Joe Henderson: Donald Trump condemns racial rhetoric, but for how long?
Donald Trump’s tariff threats, as well as a scenario known as the ‘inverted yield curve,’ are spooking investors.

Donald Trump talks to media before boarding Marine One
How do we balance the President’s remarks now against all the other racially divisive stuff he has said?

President Donald Trump appeared to realize Monday that maybe it’s time to tone down the racial rhetoric.

“In one voice our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” he said during remarks at the White House. “These sinister ideologies must be defeated.”

He also referred to “racist hate.”

Good words, the kind presidents are supposed to say after mass killings like those in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

But how do we balance the President’s remarks now against all the other stuff he has said? Who is the real Donald Trump? He has pursued a campaign and governing style bent on dividing, not uniting.

He has, more often than not, green-lighted the things he now condemns.

The slaughter of 22 people at an El Paso Walmart appeared to be motivated by a hatred of Hispanic immigrants. Shortly before the shooting began, a manifesto circulated online detailing plans to attack a Hispanic community in the United States.

“We have to attribute that information directly to (the shooter),” El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen said at a press conference. “It’s beginning to look more solidly like that’s the case.”

He said migrants at the U.S. border with Mexico were “invaders.”

A little over two weeks ago, the President went on an extended jag about four Democratic Congresswomen of color who dared to disagree with him. He demanded on Twitter that they should “go back where they came from.”

Each woman is an American citizen, but that seemed not to matter to the President.  Nor did it matter to the crowd at a rally a few nights later. People chanted, “Send them back!”

Critics widely denounced the tweet as racist. And the resulting schism has turned parts of America into the land of the skittish. People are afraid.

Let’s stop here for a deep breath.

Taken in a vacuum, the President’s remarks Monday were appropriate and encouraging. But, of course, it’s hard to take anything he says in a vacuum because a 180-degree turnabout is only a tweet away.

Plus, he has a lengthy history of racially divisive actions. He was the foremost proponent of the absurd birther argument that said former President Barack Obama was not an American citizen.

Trump said Mexico was sending murderers and rapists to the United States and a border wall is the only way to keep them out. He tried to ban all immigrants from certain Muslim nations.

As President, he referred to some “very fine people” in the white nationalist movement after the calamity at Charlottesville, Virginia.

And at a Panama City rally in May, he cracked a joke after someone in the crowd yelled that border agents should shoot people trying to cross the border illegally.

“That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement,” he said. “Only in the Panhandle!”

His supporters love spontaneous moments like that. They love the swagger. And that certainly isn’t to suggest that every Trump supporter agrees with his inappropriate ramblings.

Enough of them do agree, though, that is dividing the country in ways that won’t be easy to repair. And some of them take Trump’s divisive words as marching orders.

Hopefully, people in the latter group were listening to what he had to say about condemning racism, bigotry, and white supremacy. Let’s not kid ourselves, though.

After years of demonizing and dehumanizing immigrants and people of color, it will take much more than a few words off a prepared script to make anyone believe his heart has changed.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

One comment

  • gary

    August 6, 2019 at 6:59 pm

    He has been condemning it his whole life! But, way to serve the division and hate Joe! PATHETIC!

Comments are closed.


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