How and why Trump uses racism as a political tool – and why he will become even more aggressively racist in the run-up to 2020


Leah Millis / Reuters

In November 2016 –  shortly after Donald Trump was elected nearly three years ago – I wrote the following article for The New Statesman about his use of racism as a political strategy in order to appeal to the grievances of white Americans who feel that their sense of identity is under threat.

As I wrote then: “Although using division for votes is nothing new for Republicans, Trump appears to be acting directly from the Southern Strategy playbook – a Nixonian strategy from the Seventies based on the exploitation of racial tensions and divisive politics aimed at increasing discord in order to maintain Republican presence.” (Isn’t it fascinating that Trump has been compared to Nixon in many other ways over these last 3 years…? Perhaps his fate will be the same…)

Trump’s racist/racial/racialized agenda has always been clear to me. Unlike others – such as George Conway, husband of Trump mouthpiece Kellyanne and Trump critic/foe, who just finally concluded this past weekend that Trump is indeed a racist and wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post about his new found discovery – I have not been surprised nor in denial about the depths of his animus towards people of color. Dismayed, often. Saddened at times. But shocked? Absolutely not. I know racism when I see it. My very survival depends on that.

Trump’s racism is long and old, and it certainly has never been hard to miss. If you can’t cast your mind back to 1989 and his front page newspaper adverts calling for the death penalty to be brought back and used in the case of the so-called Central Park Five – the group of 5 young black men who were wrongfully imprisoned and later exonerated for the rape of a female jogger in Central Park – you should at least be able to remember that he actually got President Barack Obama to produce a copy of his actual birth certificate after insisting – in a bizarre conspiracy theory – that there was no way Obama was actually American. Trump has been at this game for quite some time now. And even though he been proven very wrong – as he is on most things – he is good at it.


As the country grapples with Trump’s most recent insults, this time aimed at Reps. Ayana Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, four freshmen Democratic women of color in Congress (all American, one foreign-born) who he tweeted should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” I have gone back to review this piece. Not only is it prescient, but it seems to get even more accurate the longer Trump is in office.


Anna Moneymaker/ The New York Times

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New Sammy Davis Jr documentary is a must-see

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Went to see a special screening this evening of “I’ve Gotta Be Me”, a truly wonderful documentary about the incredible life and talents of Sammy Davis Jr which will air next Thursday February 19th on PBS at 9/8c. I had no idea what a gifted man he was – an incredible tap dancer, singer, impressionist, actor, photographer and all around top performer – and how he fought so hard to not only make something of himself but to be himself in such a segregated and hostile America. When he was with his first love (Kim Novak, a Hollywood star and a white woman), the head of the Columbia Pictures basically threatened to kill him and demanded that he marry a black woman – any black woman – within 10 days. He ended up marrying an old friend and paid her $10,000 to do so. Can you imagine? Such was the threat of an interracial relationship. And there was also his very Kanye-esque embrace of President Nixon, which left him very painfully ostracized from the black community. Not his finest or most thoughtful moment I must say, especially when you hear Nixon stop himself from describing Sammy Davis Jr as a “n—r” in a phone call. He couldn’t read or write but was extremely eloquent and a master of words. A child star (he started performing at 3) who grew into a prolific adult. Funnily enough, he grew up a street away from where I live. I left feeling moved and deeply inspired. It was even more of a treat to hear from the executive producer, director and editor afterwards. It’s a must-watch. Catch it if you can! (Saw you @jasonkingsays in the film – nice work!) Thanks to my culture bae @barbararomer for coming with me ❤️ Thanks @symphonyspace for the invitation. #sammydavisjr #sogifted #blackhistory #americanhistory #soinspiring

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