A newly released Quinnipiac University poll finds that 49 percent of Americans believe President Donald Trump is racist, while 47 percent believe he is not. These are profoundly disturbing and grim findings -- that half the country believes the president of the United States is a racist.
As one might expect, the percentage of people who say Trump is racist differs significantly by political affiliation and race:
89 percent of Republicans say Trump is NOT racist
86 percent of Democrats say Trump IS racist
71 percent of black respondents believe Trump IS racist
58 percent of Hispanics believe Trump IS racist
44 percent of white Americans feel he IS racist.
Moreover, Americans say by a margin of 55 percent to 39 percent that Trump has emboldened people who hold racist beliefs to express those beliefs publicly.
At no point in modern political history has there been the need to even ask this question, so what prompted pollsters at Quinnipiac University to consider it now?
Frankly, it's because of Trump’s own conduct.
In frequent Twitter attacks, Trump has routinely belittled and insulted African American politicians, including Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) as well as private citizens, such as Myeshia Johnson, the widow of a U.S. Army Sergeant killed in Niger last year in a surprise attack.
He referred to mostly African American NFL players peacefully protesting police brutality by taking a knee as “sons of bitches.” Also, in opposition to a request by the Congressional Black Caucus to cut the Visa lottery in half and award the rest to underrepresented African countries, Trump asked, “why do we want all these people from ‘shithole countries’ coming here?"
Following the white supremacists rally in Charlottesville last August, Trump’s first response was to place blame on “both sides” when one side was white supremacists and the other “side” consisted of those protesting white supremacy. He didn’t immediately condemn the protest (as both President George HW Bush and George W Bush did)– and in not doing so, gave tacit support to white supremacists.
Those are just examples of comments he’s made since he’s been in office, but Trump has a long history of racism that dates back to the 1970s.
Decades of Trump’s Racism
The first time Donald Trump appeared in the pages of the New York Times in the 1970s was when the U.S. Department of Justice sued him for violating the Fair Housing Act in refusing to rent to black tenants. He would later agree in 1975 to not discriminate against renters of color without admitting to guilt to the discrimination that occurred before.
Then in the 1980s, Kip Brown, a former employee at Trump’s Castle, accused another one of Trump’s businesses of racial discrimination, when Trump and his then wife visited the casino and his bosses ordered all the black people off the casino floor.
But while blacks by far are the most frequent targets of Trump’s racism, they’re hardly the only targets. Trump also has accused both Japan and China of stripping away the economic dignity of the United States. No other nations. Just those two.
Trump is hardly the only racist president the United States has ever had, but he has been far more vocal and overt in his racism than any president in modern history. It’s his very words and actions against blacks and other minorities that clearly shaped the public's view of him as being a racist.
Doth He Protesteth Too Much?
Trump has publicly stated at least six times in the past that he is “the least racist person…perhaps…ever.” But none of his actions or words convey that. Just as sure as we know Trump will tweet tomorrow, you can bet that he’ll make more overtly racist statements sometime in the future. Statements that do nothing to counter the current racially-charged climate in America.
We expect and frankly, need political leaders who can inspire Americans to be more tolerant, not less. And that example must be set at the top.
It’s little wonder that the pollsters asked if people believe the president is racist. If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, you can bet it’s a duck. Even if it believes it’s a turkey.
Stacy Fitzgerald is a Washington, DC area Gen Xer whose obsessions include politics, traveling and food and wine ventures.