The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2020

All Issues
JUNE 2020 Issue
Publisher's Message

Dear Comrades, Friends, and Readers,

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

“Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together.” — Eugene Ionesco

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Call them what you will—autocrats, dictators, totalitarians, and all those who aspire to become as such—the moment that we are going through is forcing those in power to address the systemic racism that has never been resolved in our country’s history, or to put it more factually, the perpetuation of white supremacy. One thing we can say, among the endless lies generated by the chaos of “alternative facts” from the President of the United States and his White House ensemble of sycophants, from Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, Betsy DeVos, Steve Mnuchin to William Barr, Stephen Miller, Kellyanne Conway, and Rick Perry, just to name a few, is that the word “fact,” as stated in an interview with one of our most esteemed art historians Meyer Schapiro, has a deeper meaning:

What is fact? According to most languages, it is a product of labor. Consider the word for fact in German, tatsache, which means “thing done”—in French, fait, which means “made”—or even the Latin base for the English word fact, which is factum, and is related to “manufacture,” which means “made by hand” … What is the truth? The truth is what is made.

The following are facts that Trump has said publicly about our fellow African Americans, Native Americans, Muslims, Asians, and women in general:

  • 1973: During the Nixon administration, the US Department of Justice sued Trump Management for violating the Fair Housing Act. Trump had refused to rent to Black tenants. He lost the lawsuit and was hence legally obligated to sign an agreement in 1975 not to discriminate against renters of color.

  • 1980s: “When Donald and Ivana came to the casino, the bosses would order all the black people off the floor,” Kip Brown, a former employee at Trump’s Castle said. “It was the eighties, I was a teenager, but I remember it: they put us all in the back.”

  • 1988: Trump accused Asian countries like Japan of “Stripping the United States of economic dignity” during a commencement speech at Lehigh University. This is no coincidence that he is accusing China for similar reasons now, except this time COVID-19 was a pretext.

  • 1989: Four Black and one Latino teenagers were accused of attacking and raping a jogger in what was called the “Central Park Five.” Trump immediately paid for a full-page ad in the New York Times in bold letters: BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE. After having spent years in prison, the teens’ convictions were vacated which led the city to pay $41 million in legal settlements. Trump later in October 2016 said, despite the DNA evidence, he still believes they are guilty.

  • 1991: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yamakas everyday … I think that guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault, because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is. I believe that. It’s not anything they can control.” Trump first denied this remark quoted in a book by John O’Donnell (a former vice president of Trump’s Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City) as his criticism of a black accountant, but later in a 1997 Playboy interview admitted “the stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true.”

  • 1992: A $200,000 fine was paid by the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino because it transferred Black and women dealers off tables to accommodate gamblers’ prejudices.

  • 1993: Trump said, in a congressional testimony, that some Native American reservations shouldn’t be allowed to operate casinos because “they don’t look like Indians to me.”

  • 2000: When the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation proposed to build a casino, Trump secretly ran a series of ads implying the tribe had a “record of criminal activity [that] is well documented.” He probably felt a financial threat to his casinos in Atlantic City.

  • 2004: Kevin Allen, a Black contestant on season two of The Apprentice, was criticized by Trump for being overeducated, saying “You’re an unbelievably talented guy in terms of education, and you haven’t done anything … At some point you have to say, ‘that’s enough.’”

  • 2005: Trump said he “Wasn't particularly happy” with the most recent season of The Apprentice, so he was considering “an idea that is fairly controversial—creating a team of successful African Americans versus a team of successful whites. Whether people like that idea or not, it is somewhat reflective of our very vicious world.”

  • 2010: A proposal to build a Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan, near the site of the 9/11 attacks, was proposed to the city. Trump rejected it by calling it “insensitive” and offered to buy out one of the investors in the project. Later, Trump said on The Late Show with David Letterman about Muslims, “Well, somebody’s blowing us up… somebody’s blowing up buildings, and somebody’s doing lots of bad stuff. ”

  • 2011: Trump aggressively spreads falsehoods about President Barack Obama, our country’s first Black president, that he was not born in the US and hence is not legally a US citizen. Trump even went to the great length of sending investigators to Hawaii to look into President Obama’s birth certificate. Obama soon released his birth certificate, calling Trump a “carnival barker.”

  • 2015: During his presidential campaign, Trump called Mexican immigrants “rapists” who are “bringing crime” and “bringing drugs” to the US He also called for a ban on all Muslims coming to the US.

  • 2016: At a Republican debate, when Trump was asked whether all 1.6 billion Muslims hate the US, he said “I mean, a lot of them. I mean a lot of them.” He has regularly retweeted messages from white suprematists and neo-Nazis during his presidential campaign, and has been unfailingly and repeatedly slow to condemn them.

  • 2017: In August, a week after white suprematist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump repeatedly said that “many sides” and “both sides” were to blame for the violence and chaos that occurred—citing that the white supremacist protestors were morally equivalent to counterprotestors that stood against racism. Throughout the year, Trump repeatedly attacked NFL players who kneeled or remained silent as their form of peaceful protest against systemic racism in America during the national anthem.

  • 2018: During a bipartisan meeting in January, when asked in reference to Haiti and African countries, Trump responded, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” In addition, Trump spent months mocking Senator Elizabeth Warren for her claim of Native American heritage by calling her “Pocahontas” and even saying “See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz!,” evoking the Trail of Tears, the ethnic cleansing in the 19th century in which Native Americans were forcibly relocated and which led to thousands of their deaths. Trump remarked that several Black and Brown members of Congress, including Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) are “from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe” and that they should “go back” to where they came from. (Even though three of the four members of Congress were born in the US) Trump’s common racist devices against Black and Brown people has been associated with one of his campaign promises, namely on the policy of immigration.

To be continued…

With love, courage, and in total solidarity,

Phong H. Bui

P.S. This issue is dedicated in memory of George Floyd (1973-2020), Breonna Taylor (1993-2020), Tony McDade (1982-2020), Ahmaud Arbery (1994-2020), James Scurlock (1998-2020), and Nina Pop (1992-2020), among countless others that have lost their lives to police brutality and systemic racism. We send our deepest condolences to their family members, friends, and colleagues. We will continue to fight for justice for their unjust deaths. Together we will prevail.


Phong Bui

Phong H. Bui is the Publisher and Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Rail.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2020

All Issues