Donald Trump told us last month what he thinks of African Americans: “You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed — what the hell do you have to lose?” In other words, you say “African American,” he thinks poor, uneducated, violent (our cities are a war zone!) and unproductive. If that is not garden-variety racism, we are hard pressed to think that anything short of David Duke and the KKK — which support him — meets the definition. (And let’s not forget that Trump accused Judge Gonzalo Curiel of not being able to do his job because he is a “Mexican.” He was actually born in Indiana.)
It is not surprising then that as a real estate mogul in the 1970s, Trump virtually eliminated African Americans from his pool of acceptable renters. If you think African Americans don’t work, don’t go to school, etc., you wouldn’t want them as tenants. This is classic racism — attributing a distorted stereotype to everyone in the same racial group. And that’s what happened in the 1970s.
Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler — citing “Trump Revealed,” by Post colleagues Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher — explains that Trump’s claim that his was one of many real estate firms that were sued is false:
The Justice Department lawsuit was “one of the most significant racial bias cases of the era.” It was based on evidence gathered by testers for the New York City Human Rights Commission, who documented that black people were told no apartments were available in Trump properties while white testers at the same time were immediately offered apartments. In a sampling of 10 Trump buildings, only 1 to 3.5 percent of the occupants were minorities, making it one of the strongest cases the Justice Department had ever seen for violations of the Fair Housing Act. …This was not a case brought against many real estate firms; it was brought against Trump and his father. Trump did not get a better deal; he got essentially the same deal, or possibly worse, than the deal he would have gotten if he had settled before spending legal fees for two years. He also failed to live up to the deal and found himself back in court. While Trump touts there was no admission of guilt, that’s rather typical in these sorts of settlements. The Justice Department simply wanted to get the Trumps to agree to rent to African American tenants — which they failed to do even after agreeing to settle the case.
Trump is a man who navigates the world by racial and ethnic stereotyping. He speaks of “the” blacks and “the” Hispanics, a classic “tell” that the speaker considers members of a racial or ethnic group as standing apart from “us,” an undifferentiated mass in which individual characteristics are subsumed under group identity. (David Graham caught it, too: “The entertainer has long spoken about minority groups with the outdated formulation involving a definite article: ‘I have a great relationship with the blacks. I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks,’ he said in 2011, using language that undermined his claim. He’s said similar things about ‘the Hispanics.'”) It’s the very same phenomenon that was the target of the civil rights movement and efforts to root out prejudice. (You know: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”)
At the Republican Jewish Coalition summit last year, Trump resorted to the anti-Semitic trope that Jews are all about money (“You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money”; “I’m a negotiator — like you folks.”) That plainly impacts his choice in business partners. It impacted his selection of renters:
Documents from a Justice Department discrimination case against Trump launched in 1973 quote one of his rental agents describing a racial code: “Some blacks do live in Trump buildings,” the agent recalled in one March 6, 1974, district court filing, but “Trump Management believes that Jewish tenants are the best tenants.” Another agent was instructed to rent only to “Jews and executives” and to disregard the applications of blacks.
It’s called “affirmative prejudice” (e.g. Jews control media, Jews are all rich). It is, once again, evidence that Trump operates in the world by reducing everyone to a faceless member of a racial or ethnic classification. Since he thinks Jews are so terrific at business and make such great renters, guess whom he doesn’t have in key positions and didn’t like as renters? “The” blacks and “the” Hispanics.
Trump considers himself heroic when he now merely complies with the law. He said in the debate, “In Palm Beach, Florida, tough community, a brilliant community, a wealthy community, probably the wealthiest community there is in the world, I opened a club, and really got great credit for it. No discrimination against African Americans, against Muslims, against anybody. And it’s a tremendously successful club. And I’m so glad I did it. And I have been given great credit for what I did. And I’m very, very proud of it. And that’s the way I feel. That is the true way I feel.” In other words, he wants a ticker-tape parade for not repeating his illegal practices of the 1970s.
The sad and disturbing thing is not so much that there still are people like Donald Trump (Archie Bunker with money), but that he so easily cultivated racial bias and built himself a following through stunts such as the birtherism lie and vicious anti-Hispanic rhetoric that paints millions of immigrants as criminals. If there is a silver lining somewhere (please!) to this dreadful election, it might be that we have received a potent reminder of how far we have come and the distance yet to go when it comes to bias.