When a bomb went off outside the Murrow Federal Building on on April 19, 1995, the immediate response from both media and many politicians was to begin searching for Middle Eastern terrorists. That would certainly have pleased bomber Timothy McVeigh, who carried with him as he delivered the bomb a copy of The Turner Diaries, a racist novel describing how white supremacists blew up a federal building, triggered a race war, and ultimately exterminated all non-whites in America. Had McVeigh not been picked up almost instantly (for driving without a license plate) and connected to the bombing, the finger of blame may well have fallen on anyone except white “patriots” McVeigh and Terry Nichols.
In his own way, Donald Trump has been steering that truck full of explosives around American streets all his life. It wasn’t just the racism that he practiced in his buildings, it was the racism that he spread in his statements and media appearances—including running a full page ad calling for the lynching of five Black teenagers in 1989.
This is the ad that Donald Trump is running today. Trump’s ad then was just the same as the ads he’s running now—designed to make white Americans fear and hate Black Americans.
Look at the text of that 1989 ad: “What has happened to our city over the past ten years?” asked Trump. “What has happened to law and order, to the neighborhood cop we all trusted …” Trump goes on to claim that New York families can no longer “stroll in the park” or “ride a bike” because they are “hostages to a world ruled by the law of the streets, as roving bands of wild criminals roam our neighborhoods, dispensing their own brand of twisted hatred, on whomever they encounter.”
And in this ad, Trump makes the self-defining statement that holds up until this day: “Mayor Koch has stated that hate and rancor need to be removed from our hearts, I do not think so. I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer …” Trump continues, talking about how he doesn’t want to understand the five teenagers who have been arrested, but wants to continue hating them. “I want them to understand our anger,” he writes. “I want them to be afraid.” He ends this tirade as he has so many tweets—in all caps—shouting: “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY AND BRING BACK THE POLICE.”
Donald Trump has not changed. When Trump learned that the young men arrested were innocent, he refused to apologize. That same language that Trump used in the ad has not just been in the rhetoric he’s used against “criminal immigrants,” but in his attacks on Black Lives Matter. Those attacks have included showing random, unattributed videos of Black people attacking white people, posting extensive support of Confederate statues, coddling white supremacist groups, accusing President Obama of “treason,” and even tweeting “a doctored video purportedly showing a ‘racist baby.’” And of course, it’s included tweeting just what he said in 1989 over and over with calls for “LAW AND ORDER,” expanded police powers, and harsher punishments. At the same time, Trump has pardoned his friends from illegal campaign activities and financial crimes, because when he says he wants to stop crime, he doesn’t mean crimes committed by people like himself.
Trump has not changed. He’s not only exactly who he was in 1989, he’s exactly who he was in 1973. He is a violent racist who believes that Black people deserve to be segregated, punished, and murdered if they protest. He’s a white supremacist who believes that he is above the law, not just because of his position, but as part of his birthright. He’s making that clear with every ad about “the suburbs” and every sneer at “peaceful protesters.” He’s making that clear by purposely lying to the American people about the threat posed by white supremacists. He still not only wants to hate, he hates. He still wants to see people suffer.
He’s also making that clear by purposely lying to the American people about the threat posed by COVID-19, a decision that Trump reached because he believed that the impact of that disease would be most severe in Democratic states, and among the essential workers who were disproportionately Black or Latino. The decision to purposely allow the death of 200,000 Americans was made under the assumption that a lot of them would not be white.
If Timothy McVeigh was loading up that truck today, he wouldn’t need to look to an obscure racist novel like The Turner Diaries for inspiration. He could find it on his television set every day. Just as Kyle Rittenhouse, and so many others, certainly have.
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