Black America, Donald Trump feels your pain. He might be “really rich,” own “the best properties,” and “have the best words,” but he has felt the sting of oppression.
Appearing on the Fox News Channel Tuesday evening, Trump had this exchange with host Bill O’Reilly:
O’REILLY: There [are] still some black Americans who believe that the system is biased against them. The American system because they’re black, they don’t get the same kind of shot, they don’t get the same kind of fairness that whites do. What do you say to them?
TRUMP: Well, I have been saying even against me the system is rigged when I ran as a, you know, for president, I mean, I could see what was going on with the system and the system is rigged.
Yes, Trump understands bigotry because other Republican candidates were mean to him in 2016. There is no need to explain why this comment is ridiculous.
But it also is incredibly revealing. Trump’s comparison of his treatment during the Republican primary to the racism faced by African Americans is not simply evidence of his own narcissism, it is part of a deep-seated blindness he has expressed for decades. This blindness isn’t just ignorance; it’s part of Trump’s long-running strategy of promoting bigotry through resentment.
In a 1989 interview for an NBC News special on race, Trump claimed that he, the privileged son of a millionaire New York real estate developer, would have had more advantages if he were black:
A well-educated black has a tremendous advantage over a well-educated white in terms of the job market. I think sometimes a black may think they don’t have an advantage or this and that. . . . I’ve said on one occasion, even about myself, if I were starting off today, I would love to be a well-educated black, because I believe they do have an actual advantage.
Trump’s 2016 message is based on these same resentments. His now ubiquitous “Make America Great Again” slogan is a message to his core voters that he wants to return our country to a time of even greater privilege for white Americans. His constant bashing of “political correctness” is a not-so-coded wish return to an age where racial epithets, sexism, anti-Semitism and homophobia were all acceptable. This argument is also on display when Trump makes the claim that undocumented immigrants are treated better than veterans.
This appeal to resentment is what has drawn neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other assorted racists to Trump’s campaign. For decades, it has also been part of the rhetoric of prominent conservatives such as Pat Buchanan, who has written about “The End of White America.”
Trump’s supporters will continue to echo the words of his son-in-law Jared Kushner, claiming that the presumptive GOP nominee displays no racial animus in his personal life. However, at this point, if Trump came to Washington, D.C., and burned a cross on the front lawn of the White House, his sycophants would probably say it was a “T,” and part of a branding effort for his new luxury hotel.
Yet Trump’s most recent statements again reveal a racial blindness that is, in and of itself, racist.