Donald Trump: The Great Race Baiter

DONALD TRUMP’S BEEN RACE-BAITING SINCE THE ‘80s

History is a hell of an indicator for future behavior.  Before Donald Trump spent his days arguing that Mexico was ‘sending people that have lots of problems’ to the United States and that they are ‘bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists’, he was busy taking out full-page ads calling for the death penalty to be brought back to New York so five Black and Latino teenagers could be executed.

The year was 1989; the horrific incident would be known as ‘The Central Park Jogger Case’; and the five boys charged with the brutal rape and attack on a white female investment banker were termed the Central Park Five.  For those unfamiliar with the intricate relationship between the police, politicians and the press (especially the NYC press corp), this case is perhaps the perfect example of how the marginalized can be easily demonized, maligned and convicted first in a court of public opinion – and later in criminal court.  As for the one and only Donald Trump, he was right in the middle of it all, and had no problem pompously sharing his two cents then, just as he is now.

“BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY.
BRING BACK OUR POLICE!”

That was the headline of the full-page, 600 word ad that ran in four major papers – The New York Times, The NY Post, The NY Daily News and NY Newsday.  Trump reportedly paid $85,000 for the ads at the time, and while calling for the death penalty to be reinstated, he wrote that the five accused teenagers should “be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes.”  It’s important to note that while the victim, Trisha Meili, was severely beaten and brutally raped, she thankfully survived.  But not only was Trump rushing to have teens (aged 14 to 16) executed, he helped sell the narrative that these kids were guilty without a doubt despite the many inconsistencies present.

When the five – Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Kharey Wise and Raymond Santana Jr. – were arrested in 1989, they were held and interrogated for hours and hours by police without the presence of their parents or an attorney.  They eventually confessed according to police, but later recanted their confessions and have always maintained that they were coerced into making those statements.  Their confessions were inconsistent with one another, as well as inconsistent with the evidence but none of this seemed to matter to the sensationalist press corp and the powers-that-be.  As the media firestorm ensued, calling the boys a ‘roving gang’, a ‘wolfpack’, ‘park marauders’, and with front-page stories referring to their actions as ‘wilding’, Trump contributed to the lynch mob mentality with his ads.

In 1990, the five were convicted in two separate trials, and one of the boys, Kharey Wise, was tried as an adult (he was 16), and ended up serving 13 years in jail.  The other four served several years each.  In 2002, a convicted murderer and rapist, Matias Reyes, confessed to the horrific attack, and DNA evidence backed his confession (for a thorough accounting and analysis of this case, watch the documentary ‘The Central Park Five’ by Ken Burns and Sarah Burns).

The five were eventually exonerated, and they rightfully sued the City of New York.  The Bloomberg Administration fought against the suit, and it wasn’t until September of last year that a settlement of $41 million was finally reached with the five men who lost their childhoods and opportunities decades earlier.  The $41 million figure came out to roughly $1 million for each year served in prison (their combined time served).

Despite the fact that a man confessed to the crime (which DNA evidence backed), and despite the fact that the City settled with the five (which is in effect an admission of wrongdoing), Trump never once apologized for his rush to judgment, nor his concerted effort to portray Blacks and Latinos as vicious animals who raped and attacked innocent Whites, and deserved to be executed.  Instead, in true Donald Trump fashion, he was defiant following last year’s settlement and called it ‘the heist of the century”.

“The recipients must be laughing out loud at the stupidity of the City,” he wrote at the time.  “These young men do not exactly have the pasts of angels.”

If we were to look at Trump’s business dealings, his teenage antics, his failed marriages, his baggage and his dirty laundry, it’s safe to bet that he does not have the past of an angel.  Nobody does.  Only difference is, Trump had a chance to live his life and build his empire, while these five men lost their youth and continue to live with the stigma of that horrendous case all these years later.

As more and more corporations and businesses separate themselves from Trump because of his comments regarding Mexicans and immigrants, the Central Park Five and their families are likely thinking, it’s about time.

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