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 Trump 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.”
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.
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.
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.