a broad problem with how police treat black people.

He is apart from NASCAR, which has decided to ban Confederate flags. 

He is apart from several Republicans in Congress, who last week joined calls to remove statues of Confederate politicians from the Capitol.

He is apart from military leaders calling for the names of Confederate generals to be taken off military bases.

As I recount in the book, there is a long history of Trump claiming not to be racist — even when he settled a suit brought by the Nixon Justice Department by agreeing to stop blocking blacks from renting apartments in his buildings.

The same racist impulse allowed Trump to falsely insinuate that the first black president had not been born in the U.S. and was therefore illegally in the White House.

Trump’s history of playing on racial division for political gain allowed him to tell a 2017 audience of police officers “please don’t be too nice” to suspects being taken into custody. Then he added that the laws are made “to protect the criminal” and “horrendously stacked against us.”

That fit with his Justice Department acting to end consent decrees with several cities written to stop police from using excessive force.

This pattern of racial antagonism goes beyond police brutality.

From his first days in office, Trump claimed to know of widespread voter fraud — particularly in cities with large minority populations.

A presidential panel, however, failed to find any evidence of this.

But Trump still supported the divisive idea of requiring registered voters to have a photo identification. That requirement is proven to depress minority voter turnout. And he continues to oppose mail-in voting, even in the middle of a pandemic.

Trump’s negative attitude about affirmative action has been clear since the late 1980s, when he famously said an educated black person has it easier than an educated white person in getting a job.

His administration opposed requirements for federal contractors to show they made efforts to hire minorities. It also supported eliminating federal minority business development agencies and cut back on community development finance.

The same racial blindness by Trump holds true in his indifference to diversity.

A 2016 ruling by the Supreme Court allowed race to be a legitimate consideration — a “compelling interest” — for schools to consider as they admitted students. Trump’s Justice Department said such diversity efforts by schools were “unnecessary, outdated [and] inconsistent with existing law.”

To maintain his blindness on race, Trump surrounds himself with others blind to the reality of being black in America.

Last week, Larry KudlowLawrence (Larry) Alan KudlowMORE, his top economic adviser, was asked if he believed systemic racism exists in the U.S., and replied, “I do not.”

The week before, Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser, said: “No, I don’t think there’s systemic racism. I think 99.9 percent of our law enforcement officers are great Americans.”

And Bill Barr, Trump’s attorney general, sings the same song: “I don’t think that the law enforcement system is systemically racist,” he recently told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

This callous indifference requires blinders.

Last week, Trump announced he will move the Republican National Convention to Jacksonville, Fla. He will accept the GOP’s presidential nomination on the 60th anniversary of “Ax Handle Saturday,” the day in Jacksonville when a mob of alleged Ku Klux Klan members beat peaceful activists trying to desegregate lunch counters.

He had planned to restart his campaign rallies in Tulsa this Friday, which is also "Juneteenth," the anniversary of the emancipation of the last U.S. slaves. Amid an outcry, Trump moved the rally to Saturday. Tulsa is also a place with a bitter racial history. It was the site of a 1921 riot in which a band of white racists ransacked a black neighborhood, killing 300 people.

One could write — and I did write — an entire book on Trump’s hostility to black people.

The latest twist to the story is that Trump’s racism is finally catching up with him.

“Over the last two weeks, support for Black Lives Matter increased by nearly as much as it had over the previous two years, according to data from Civiqs, an online survey research firm,” The New York Times reported last week. 

Imagine that — Trump’s racism is taking support for Black Lives Matters mainstream.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.