What Trump considers 'a terrible question' about police, racial violence

Asked about African Americans dying at the hands of law enforcement, Trump's instinct seems to be to shift his focus to those who look like him.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with Hispanic leaders at the White House July 9, 2020.Evan Vucci / AP file
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By Steve Benen

The social-justice protests that were common in communities nationwide last month are far less frequent now, but the issues that inspired the activism still need attention and action. With that in mind, CBS’s Catherine Herridge referenced George Floyd's death and asked, "Why are African Americans still dying at the hands of law enforcement in this country?"

The president immediately went on the defensive in unnecessary ways. "And so are white people, so are white people," Trump replied. "What a terrible question to ask. So are white people -- more white people by the way, more white people."

Among the problems with this is the president's apparent confusion about how statistics work.

White people make up roughly half of the people shot and killed annually by police, according to a Washington Post database tracking fatal police shootings in the United States. But the Census Bureau estimates that roughly 76 percent of the country is white while only 13 percent is Black. According to the Washington Post database, the rate at which Black people are shot and killed by law enforcement is twice as high than that of white people.

But as important as these details are in proving that the president doesn't know what he's talking about, it's equally important to acknowledge the speed with which Trump wants to present white people as victims.

Indeed, also yesterday, the Republican spoke to a conservative website, Townhall.com, and defended the St. Louis couple who recently brandished guns as peaceful marchers walked down the street in front of their home. “They were going to be beat up badly, and the house was going to be totally ransacked and probably burned down,” Trump said.

That's plainly false -- video of the couple suggests they were in no danger -- though the president doesn't seem to care.

And therein lies the problem: the president remains, at best, indifferent to the societal scourge. Confronted with evidence of a crisis within his own country, Trump's first instinct seems to be to disregard the plight of the African-American community and prioritize those who look like him.The Washington Post's Eugene Scott had a great column along these lines this morning, highlighting the fact that the president is not only failing to address anti-Black police violence; he also doesn't seem interested in even acknowledging it.

It's a problem that Trump doesn't want to work on answers. It's just as serious a problem that he considers the entire line of inquiry to be "a terrible question to ask."