Let’s face it: if Donald Trump were from a state south of the Mason Dixon line, his birther rants would be called out as racist, plan and simple. Trump, who is based primarily in the Northeast, enjoys a friendly relationship with New York media elites and thus his rants are declared outside of the mainstream and maybe even “ridiculous,” but are almost never identified racially biased.
As The Nation’s Ari Melber eloquently noted last year, “[Birtherism] is a putatively non-racial, vaguely constitutional way to challenge the legitimacy of the first Black president and appeal to racists without sounding officially racist.”
And it’s critically important to point out that Trump’s birther obsession isn’t his first and only foray into racially-charged subjects. As soon as President Obama released his long form birth certificate, Trump questioned the president’s academic success and said he “heard” President Obama was a bad college student. Trump was insinuating that President Obama did not have the intellect to get into Harvard Law School without the friendly little helper to “the Blacks” called affirmative action.
One of the only media heavy-weights to call Trump out directly for racism after these comments about President Obama’s academic history is CBS News’ Bob Schieffer who said, “I want to go on to what Donald Trump said after he said ‘this is out’ [the day the president released his long form birth certificate] and everything. He said, ‘we need to look at his grades and see if he was a good enough student to get into Harvard Law School.’ That’s just code for saying he got into law school because he’s Black. This is an ugly strain of racism that’s running through this whole thing. We can hope that, that kinda comes to an end too.”
Trump’s racial bias didn’t begin with the election of the first black president. It’s not covered much in the media, but Trump has a history. In 1973, when Trump was head of Trump Management Corporation the company was sued by the Department of Justice for not renting apartments to Blacks in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. Among the charges were claims that Trump Management Corporation would give different rental quotes to whites than to Blacks as well as simply state, falsely, that the apartments were unavailable to Blacks seeking to rent. The case was settled out of court in 1975.
You would think that a real estate mogul sued for racial discrimination might want to stay away from questioning the intelligence and citizenship of the first Black president, but Trump relies upon America’s collective media memory loss.
Trump has also been accused by the former president of Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino in the book Trumped! of saying “laziness is a trait in Blacks” and “[B]lack guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” Apparently, comments this racially insensitive are forgotten when you are part of the northeast establishment.
In 1989, after a white female jogger was raped, Trump took out full page ads in local newspapers calling for the Black teenage suspects to get the death penalty. All of these Black teens were eventually exonerated by DNA evidence.
Trumps bold-faced racism has come to light over the years and in a number of different contexts, and yet we still give him the benefit of any doubt, allowing him to simply be viewed as a wildly amusing reality television sideshow or — as CNN’s Wolf Blitzer said — “ridiculous.” What we really should be saying is that his witchhunt into the background of the already thoroughly vetted Black president is racist.
Zerlina Maxwell is a political analyst and contributing writer for EBONY.com and theGrio.com. Follow her on Twitter at @zerlinamaxwell