President Trump speaks to the National Federation of Independent Businesses on Tuesday in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP)
Reporter

In the 17 months President Trump has occupied the Oval Office, there have been dozens of  controversial issues that grabbed headlines.

The president's decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate accord and his decision to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un were viewed critically by Democrats and some members of his own party as Trump has intentionally taken the country in a different direction from that of the previous administration.

But few things seem to attract more negative attention than the Trump administration's treatment of people of color. MSNBC Anchor Chris Hayes noted as much on social media when he sought to connect several controversies from the past year.

These incidents probably attract so much attention because they appear to give credence to one of the most alarming criticisms of Trump: that he is a racist.

Many Americans — nearly 6 in 10 — think that Trump is racist, according to a February Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll. And those numbers increase when controlled for people of color. More than 8 in 10 blacks and three-quarters of Hispanics think that Trump is racist.

Those fears about Trump predate his presidency. His willingness to promote policies that would harm people of color is something that countless critics warned voters about during his campaign. When Trump called Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers during his campaign announcement speech, that communicated to many Americans — including white supremacists — that Trump's vision of a “great America” did not include a diverse America.

Even before Trump entered the political world, he made headlines for treating people of color differently than white people. There was a 1970s lawsuit from the federal government alleging racial discrimination by him and his father at apartments they managed.

Trump repeatedly called for the death penalty for five black and Latino teenagers known as the Central Park Five in 1989. He refused to acknowledge their innocence after DNA evidence proved that they were not responsible for the rape and brutal beating of a 28-year-old white investment banker who had been on a jog through Central Park, and he called the settlement they won from New York “a disgrace.”

To his critics, these early incidents provided a window into how Trump would govern if elected president. And since then, there have been several situations that affirm what not only critics but some supporters of Trump believed would happen.

Supporter and former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke explained his loyalty to the president after Charlottesville: “We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back.”

Since entering the White House, Trump's responses to multiple incidents have given people such as Duke hope that the president shares their vision of making America great again, including:

  • The violent protests in Charlottesville after the “Unite the Right” rally and Trump's blaming of “both sides” in his response.
  • The administration's slow response to Hurricane Maria, which led to the estimated deaths of thousands in Puerto Rico.
  • The ban on citizens from several majority-Muslim countries in Africa and the Middle East from entering the United States.
  • The labeling of the countries that send black immigrants to the United States as “shithole countries.”

Trump's comments and tweets on his administration's policy that separates immigrant children from their parents at the border indicate that he has no plans to back down despite repeated criticism, and as the Fix's Aaron Blake writes, he doesn't even seem to have an endgame in mind.

Trump's tweet Tuesday morning that immigrants could “infest our country” is reminiscent of the dehumanizing language used by other authoritarian leaders throughout history when focused on “otherizing” people of different groups.

Trump has yet to pay a price with his base for these policies and, in fact, seems to think some of them play well with that base. The other members of his party will see in a few months whether the rest of America will tolerate them.