by deborah schwartz
I give credit where it’s due: saying something is better than nothing. But I can’t attribute much sincerity to his comments. His words are simply too late. Trump remained silent on anti-Semitic attacks for weeks. When two reporters gave him opportunities to denounce these heinous acts, he didn’t do so. Even after addressing the topic in a more professional manner at the African American History Museum, he reportedly told a group of attorneys general that these attacks were perhaps “false-flags” carried out by Jews or Democrats to make him look bad. Hours later in his congressional address, he denounced anti-Semitism but without sharing that vile sentiment. What’s upsetting is that while Trump flip-flops on this issue and questions the validity of hateful behavior, America’s Jewish institutions remain vulnerable.
It’s even harder to believe that Trump is committed to promoting tolerance when it comes to his actions—or lack thereof. From the travel ban and global gag rule to the rollback of protections for transgender students, the Trump administration has already taken steps to endanger the wellbeing of the most vulnerable groups in the country and around the world. If Trump were serious about destroying the prejudice that exists in American society, he wouldn’t have appointed people like Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions to serve in his cabinet. And while it’s admirable that Trump has spoken out against anti-Semitism, I haven’t heard a plan to identify and prosecute the perpetrators of these hate crimes.
After a year and a half of watching Trump run his campaign on hate, my trust in him as a fair and moral leader eroded long ago. Nothing that he says now can erase my memory of the way that he doused people’s most intolerant tendencies in kerosene and lit the match. As president, his lukewarm response to bigotry coupled with the inconsistency between his words and actions ends up giving sly winks and nods to people that this behavior is acceptable. Trump is responsible for this culture of intolerance. Why should I believe that he has any genuine desire to demolish it?