Trump and the Racial Divide in America
Above Photo: Donald Trump at White House Press Conference May 29 Following Minneapolis Unrest
By V. Susan Hutchinson
America has been divided by race since the Mayflower landed on Plymouth rock. The genocide of Native American tribes for their land and the selling of slaves were just the beginning.
Baby steps at equal rights for all have been made through legislation over the last four centuries. However, the legacy of white privilege and their persistent view that white rights are more important than those of African Americans, or other people who they feel threaten their way of life, continues.
You can’t legislate away bigotry.
The underlying current of racial tension has really been coming to a head since Donald Trump became President. He is stoking the flames to get re-elected just as he did to get elected in 2016.
Compare Trump’s support of armed white men and women protesting at the Capital building in Michigan, with no condemnation for the death threats against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to his lack of outrage at the murder of an unarmed African American man by a police officer this week, and it is clear he is perpetuating the racial divide.
Instead of demanding an investigation or arrest for the police officer responsible for the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Trump gave a lackluster response.
Trump’s response to Floyd’s shooting has left many questioning his sincerity of feeling “very, very badly”. He still won’t back down on saying the Central Park Five are guilty when they were falsely accused of assaulting a white female jogger in 1989 so why would anyone think he is on the side of an African American man and not the white police officer?
A Lynching in Georgia
The murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia was videoed and presented to the police when it occurred in February. No charges were made against the two white men responsible; they were only arrested after the video went viral on social media.
One can only assume that if it had not been posted for all to see, these men would have gotten away with the murder. It was the American people who demanded justice, not Donald J. Trump.
Trump’s response to this murder was just as weak. He called it “a horrible thing,” without any condemnation of the white men responsible, and then reached out to Sen. Tim Scott from South Carolina to talk about it.
Wait, who? Tim Scott? Because he’s African American? Or because he’s a Republican African American?
This, in and of itself, is racist on Trump’s part. Instead of speaking with civil rights leaders or members of the African American community, Trump goes to an African American politician who is from the south and thinks Scott speaks for all African Americans.
Rioting as a Response Is Not New
When the system doesn’t work to address racial profiling and oppression, frustration and anger need an outlet.
In August 1965, after two African American men were pulled over by white patrol officers in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, a crowd gathered to witness the handling of the incident. When backup officers arrived, they assumed hostilities were imminent and began to initiate violence against one of the detained men. The result was the Watts Riots, which lasted six days.
The Los Angeles Riots of 1992, which also lasted six days, were the result of an unarmed African American man, Rodney King, being beaten by four police officers. Although the officers were immediately charged with assault and use of deadly force, they were all acquitted, even though the brutal incident was recorded for everyone to see. The riots started after the acquittal.
Michael Brown Jr, another unarmed African American was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, MO on August 9, 2014. Nothing was done about the officer responsible and the riots started immediately, lasting until August 25. In November 2014 a Grand Jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson and the riots resumed on November 25 and continued, in 2 more waves, into December.
Donald Trump blamed “weak leadership” from Barack Obama, the first African American President, for the Ferguson riots. This week there are riots in Minneapolis because a white police officer, with a history of complaints against him, murdered an unarmed African American man and, so far, has suffered no real consequences for his actions. This is similar to Ferguson in 2014, but will Trump see this as the result of weak leadership, too?
Violence begets violence and instead of trying to find a way to resolve the situation peacefully, Donald Trump voiced his support for more violence in Minneapolis with a Tweet saying looting will lead to more shooting.
It’s only the answer for him when white lives or livelihoods are threatened, not when an unarmed African American man is murdered on video for the world to see.
African Americans continue to feel powerless against self-proclaimed white authority, which is now fully supported, passively and not so passively, by the President of the United States. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr advocated nonviolence and a violent act took his life. It resulted in riots across the country.
Violence is not the answer. It never has been.
The pattern for riots is obvious; white police officers take no responsibility and suffer little or no consequences for the murder of African American men. People riot to express anger at the injustice.
Murder is murder. It doesn’t matter if you are a police officer or not.
Want to avoid riots? Bring immediate justice, real justice to white officers abusing their power of law enforcement. All anyone wants is equal treatment for all under the law. And justice includes jail time, not being let off the hook.
Implementing swift justice on white officers for violence against African Americans sends a clear message that it will not be tolerated. And train police officers to stop racially profiling African Americans and suspend them the first time they arrest a man just for being black.
This should be federally mandated, not left up to city, county and state law enforcement officials.
COVID-19 Makes it Worse
The current COVID-19 pandemic has everyone anxious, afraid, frustrated and weary. Donald Trump’s lack of response to curtail the virus before it rapidly spread throughout the country is well documented and continues to be criticized.
The pandemic is also affecting African Americans disproportionately to white Americans. Add to that the CDC recommendation to wear a mask in public to help stop the spread. How does this exacerbate the racial tensions? When an African American man or woman wears a mask in public, it only increases the suspicion of whites and police that they are a threat.
And then there is Trump’s indecisiveness over when the federal government should get involved. When it comes to public health, he says it’s the state’s responsibility and in 2018, when another unarmed African American man was gunned down by a Sacramento, CA police officer, the response from then White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was:
“This is something that is a local matter and that’s something that we feel should be left up to the local authorities.”
Did Trump say this about Minneapolis this week after George Floyd was murdered? No, he did not, but after the riots started he Tweeted he will send in the National Guard if Minneapolis can’t get the rioting under control.
Looks like when it comes to protecting African Americans from a pandemic, Trump’s response is the states are on their own. When it comes to protecting white people from riots due to outrage at the lack of accountability for white police officers murdering African American men, then the feds need to be called out to further oppress African Americans.
Donald Trump is a threat to all Americans. He needs to be removed from office on November 3.