In a recent column, Dan Fagan claimed that I said President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address was “full of racist rhetoric” and then claimed that Democrats are “conditioned to see a racist under every bush.” Fagan is entitled to his own politics, but not his own facts. Here are the facts.
First, I said President Trump’s State of the Union rhetoric about immigration was racist. He used the term “chain migration,” which dehumanizes Latino immigrants; they’re God’s children — not chains. The term also disrespects African-Americans whose ancestors were brought to this country in chains.
I remember the first time a political speech moved me. It was August 1988. I was 28 years old, living in a small apartment in Pensacola, Flori…
Second, President Trump’s record speaks for itself when it comes to whether he and his policies are racist and discriminatory. He’s called Mexicans “rapists,” African-American athletes “sons of bitches,” and white supremacists “very fine people.” He’s said he wants immigrants from Norway, not “s***hole” countries in Africa. His advisers have said he was making a merit-based argument when he said this. That can’t be true because African immigrants are among the best-educated immigrants who come to this country.
Before he was president, the Justice Department sued his company for housing discrimination, and he reportedly told one of his employees that he didn’t want “black guys” counting his money, only “short guys wearing yarmulkes.” Furthermore, he’s never apologized for taking out full-page ads that encouraged the death penalty for five black and Latino teenagers who were wrongly convicted of rape. He also started the “Birther Movement,” which questioned the first black president’s citizenship.
Personnel is policy. Since taking office, Trump has appointed people with extreme views on race: Jeff Sessions, Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, Stephen Miller, Carl Higbie and Jamie Johnson to name a few. His decision to rely on advisers like these tells us a lot about his worldview. His policies reflect this worldview in that they disproportionately hurt communities of color.
In May, Trump established an election integrity commission. Although he said the purpose of the commission was to end voter fraud, a non-existent issue, his true intentions became clear. First, he chose a public official that the ACLU called the “King of Voter Suppression” to help lead the commission. Second, the commission made questionable voter records requests, including one for Texas voters with Hispanic last names. Additionally, his Justice Department reversed course on cases challenging voter ID laws and voter roll purges, voter suppression tactics that courts have ruled discriminatory.
Trump has proposed eliminating bank lending programs for minority communities. He’s also proposed doubling down on failed mass incarceration policies, and eliminated labor protections for black workers. In addition, Trump is sabotaging the Affordable Care Act, the Civil Rights Act of the 21st century and Medicaid.
I take no pleasure in pointing out these facts about the president. And, despite Fagan’s claims, I’m never quick to play the race card. He should check my record. I’ve come to the defense of colleagues who’ve been accused of being racist and suffered politically because of it. However, when it comes to Trump — his personal beliefs, personnel, and policies — the facts are on my side. Truth can be ugly and uncomfortable, but it’s still truth.
History is on my side, too. Fagan and those who hold his views would be wise to remember that civil rights heroes were once regarded as “race hustlers.” They’d also be wise to remember that evil triumphs over good when good people do nothing.
Therefore, we must not be silent in the face of racism, especially when it rears its head in our most important institutions. Silence is complicity. We must stand up and speak out not only because it’s right, but also because it’s patriotic.
U.S. Rep. Cedric L. Richmond represents the 2nd District of Louisiana, which includes parts of New Orleans and Baton Rouge. He is also the chair of the 48-member, bicameral, bipartisan Congressional Black Caucus.