The racist history of President Donald J. Trump

Image via New York Post

Donald Trump has made headlines recently for his racist Twitter tirade against four female Representatives in the United States Congress, telling them to “go back” to the “crime infested places from which they came.” These comments have since reignited the question: Is Donald Trump a racist? Well, surely the best judge of a man’s character is his public record, so lets take a look at his. Because while one comment could easily be swept away as a mis-step, as the examples stack up it becomes harder and harder to mount any form of defence.

Perhaps the best place to start this historical account is in 1973, as that was when readers of the New York Times were first introduced to Donald J. Trump, on the front page of the newspaper no less. What was the reason for this appearance? Well, the headline bears the answer: “Major Landlord Accused of Antiblack Bias in City.” Indeed, Richard Nixon’s Department of Justice was suing Trump and his father for breaking the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

The Times report of this incident states that Trump had refused to rent or to negotiate due to ‘race and colour,’ and that Trump’s company had required different terms and conditions of renting, again, due to colour or race. An agreement was reached in 1975 that notably did not include an admission of guilt, but Trump and his business were made to change the way they handled rental applications in the future. It’s also worth noting that the government alleged in 1978, three years after the original agreement, that Trump Management were continuing their discriminatory practices, in breach of the agreement.

At this point, after a ‘slap on the wrist’ type punishment from the Nixon administration for discriminatory practices, one would hope Trump and his businesses would radically alter their procedures to avoid a similar situation. Alas, no. Stepping into the 1980s we need look no further than employees at one of Trump’s casinos to find a similar trend. The man in question, Kip Brown, told the New Yorker that “when Donald and Ivana came to the casino, the bosses would order all black people off the floor.” Brown continued to state that “It was the eighties, I was a teen-ager, but I remember it: They put us all in the back.”

Image via The Boston Globe

Nothing ever came of Brown’s allegations and no doubt they would be denied by Trump and his associates nowadays, a classic case of one word against another.

However, if you have found previous examples to be circumstantial, let me introduce you to the Central Park Five. This incident could take up a whole book – let alone subsection of an article – by itself, but the basic points can be summarised easily enough. In short, one latino and four black teenagers were wrongly accused of raping a white woman in 1989. Before they were even found guilty Trump took out full page ads in all four major New York newspapers, arguing that the teens should “be executed” and “forced to suffer.”

Trump ran his ad calling for the death penalty for these teenagers just a few weeks after the crime was committed, and well before any verdict was heard. As one of the victims states in The Atlantic, by doing so “he put nails in our coffin.”

Image via CNN

The men in question were later found innocent as a result of new DNA evidence and were subsequently awarded $41 million by the city of New York for a host of wrongdoings.

Of course this was all a long time ago and people can change, but it seems Trump hasn’t. Just last month when pressed on this issue, following the release of a Netflix show on the incident, Trump responded by saying that “you have people on both sides of that,” adding that “they [the teens] admitted their guilt.”

Following on from the Central Park Five, a 1991 book from John O’Donnell, (a former Trump business associate), alleged that Trump said “Black guys counting my money! I hate it.” Allegedly Trump went on to say that “the only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” Trump also apparently described laziness as “a trait in blacks.”

As one would expect, Trump denied these claims in 1999, stating that O’Donnell made them up. But strangely enough in 1997, two years before that, he told Playboy magazine that “the stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true.” So while everyone should take secondary quotes with a good deal of skepticism, if the person in question admits that something can “probably” be attributed to them then it should raise some red flags about their true character.

However, similarly to the allegations made by Brown, the ones made by O’Donnell never resulted in any legal action, unlike the case against Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in 1992. The case in question saw Trump’s company found guilty of discriminatory practices and fined $200,000 for removing a black dealer from the table of a prejudiced customer. As you should realise by now, this was far from the first time Trump organisations had been in hot water for such types of practices.

The judges of the case even went on record as saying “In our view, the transcript fairly reeks of Trump Plaza’s guilt.”

A host of similar incidents followed wherever Trump went for the next couple of decades including him pitching The Apprentice: White People Vs Black People, which I hope is fairly self-explanatory for everyone reading as to why that would be a bad idea. And then, skipping forward a bit in time, we get to bitherism.

Image via Media Matters for America

Bitherism was the false conspiracy theory, heavily pushed by Trump, that suggested President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, thus making him ineligible for the Presidency. The conspiracy theory frequently proposed that Obama was born in Kenya, and in a similar vein Trump even theorised that Obama’s birth certificate could prove that he was a Muslim (why Trump felt that would be incriminating by itself we’ll leave for a future article).

Trump continued to push this lie to the point where President Obama was forced to address the matter by releasing his long-form birth certificate in 2011. In this release Obama referred to the conspiracy theory as a distraction by “sideshows and carnival bakers,” which the New York Times suggested was a clear reference to Trump.

Staying true to form though, Trump has never backed down from the issue and The New York Times have reported that as recently as 2017 Trump continued to push the false conspiracy theory.

This all brings us nicely to the present day, where the sitting President of the United States has told four women of colour, who have been democratically elected as Representatives in Congress, to “go back … to the crime infested places from which they came.” Trump, as one would expect, has refused to back down from his comments and has denied that they were racist, despite the fact that three of the four women in question were born in the United States. But we should know this by now and it should not be a surprise, nor debate, this is who he is.

The debate appeared a decade ago when Trump questioned Obama’s birth certificate. The debate resurfaced a few years ago when Trump declared white nationalists marching in Charlottesville as “very fine people.” The debate has come back again now and I’m equally sure it will again in the future.

So, how much evidence do we need to amass before the scales finally tip and it ceases to become a debate? There are decades of these incidents that have followed Trump all his life and I have barely touched the surface here in this article. In fact, just last night Trump supporters at a rally were whipped up into such a fervour that they started chanting “send her back” in reference to Ilhan Omar, one of the four women Trump told to “go back.”

This is where we are now. A democratically elected Congresswoman of colour who has lived in the United States legally from the age of six is being told to “go back” to Africa. To be clear, she has not broken the law in any way. Her only crime has been that she has dared to try and hold the President accountable. That should worry everyone.

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Matthew Hemmins

Second year History/Economics student with a passion for politics and plenty of opinions on a variety of topics!