Accotding to his peeps (and himself of course), Donald Trump is a great civil rights leader. Over America’s memorial day weekend he tweeted that US serviceman had died for low minority unemployment figures! And last week, his one-time election strategist Steve Bannon (no longer employed by Trump) pushed the same argument; black and minority jobless figures are low, therefore Donald Trump is not as racist as he sounds and is actually a racial progressive. He is a force for integration via enterprise.
Without getting into various incidents involving, and statements by, Trump which would easily lay bare his position on race let’s get to the heart of the argument. Jobless figures during a period of economic growth do not tell us the state of race relations in any country. Even in the bleakest days of apartheid South Africa, a rising tide lifted all boats and there was virtually zero unemployment among blacks at irregular periods (albeit their remuneration was pittance compared to their white counterparts). And do we have to bring up the well-worn jibe about blacks being fully employed in the antebellum South? Unemployment figures aren’t completely useless either in telling us the state of racial play but analysis needs to be over the long-term and especially observant of what happens when the tide is lowered.
Since a growing economy masks racial division we must turn to other indicators of racial integration. For example, there is evidence that race still is a major source of political division in the US. It’s fair to say that the US is a more racist country now than 30 years ago, most likely due to the surge of conservative media. Police brutality is impossible to hide and incarceration rates remain disproportionately high for blacks. Is Trump pushing back against this culture? No. He targets black athletes for protesting and built his campaign on anti-Latino sentiment. Added to that are statements by the supposedly racially blind President about his preferences for immigrants from Norway as opposed to non-Caucasian countries.
So, the US jobless rate for minorities has fallen over the last decade. On the other hand, institutional racism – while nowhere near Jim Crow levels – has been fortified. Furthermore, ‘unofficial’ racism – the ease with which opinion leaders feel free to promote negative attitudes towards ethnic minorities – has gone through the roof.
Granted, Americas racial problems are complex and one man isn’t going to solve them. Yet any fair-minded person has to draw the conclusion that Trump is contributing to a culture where, when the tap starts to run drier, African-Americans will likely find themselves economically as well as socially disadvantaged. In summary, Trump is the most racist President since Woodrow Wilson; and all the sweat in the world can’t hide that.