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Renée Graham

Donald Trump isn’t just a champion of white supremacists. He’s their leader

Donald Trump speaks at a rally on June 21 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Donald Trump speaks at a rally on June 21 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.(NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

I was wrong.

In a column about President Trump’s flaccid initial response to the deadly violence in Charlottesville, I wrote: “They marched with Confederate flags and swastikas, guns slung from their shoulders and strapped to their waists, believing their champion occupies this nation’s highest office.”

I should not have called the 45th President of the United States a “champion” of white supremacists. Trump is their undisputed leader.

Indeed, Trump was a racist long before he had a base to mollify, branded Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” and tried to ban Muslims from entering this country. In 1989, he bought newspaper ads calling for reinstatement of the death penalty after five black and Latino teens were accused of raping a white woman in Central Park. All served prison time before their sentences were vacated based on DNA evidence and a detailed confession from a serial rapist. Trump has never apologized. There was that “birther” rubbish he flung at President Obama in an attempt to delegitimize a presidency that his own will never surpass. Now he won’t stop tweeting about the “foolish” removal of “our beautiful statues and monuments” — you know, the ones for seditious men who fought and lost a treasonous war to keep black people in chains.

Trump is not racially insensitive. He is not taken out of context. He is not an old man whose ideas are trapped in the past. White supremacists love him because bigots always embrace one of their own. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Trump wouldn’t have gotten to the White House without them and racists wouldn’t feel protected and understood without their personal president.

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His supporters may believe I’m attacking their wonderful president with unfounded accusations, yet Trump’s own words always indict him. Who could have fathomed an American president defending neo-Nazis and white supremacists? Condemning such groups is the easiest thing a president can do. Yet Trump has failed miserably.

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For those still in doubt, here’s a few signs your president is a racist:

■  He calls people who chanted, “Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville, “Very fine people.”

■  He makes an initial statement condemning hatred, but denounces violence “on many sides.” He ad-libbed that last bit, and repeated it twice just in case anyone couldn’t hear the dog whistle.

■  It takes two more days to cajole him into condemning by name neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the KKK. When pushed to say something appropriate, he does so with all the sincerity of a four-year-old coerced into saying “thank you” for an ugly sweater.

■  Former KKK grand wizard and forever racist David Duke praises his “honesty & courage to tell the truth about Charlottesville” and “leftist terrorists.”

■  He has a massive crush on President Andrew Jackson, with his portrait prominently displayed in the Oval Office. It’s a statement piece about his admiration for a man best remembered for the “Trail of Tears,” which led to the deaths of thousands of Native Americans.

■  He employs Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, called “the platform for the alt-right.”

■  His tweets and comments are littered with white nationalist talking points.

■  He is silent about hate crimes against Muslims, yet giddily — and repeatedly — spreads a myth about US soldiers killing Muslims with bullets dipped in pig blood.

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Like the unmasked men and women who marched for hate in Charlottesville, Trump has never concealed who he is. His combativeness is not a lack of discipline. It is a character trait on bold display.

As Maya Angelou once said, “When people show you who they are, believe them.”


Renée Graham can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham