President Donald Trump has not turned a corner, he has actually firmly set up his administration on the wrong side of history.
And on Tuesday afternoon, he doubled down on his initial response to the violent white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia: “There’s blame on both sides,” he told media gathered at Trump Tower in Manhattan. He also defended those who rallied against removing a Robert E. Lee statue, and said there were “very fine people on both sides.”
Ever since Trump descended his golden escalator at Trump Tower to declare his presidential candidacy in 2015, he built his campaign and all subsequent political promises on the foundation of division and divisive rhetoric. It may seem like many moons ago, but it was only a year ago he declared at campaign rallies that Mexican immigrants are criminals and Muslims are terrorists, and waxed poetic about the “good old days” when protesters would be dealt with by being taken out on a stretcher, blatantly evoking civil rights-era clashes with angry white mobs.
For many New Yorkers who have followed Trump’s racial rhetoric and reputation, his comments as a presidential candidate, his reaction in the wake of the deadly protest in Charlottesville, and his silence about the hate crimes against mosques and synagogues across the country unfortunately come as no surprise.
This is the same man whose family’s real estate firm, Trump Management Corp., where he was president, was sued by the Justice Department in 1973 for racial discrimination against black Americans. The company settled the case two years later.
This is the man who took out a full-page ad in The New York Times demanding the death penalty for five juvenile suspects — four black and one Latino — in the Central Park jogger case. The five were convicted and spent years in prison before serial rapist Matias Reyes confessed to the crime in 2012 and DNA confirmed his guilt. Trump has never issued an apology; rather, he doubled down in his assertion that they must be guilty because he said so.
And this is the man who began — and fueled for years — the birther movement that shadowed much of President Barack Obama’s presidency. Trump demanded to see Obama’s birth certificate and even after it was shown, he refused to apologize or at least admit he was wrong.
Trump’s history of racial animosity has been documented quite well.
We know this is a man who unequivocally speaks his mind. Therefore, his initial reaction when asked explicitly about denouncing white supremacists in Charlottesville speaks volumes. It took Trump more than 48 hours to make a declarative and forceful statement about the tragic, hate-filled events in Virginia.
It is clear how this president feels about denouncing white supremacy. We only need to look at his record in NYC over the past four decades, his presidential campaign, his closest advisers (Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka), and his original reluctance to call out Nazi sympathizers and white supremacists. Trump has not turned a corner and it is unlikely he ever will. He is on the wrong side of history. How many people will keep him company?
Christina Greer, an associate professor at Fordham University, is the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American dream.”