Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s racial fear-mongering plunged to a new low this weekend.
This opening sentence may lead you to reasonably assume that this article is about his vile idea to create a national registry for Muslim-Americans, which he floated in a conversation with an NBC News reporter last Thursday. On Sunday, however, he did something that’s arguably more repugnant when he tweeted out false crime statistics alleging that most murders in the U.S. are committed by African-Americans.
The tweet featured an image of a fabricated chart from “Crime Bureau Statistics–San Francisco” which claimed that in 2015 81 percent of all white murder victims and 97 percent of all black victims were killed by black murderers. The chart also alleged that only 1 percent of black murder victims were killed by law enforcement, while 2 percent of all white victims were. In addition to the fraudulent numbers, the tweet featured a stereotypical illustration of a young black male dressed part gangster/part terrorist–replete with combat boots and a bandanna ominously covering half his face–and aiming a gun.
As Slate reports, there there are two critical problems with the graphic Trump tweeted, and they are both a really big deal if you think the truth matters. First, the “Crime Statistics Bureau–San Francisco” doesn’t even exist. More importantly, the data is as false as the source providing it.
In fact, the statistics are substantially inaccurate. By way of contrast, the FBI’s most recent crime statistics (from 2014) paint a substantially different picture. According to its stats, 82 percent of all white murders in 2014 were committed by white people, and black people were responsible for 90 percent of black murders, rather than 97 percent. White people were responsible for 8 percent of black murders instead of 2 percent, as alleged by Trump’s tweet. As Slate notes, credible data also suggests that “blacks die at the hands of police disproportionately to whites,” although “government data on the number of people killed by police in a given year is shamefully incomplete.”
Unlike the fictitious Crime Statistics Bureau–San Francisco, the FBI seems like a pretty reputable law enforcement agency. At least it is a real one.
On the `O’Reilly Factor’ Monday night, Trump attempted to deflect this controversy the way he always does–by refusing to take responsibility for his race-baiting. Claiming to be “probably the least racist person on Earth,” he asserted that he “retweeted somebody that was supposedly an expert.”
As it turns out, the Crime Statistics Bureau–San Francisco graphic was created and first disseminated by a neo-nazi. Let that sink in for a moment. The current frontrunner for the Republican nomination for President retweeted a racist graphic that was created by a neo-nazi and then called that person an “expert” on a nationally televised news talk show. Even Bill O’Reilly couldn’t believe it, calling the statistics “totally wrong” and actually shaming Trump for retweeting them.
It would be one thing if we could simply dismiss this latest example of Trump’s race-baiting as fodder for political satire, but we can’t. His racial vitriol must be condemned as not only hateful and offensive, but dangerous as well. With these bogus statistics, Trump digs up the same vicious stereotypes that were routinely used by racial terrorists to justify nearly 4000 lynchings in the U.S. from Reconstruction to World War II. He has officially crossed the line from using veiled language to stoke the latent racial fears of his supporters to embracing vicious racist rhetoric that has incited mob violence in the past.
In fact, it appears that Trump’s words have already started to trigger that effect. At a Trump campaign event on Saturday, a Black Lives Matter protester was attacked and beaten up by a group of angry Trump supporters. What was Trump’s response? “Maybe he should have been roughed up.”