‘Very fine people on both sides’: 7 times Trump has inflamed racial hatreds

An image of Donald Trump surrounded by red warning signs.


Donald Trump has a long history of inflaming racial hatred. The United States could use a leader who can call on empathy to bring citizens together peacefully and to show the way for us all to act in ways that will usher in true equality. What we have, however, is a president who has yet to show any empathy, and who has built his power on further dividing an already divided country.

The rage at Trump’s most recent Tweets and statements is understandable, but his actions are far from surprising because they are nothing new. While having claimed to be the “least racist person,” the president’s actions shout louder than his words. Here are seven times Trump has inflamed racial hatred.

George Floyd

A photograph of George Floyd


The killing of George Floyd by a white police officer has shone yet another light onto the systemic racism in the U.S. At a moment when a general path forward is fairly clear — treat people of all races the same way under the law, in opportunity, and as we meet on the street — the immediate path out of this moment is a little murky.

Righteous protesters are mixed in, both literally and figuratively, with those who take advantage of situations like these for their own destructive ends. But if Trump were to pour oil on the water, it would likely be so he could light it with a match. There is no call for peace from the White House; instead, there is a threat of violence.

The call to violence against protesters was so clear that Twitter added the heading “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence.”

As protesters have turned more and more violent — not to mention spreading to other cities — Trump told Minnesota Governor Tim Walz that “We have our military ready, willing and able,” but when armed white protesters were marching into Michigan’s capital three weeks ago, Trump didn’t mind at all. They were, after all, answering his own call — a call to fight to temporary restrictions put in place to save lives.

And once these armed white protesters showed up to terrify Michigans elected officials…

…Trump encouraged the  woman governor of Michigan to make a “deal” with these “very good people.”

White Nationalists

A photograph of men marching with Nazi and Confederate flags.


While inflaming racial hatred with one hand, he is permissive with those very hatreds on the other. When the August 2017 white nationalist gathering “Unite the Right” occurred in Charlottesville, VA, it attracted neo-Nazis members of groups like the Ku Klux Klan. David Duke, former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, said the protesters were “going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump” to “take our country back.”

When a man from the “Unite the Right” group drove his car into a group of people protesting the white nationalist gathering, killing one woman and injuring 19 others, Trump didn’t have anything bad to say about him.

In his infamous statement that “you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides,” the president placed white supremacists and neo-Nazis on an equal social footing with what he called the “alt-left.”

The Central Park Five

A photograph of the exonerated Central Park Five at the 2019 BET Awards

Screenshot / BET Awards

Trump has a long history of preying on anger and fear in situations with a racial divide. When five young African American men were arrested (and subsequently wrongfully convicted) for the rape of a white woman in Central Park, our current president took out a full-page ad in four New York papers calling for the death penalty to be brought back. In the 1989 ad, he wrote, “I want to hate these murderers and I always will…I am looking to punish them.”

Asked in 2019 about those previous statements, Trump was unapologetic, even seeming to still think the men were guilty years after their exoneration. “You have people on both sides of that,” he said.

Immigrants from Central and South America

Side by side photos of the border wall and Trump

Flickr / Hayley Gagnon, U.S. Customs and Border Protection

While announcing his run for the Oval Office, Trump claimed Mexican immigrants were “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” His repeated claims that these migrants were rapists lost him business relationships with Macy’s and the PGA, but that didn’t stop him: this rhetoric continued throughout his campaign and well into his presidency.

In a 2018 speech in West Virginia, he claimed that as the “caravan” of people who traveled from South and Central America hoping to gain entry to the U.S. that, “women are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before.”

Trump even used his 2019 State of the Union Address to continue elevating this white supremacist narrative designed to spread hate against immigrants, inflaming racial hatred. In May of 2019, he asked a rally crowd, “How do you stop these people?” When someone in the crowd shouted, “Shoot them,” Trump laughed, then said, “That’s only in the [Florida] panhandle.”

In August of 2019, a man opened fire in an El Paso Wal-Mart, with ABC News reporting his goal of trying to shoot as many Mexicans as possible.

People from the Middle East

A photograph of Saudi Arabia crown prince Mohammed bin Salman


To keep the rhetoric of the scary caravan from south of the U.S. border moving along, Trump injected a baseless claim that, “unknown Middle Easterners,” were, “mixed in.”

Trump wants Americans to think people from the Middle East are bad…except for Middle Easterners that have helped make The Donald rich.


A photograph of a large mosque.


A search of Trump’s Twitter feed will reveal that he has included the word “Islamic” in hundreds of Tweets — every single time followed by the word “terror,” “terrorist,” or, occasionally, “Jihad.” His first travel ban targeted nations that have large populations of Islamic worshippers, but not from any countries whose citizens had perpetrated a “lethal terrorist attack on American soil since 1975,” as noted by Snopes.

And Trump knows exactly what he is doing with this rhetoric; he has said so himself: the internet is the main recruitment tool for terror.

‘The Squad’

Side by side photographs of the four representatives referred to as "the Squad', including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts, and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.

Fox News

In a series of Tweets aimed at four Democrat Congresswomen, Trump told them to “go back” to their countries, which were “the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world.” Only one of the four was actually born outside of the U.S., but the message aimed at Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts, and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota was clear: these four black and brown women should shut up and go home. “You can’t leave fast enough,” Trump Tweeted.

The House of Representatives went so far as to condemn Trump for his disrespect of elected officials, not to mention inflaming racial hatreds.

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