Tuesday, June 16, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He lectured Americans on what the real civil rights movement is.

Today, Trump signed an executive order dealing with police violence. It was mostly in the nature of suggestions that local police departments set high standards for themselves, in keeping with Trump's belief that there is no systematic racism in American law enforcement. (A clear majority of Americans disagree.)

Trump's remarks veered wildly from one topic to the next, only occasionally touching on the subject at hand. (At one point he said there would be a COVID-19 vaccine within the year because the same sort of "brilliant" researchers had developed an AIDS vaccine. No such vaccine exists.) 

Eventually, Trump shifted into a defensive tone regarding his administration's record on issues of importance to African-Americans—which he tends to assume means anti-poverty programs. That led him to make this statement:

We’re fighting for school choice, which really is the civil rights of all time in this country.  Frankly, school choice is the civil rights statement of the year, of the decade, and probably beyond — because all children have to have access to quality education.  A child’s zip code in America should never determine their future, and that’s what was happening.  So we’re very, very strong on school choice, and I hope everybody remembers that.  And it’s happening.  It’s already happened, but it’s happening.  We have tremendous opposition from people that know they shouldn’t be opposing it.  School choice.

"School choice" is the Trump administration's term for vouchers that would allow parents to use taxpayer money for private school tuition. It's been a controversial idea for decades, popular with religious conservatives, but research shows that it tends to increase racial segregation in schools.

In other words, Trump's reaction to massive protests against racial injustice was to redefine the term "civil rights" to mean a pre-existing Trump administration education policy that undoes the school desegregation that the actual civil rights movement was founded on.

Why should I care about this?