"I'm not racist. Some of my best friends are black." That's the standard excuse ordinary Americans give when they're accused of being prejudiced. But if you're Donald Trump, such a mundane defense against racism accusations won't do. Instead of touting the "my best friends are black" excuse, Trump remarked during an appearance at the North Carolina State Republican Convention, "How can I be a racist? I just picked Arsenio Hall."
Perhaps Trump believes that to be racist, one must be a cross-burning, hood-wearing white supremacist who can't stand the sight of black people. Unfortunately, many people make this assumption, but you don't actually have to hate black people (or any other race) to be racist. And, sorry, employing a black person doesn't let you off the hook either. After all, bigots in the Jim Crow South routinely hired black people as domestics, farm workers and other laborers. To be racist, you just have to believe that one racial group is inherently inferior to another or mistreat people from certain ethnic backgrounds based on this belief. Donald Trump has a history of making remarks that suggests he is.
Most recently, Trump has fended off claims that he's racist due to his insistence that President Barack Obama was born outside of the United States. There's no evidence to support this "birther" theory. President Obama has released his long form birth certificate. Records show a Honolulu paper announced Obama's birth, and people who were friends with Obama's grandparents have recalled seeing the president as a newborn. So, why do the birthers keep claiming that the president was born outside of the United States? They're zeroing in on the president's racial difference--his Kenyan heritage--and claiming that Obama isn't fit to lead the nation because of it. They could focus on the weaknesses of the Obama administration, such as slow job growth. Instead, they choose to marginalize the president because of his racial makeup.
I also find it curious that the birthplace of John McCain, Obama's Republican rival in the 2008 race, was never as scrutinized as Obama's. McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone, but birthers never made an issue out of this. The fact that McCain is white likely never led right-wing groups to question his fitness to serve as president. I understand that the Panama Canal Zone was once U.S. territory, but if Obama had been born there rather than McCain, you can bet birthers would have brought this up at every available opportunity.
It's not just Trump's birther claims that have led people to call him a racist. He's also suggested, with no proof whatsoever, that Obama wasn't qualified to study in the Ivy League.
"The word is, according to what I've read, that he was a terrible student when he went to Occidental," Trump said of Obama. "He then gets into Columbia; he then gets to Harvard. ... How do you get into Harvard if you're not a good student?"
The suggestion here is not only that Obama was a mediocre student but that he also conned his way into two Ivy League universities in spite of this. How did he pull this off? Because he's black and worked his way in via affirmative action. Mind you Obama graduated from Harvard Law School magna cum laude. It's unlikely that he was a terrible student at Occidental College or anywhere else, but a leading theory of racists is that African Americans aren't as intelligent as whites and never earn their way in life.