More Than Ever, Trump Casts Himself as the Defender of White America

More Than Ever, Trump Casts Himself as the Defender of White America

President Donald Trump greets law enforcement officers in Kenosha, Wis., Sept. 1, 2020. (Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times)

WASHINGTON — After a summer when hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets protesting racial injustice against Black Americans, President Donald Trump has made it clear over the last few days that, in his view, the country’s real race problem is bias against white Americans.

Just days after returning from Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he staunchly backed law enforcement and did not mention the name of Jacob Blake, the Black man shot seven times in the back by police, Trump issued an order Friday to purge the federal government of racial sensitivity training that his White House called “divisive, anti-American propaganda.”

The president then spent much of the weekend tweeting about his action, presenting himself as a warrior against identity politics. “This is a sickness that cannot be allowed to continue,” he wrote of such programs. “Please report any sightings so we can quickly extinguish!” He reposted a tweet from a conservative outlet hailing his order: “Sorry liberals! How to be Anti-White 101 is permanently cancelled!”

Not in generations has a sitting president so overtly declared himself the candidate of white America. While Trump’s campaign sought to temper the culture war messaging at the Republican National Convention last month by showcasing Black and Hispanic supporters who denied that he is a racist, the president himself has increasingly made appeals to the grievances of white supporters a centerpiece of his campaign to win a second term.

The message appears designed to galvanize supporters who have cheered what they see as a defiant stand against political correctness since the days when he kicked off his last presidential campaign in 2015 by denouncing, without evidence, Mexicans crossing the border as “rapists.” While he initially voiced concern over the killing of George Floyd under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis this spring, which touched off nationwide protests, he has focused since then almost entirely on defending the police and condemning demonstrations during which there have been outbreaks of looting and violence.