When the Looting Starts the Shooting Starts

Is Donald Trump racist?

Racist: a person who believes in racism, the doctrine that one’s own racial group is superior or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.

Dictionary.com

On June 12th Trump was interviewed on Fox News by Harris Faulkner. He was asked to explain why he Tweeted on May 29th “when the looting starts the shooting starts”.

Faulkner, “Why those words?”

Trump, “So, that’s an expression I’ve heard over the years.”

Faulkner, “Do you know where it comes from?”

Trump, “I think Philadelphia, the mayor of Philadelphia.”

Faulker, “No, it comes from 1967, I was about 18 month old… it was from the chief of police in Miami, he was cracking down and he meant what he said. And he said, ‘I don’t even care if it makes it look like brutality, I’m going to crack down. When the looting starts, the shooting starts.’ That frightened a lot of people when you tweeted that.”

Trump, “It also comes from a very tough mayor who might have been police commissioner at the time, but I think mayor of Philadelphia named Frank Rizzo and he had an expression like that. But I’ve heard it many times. I think it’s been used many times. It means two things – very different things. One is, if there’s looting, there’s probably going to be shooting, and that’s not as a threat, that’s really just a fact, because that’s what happens. And the other is, if there’s looting, there’s going to be shooting. They’re very different meanings.”

Summing It Up

In the 2 weeks between writing “when the looting starts…” and that interview, Trump had plenty of time to google the phrase or find out what public perception was. Hell, the moment I read that phrase, I knew in my gut, before looking it up, that it was charged, dangerous language. But Trump didn’t acknowledge any of that. He didn’t acknowledge the not-so-hidden meaning behind those words. By not distancing himself from the original context, he was choosing to support it and the full weight of its racist, police-brutality promoting context. Please understand this: it doesn’t matter if he said the phrase initially without understanding it’s historical context. What matters is that, after learning about the historical context, he did not correct the record, and that was intentional.

In case you’re missing my point, here’s another example. What if Trump had repeated a famous, inspiring quote like, “Do not compare yourself to others. If you do so, you are insulting yourself”. That may be fine advice. If, however 10 million people pointed out that it was a famous quote by Hitler (it is), the president might do well to distance himself from it. Maybe if he got asked about it in an interview, he’d say something conciliatory but face-saving. Maybe something like, “I didn’t remember where I heard it before. I thought it was an inspiring thing to say but realizing it’s origin, I wouldn’t use that quote again.”

Now instead, consider if an interviewer asked him about the phrase, saying, “You know, you saying that quote made a lot of people uneasy. I’m a Jew and that is a famous quote by Hitler,” What if Trump responded with, “Well, I also heard Frank Rizzo say it once and it worked for him.”? You’d think… well, what would you think?

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