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Donald Trump Jr. says the president is not racist because rappers take photos with him

Jay Z held a concert in Cleveland for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and lambasted Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. (Video: Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)
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One of the accusations President Trump finds himself defending himself against the most is that he is a racist.

His response, usually: “I am the least racist person."

After reports last month that Trump called predominantly black nations such as Haiti and those in Africa “shithole countries,” the president rejected the suggestion that he’s racist to reporters at his Trump International Golf Club.

“No, no, I’m not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed, that I can tell you.”

And Trump's sons, naturally his most vocal surrogates, have often come to his defense on the matter.

“My father sees one color: green,” Eric Trump said on “Fox and Friends” last month after the president's comments about predominantly black countries went public. “That is all he cares about; he cares about the economy. He does not see race.”

Donald Trump Jr. recently told the conservative website the Daily Caller that the racism accusations aren't sticking and pointed to his father's past relationships with hip-hop artists and other notable black Americans:

“I know him [the president]; I’ve seen him my whole life. I've seen the things he’s done. You know it’s amazing — all the rappers, all his African American friends, from Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton — have pictures with him,” Trump Jr. said.

But does taking photos with rappers make someone not racist? That seems to be the implication. Some might say the argument displays a degree of racial insensitivity, if not ignorance. Being photographed with a person does not mean that you can't hold discriminatory views about their value and worth. Most people likely use one's words and worldviews as better indicators of how one views those of another race.

It is true that Sharpton, Jackson and several hip-hop artists have been photographed with Trump over the years. Jackson even praised Trump in 1999 for his work in the black community. 

But what's also true is that more recently, the activists and entertainers have criticized Trump for his comments and policies that have been viewed as disparaging to people of color.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons wrote an open letter to his “old friend” Trump.

“Stop the bulls---. Stop fueling fires of hate. Don’t feed into the rhetoric created by small-minded people. You’re smarter and certainly more loving then you let on. . . . I know the cheap seats are easy to play to, but you can get them just by being the man I have known for nearly 30 years.”

Rapper Snoop Dogg, who appeared on Comedy Central's roast of the real estate mogul in 2011, accused Trump of neglecting America's forgotten communities and stated his support for the NFL players protesting racism that the president called “sons of bitches.”

In a song called “Make America Crip Again,” which features a body covered by an American flag with a toe-tag that reads “Trump” on the cover of the EP, Snoop rapped:

“As I look around, I see so many millionaires with skin like mine. Don't pretend like I'm with that bulls---  your President been tweeting. Them black boys is ballin' out, the whole block been eating,” appearing to reference tweets from Trump attacking NFL players.

Hip-hop mogul Diddy has also been photographed with Trump in the past, but he called out the president on Twitter after he called white supremacists marching to preserve memorials honoring Confederate generals “very fine people” and attacked NFL players protesting racism.

Jay-Z, who is a vocal supporter of Barack Obama, told CNN's Van Jones last month that Trump doesn't get a pass for comments deemed racist just because the unemployment rate among black Americans hit its lowest level on record during his presidency.

“It’s not about money at the end of the day. Money doesn’t equate to happiness. It doesn’t. That’s missing the whole point,” he said. “You treat people like human beings. That’s the main point. It goes back to the whole thing: ‘Treat me really bad, and pay me well.’ It’s not going to lead to happiness; it’s going to lead to, again, the same thing. Everyone’s going to be sick.”

Trump's approval rating with black Americans is only 6 percent, according to Gallup. But it's not just black Americans who think Trump is prejudiced. Most Americans — 52 percent — said Trump held a racial bias against black people, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, with 40 percent saying they strongly believe Trump to be biased.

In the past two months, Trump has endorsed an Alabama Senate candidate who pointed to slavery as the last time America was great; called the nations that black immigrants hail from “shithole” countries; took credit for the lowest black unemployment rate in history without mentioning how former president Obama's policies may have contributed; and suggested that Democratic lawmakers, including those affiliated with the Congressional Black Caucus, who did not applaud his State of the Union speech were “treasonous” and “un-American.”

As long as voters and lawmakers have Trump's tweets, speeches and policies to point to as racially insensitive, it won't matter to many voters how many pictures the president, who loves a good photo opp, has with rappers.

But who knows? Maybe more meetings with hip-hop artists is what Trump needs to understand black voters. Shortly after Trump won the presidency, Kanye West met with the president-elect in New York to discuss “multicultural issues,” West later tweeted. They were photographed together in the lobby of Trump Tower.

“We’ve been friends for a long time,” Trump said. “We discussed life.”

However, West has since deleted his pro-Trump tweets.

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