Is Trump still worsening racial relations

United States

For the past eight years, the discussion has been about the race relations in the United States under the key question of whether the election of the first black US president would mark a historic turning point. In November 2008, Barack Obama's supporters celebrated his election victory as a magical moment in which the collective dream of the black struggle for freedom came true. Even many conservatives who did not support Obama saw his entry into the White House as confirmation of their view that America had overcome the historical legacy of racism and was on the way to a "post-racial" society in which only individual achievement counts and is special support for minorities (affirmative action) is no longer necessary.

The initial euphoria soon gave way to disillusionment. Especially during Obama's second term in office, spectacular cases of fatal police violence against blacks - in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 and in Baltimore in 2015 - sparked heated discussions about racism in US institutions and sparked angry protests. Although the president took a clear position, prominent African-American critics accused Obama of doing too little against the racism of the police and the criminal justice system. Some even said that the situation of black Americans was no better today than it was in the late 1960s, when their anger and frustration gave way in bloody unrest.

A realistic assessment of Obama's work on this issue must, however, take into account that he was faced with the classic dilemma faced by African-American politicians of trying to win white voters and forging overarching coalitions without alienating the black base. Obama managed this balancing act twice in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, but only about 40 percent of white voters voted for him - an all-time low for a US president. [1] Sections of the white electorate always suspected that Obama was doing politics in favor of the black minority at their own expense. With that his room for maneuver was just in the race relations narrowly limited. [2] Obama may therefore have disappointed the high expectations placed on him. But with his successor Donald Trump, many civil rights activists fear that the "counter-revolution" has entered the White House.

Make America White Again?

Even if Trump directed his racist and xenophobic tirades primarily against Mexican immigrants and Muslims during the election campaign, his messages were unmistakably aimed at mobilizing the fear of many white Americans of the loss of their political, social and cultural hegemony. Whether Trump is decisive for his election victory white backlash against the progress made by blacks in American society, embodied by Obama, is controversial. Such a threat has been warned [3] since the civil rights movement fought for the end of segregation and the legal and political equality of the black minority over 50 years ago. Some political scientists point out that many Trump voters are out of the white working class Voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, but were clearly disappointed that the economic upswing had bypassed them during his presidency. [4] However, Trump also had no reservations about white resentment.

As of 2011, the ambitious New York real estate entrepreneur had the so-called campaign publicly birthers fired those who claimed that Obama was not born in the United States and is therefore not eligible for office under the constitution. The first black US president, so the perfidious message, is a usurper. American right-wing radicals who strive for a pure white America through "peaceful ethnic cleansing" celebrated Trump's election victory with shouts of "Heil Trump" and the Hitler salute. [5] Trump distanced himself from the lunatic fringe among his supporters, but for the often-voiced suspicion, his election slogan "Make America great again!" also means "Make America white again!", good reasons can be given.

After all, Trump did not attack black Americans directly in the election campaign, but even wooed their votes. For decades they would have remained loyal to the Democrats, the candidate calculated to the Afro-American voters, but now it is time to try something new: "You live in poverty, your schools are bad, 58 percent of your youth are unemployed - What the hell have you got to lose? ”He asked at his campaign rallies. Critics were outraged that Trump identified 40 million African Americans with the ghetto black population and that in reality only reproduced the racist stereotypes of his white supporters. [6]

Trump's advertising was largely unsuccessful, and only around eight percent of the black electorate voted for him. But the noticeably lower turnout of African Americans compared to 2008 and 2012 could have been the decisive factor behind Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania by a wafer-thin deficit and Trump thus gaining the majority in the electoral college, although he received a total of around three million fewer votes than his Competitor. After the election, Trump publicly thanked all black voters who had stayed at home. This gesture can only be viewed as cynicism, because for years, Republican-dominated states have been trying, under the pretext of fighting electoral fraud, to make it more difficult for minorities, who primarily vote for the Democrats, to register and vote. [7]

When Donald Trump visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the capital Washington, inaugurated in 2016, one month after his inauguration, he emphatically committed himself to the fight against "bigotry, hatred and intolerance". [8] How little the new US president feels committed to the legacy of the civil rights movement, however, he demonstrated with the nomination of the arch-conservative Senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama for the office of attorney general. US President Ronald Reagan had already nominated sessions for the office of federal judge in Alabama in 1986, but the Senate had refused to confirm the candidate because of racist remarks. Coretta Scott King, widow of civil rights activist Martin Luther King, who was murdered in 1968, accused Sessions of working as a prosecutor to intimidate black voters in Alabama. [9]

Sessions ’nomination for Justice Minister, the most important office at the federal level for the enforcement of civil rights, provoked protests from numerous civil rights groups as well as the Black Congressional Caucus, the union of African-American members of the US Congress. The liberal civil rights lobby accused Sessions of voting against nearly all bills that would strengthen the rights of ethnic and sexual minorities as a senator. He is also considered a proponent of strict immigration restrictions. Jeff Sessions, as one Democratic representative characterized him, wanted to go back to the times when "blacks ducked, gays hid, immigrants were invisible and women stayed in the kitchen". [10] The opposition to Sessions's nomination was unsuccessful, however, because, as expected, the Republican Senate majority voted for his appointment as Attorney General.

His supporters vigorously defended Sessions against allegations of racism. But civil rights activists fear that the white southerners Sessions will prevent his ministry from upholding key achievements of the civil rights movement. Certainly he will not stand up for the rights of the black minority with the same level of commitment as his two African-American predecessors, Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch.

That assessment applies to the Trump administration as a whole, in which white men dominate in ways that have not been the case since the 1960s. The only black member of the cabinet is neurosurgeon Benjamin Carson, who first ran in the Republican primary in 2016 and later stood behind Trump. Carson has international recognition as a medical professional, but has no government experience. As Minister for Housing and Urban Development, he heads a department whose tasks include the fight against poverty in America's major cities and which is therefore particularly important for the African-American population. Carson is known, however, as a critic of the welfare state and regards poverty reduction as a task for the private sector and religious communities. [11]

What the black minority can expect from Trump's presidency remains, however, like so much else, currently unclear. After the euphoric hopes that Barack Obama's presidency would make Martin Luther King's dream of an America free of racism come true, do you now threaten the sudden end of this dream and the restoration of "white supremacy"? The following takes a cursory look at four subject areas that have been at the center of the debates on the since the civil rights movement race relations stand. To take Trump's campaign slogan: What do black Americans have to lose? [12]