Trump’s tirade on ‘racist’ ADs echoes other racist tropes
NEW YORK (AP) — Staring at a sea of faces at a mostly white Texas fairground, former President Donald Trump seethed over his legal troubles and blamed them on malicious prosecutors.
“These prosecutors are vicious and horrible people. They are racists and they are very sick, they are mentally ill,” Trump said, before warning his audience: “Actually. They’re not after me, they’re after you.
He repeated his accusation of racism, but skipped an obvious detail: These prosecutors are black.
His rant left the stark impression that Trump, who brought the white grievance policy into the White House, believes he cannot be treated fairly by black officials.
The comments echo racist messages that have proliferated in recent years – that black people and other minorities are taking power and will take revenge on white people, or at the very least treat white people as they have been treated.
This is part of the fears that fuel the white supremacy movement, the so-called “white replacement theory” that people of color will supplant white people in the power dynamics and social structure of the country.
“These are the same justifications they use for Jim Crow laws and their mistreatment of African Americans. So this is just a repeat of what we’ve seen in our country,” said a black prosecutor, Brian Middleton, of Fort Bend County, Texas, located southwest of central Houston.
Trump attacking prosecutors is nothing new. When his business and political dealings come under investigation, he often retaliates with accusations of misconduct and witch-hunting.
The former president has long been accused of biogtry. Before the 2016 election, Trump called U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel a “hate” who couldn’t be fair to him in a fraud case involving Trump University because of the judge’s Hispanic heritage and because Trump had sworn to build a wall between the United States and Mexico.
And after the 2017 white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Va., turned violent, he told a news conference that there were “very good people on both sides.”
He had never accused his prosecutors of racism before — but until earlier this year, one of those attorneys was Cyrus Vance Jr., who is white.
Now he faces an array of black prosecutors: New York Attorney General Letitia James; Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Vance’s successor and the first black to hold the post; Fani Willis, Fulton County, Georgia, DA; even Rep. Bennie Thompson, the head of the Congressional inquiry into the January 6 uprising. And critics say Trump’s rhetoric has intensified, perhaps because he recognizes that some among his base are receptive to more overt racism.
“It heightens that speech and makes it explicitly racial,” said Casey Kelly, a communications professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who for years pored over transcripts of Trump speeches.
At a recent rally in Arizona, he said – incorrectly – that white people in New York were being sent to line up for antiviral treatments.
And now Trump is using the investigations against him — and the prosecutors behind them — as “evidence of a larger systemic pattern that white people have no place in America’s future and he’s the only one.” to be able to fight on their behalf,” Kelly said.
Michael Steele, who more than a decade ago was the first African American to chair the Republican National Committee, said Trump was Trump.
“If he can race bait, he will. These prosecutors, these black people are going after me — the white man,” Steele said.
“They didn’t just wake up and say, ‘I’m going to waste the resources of the city and the resources of the state prosecuting Donald Trump,'” said Steele, a member of the Lincoln Project, a Republican group opposed to the government. ‘former president. “Whether the prosecutors are black or white, his corruption is always the same. It’s him, his actions, his behavior, his decisions – and therein lies the responsibility.
There is evidence that Trump’s words had consequences. Willis — the Georgia prosecutor who asked a judge to appoint a special grand jury to help investigate possible “criminal disturbances” by Trump and his allies in the 2020 presidential election and its aftermath — said to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that racial threats and slurs against her have increased since Trump’s rally in Texas.
In a letter to the FBI, Willis called Trump’s rhetoric “alarming.” She called on the FBI to help assess the security of the county courthouse and provide personnel to protect the area from a possible attack, like the one on the US Capitol a year ago.
Trump has his defenders. Harrison Fields, who worked in the Trump White House, is now the spokesman for U.S. Representative Byron Donalds of Florida, a Trump ally and one of only two black Republicans to serve in the House. He said the country had bigger issues to deal with.
Donalds considers Trump’s remarks “a non-story, as do about 98% of the American public who aren’t in the media or aren’t in the Democratic Party,” Fields said.
“The congressman is focused on the issues that really matter, which is supporting the former president’s America First policy,” he said.
The flip side of Trump’s slander of the power of black prosecutors is the argument that he took too long to come.
The country’s law and order system has long subjugated African Americans — from slavery in the days of Jim Crow until today, some might say, as some states pass anti-protest laws and control stricter at the ballot box. Black inmates still disproportionately occupy jails and prison cells.
A 2019 study by the Reflective Democracy Campaign found that only 5% of elected prosecutors nationwide were of color. But black men and women now run some of the biggest prosecutors’ offices in the country, including those in New York, Chicago, Dallas and Detroit.
Trump questions their legitimacy, said Diana Becton, another black prosecutor who sits in Contra Costa County in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“His accusations are certainly not subtle. They are scary,” Becton said. “It’s like saying, we don’t belong, that we’re arrogant and that we’re going to be put in our place by people who look like him.”
Middleton, the Texas DA, added that these were not unfair laws. There are double standards in law enforcement. And one remedy is to diversify the people who apply these laws.
“Some people get away with things and so we need people who are willing to hold people like Donald Trump accountable,” he said, “where we need to have people in positions of authority who will ensure that all people are treated equally under the law.”
Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this story from Conroe, Texas.