"If you look at the policies of Donald Trump, anybody — Martin Luther King — would be proud of him," former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon told the BBC's Newsnight recently. "You don't think Martin Luther King would sit there and go, 'Yes, you're putting young black men and women to work?'"
- Juan Williams
No, Steve, Dr. King would not be proud of Trump for shamelessly taking credit for the economic policies of his predecessor, the first black president of the United States. As FactCheck.org reported in January, black unemployment reached nearly 17 percent in 2010, in the wake of the financial crisis that began in 2008, precipitated by President George W. Bush's financial policies. By 2016, it had dropped under Obama to 7.8 percent — "the lowest it had been in nearly 10 years" — before Trump took office. The rate has dropped another point since then. These facts fit with the damaging reality of the Trump tax cuts. They disproportionately benefit the overwhelmingly white, wealthiest one percent of Americans at the expense of the poorest half of Americans, who are disproportionately brown and black.
Trump's sabotage of the Affordable Care Act will raise premiums on — and strip health insurance coverage from — those same black and brown people, along with working-class whites. Invoking Dr. King to excuse away the naked racism of this president plays to ignorance of the fight for racial equality in America.
But Bannon is the man who said at a conference of the racist National Front party in France earlier this year, "Let them call you racist. ... Let them call you xenophobes. Wear it as a badge of honor. Because every day, we get stronger and they get weaker."
I've been thinking a lot about Trump and racism as I put the final touches on my new book (What the Hell Do You Have to Lose? — Trump's War on Civil Rights, to be published in September).
Since Trump emerged as a national political figure hawking racist conspiracy theories about Obama's birth certificate, people have asked me whether I think Trump is a racist. My answer is "Yes." But it's not up to me. The facts of his life are all the evidence anyone should need.
The federal government sued the Trump family's real estate business for racism, and Trump had to settle. Years later, Speaker Paul Ryan said Trump's claim that a federal judge with Mexican heritage could not be fair fit the textbook definition of racism. As president, Trump has stirred racism, as evidenced by the spike in racial and anti-Semitic hate crimes. The hateful behavior includes his shamefully equivocal response to the neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer, in which a woman was killed. It also includes his decision to focus not on last week's racist tweet from Roseanne Barr, but on ABC's failure to apologize for comments that he contends were unfair to him.
As New York Times columnist Charles Blow put it: "It is not a stretch to understand that Donald Trump's words and deeds over the course of his life have demonstrated a pattern of expressing racial prejudices that demean people who are black and brown and that play to the racial hostilities of other white people."
Trump's racist behavior has continued in the past few weeks. "You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn't be playing. ... Maybe you shouldn't be in the country," Trump recently said about black NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality. Sadly, the NFL buckled to Trump and set a new policy last month requiring players on the field to stand during the anthem.
It is remarkable how Trump's racism has even corroded the NFL — one of America's most racially inclusive institutions — to the point it feels free to tell black men to shut up about racial injustice.
Trump's NFL rant came shortly after he described some illegal immigrants as "animals." Trump and his allies tried to walk back his comments, saying he was talking only about MS-13 gang members. Even if critics are generous to the president, his words called to mind his smearing Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug mules.
As if all that wasn't clearly racist, the Washington Post reported last week that Trump once laughed it up in the Oval Office with Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller as he made up fictitious Hispanic names and crimes while editing an immigration speech.
If you want more proof of how Trump's racism is tearing apart the fragile fabric of racial comity woven by Dr. King and civil rights activists over the last five decades, just note that racist Louis Farrakhan praised Trump for "destroying every enemy that was an enemy of our rise."
Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.