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Harvard professor: President Trump is ‘weaponizing white fear’

This past weekend, a Harvard professor says President Trump is a “really big part of the problem” regarding recent well-publicized racial incidents where white people have called police on blacks for “insignificant reasons.”

History, Race and Public Policy professor Khalil Muhammad told National Public Radio host Lulu Garcia-Navarro that the issue is “a problem of white fear being weaponized” as well as “police officers being a little too prickly when people are upset about having been judged harshly or inappropriately.”

Muhammad claims Donald Trump is partly responsible for these incidents (such as a white Yale grad student calling the cops on what turned out to be a black peer) getting so much attention because he “ran as a law-and-order candidate in a country with a long history where the notion of using the police as the foot soldiers of controlling African-Americans”:

“[…] to evoke that mantra, to run on that mantra, to elicit the support of the entire community of professional police agencies means that we’ve now got citizens who are playing out this policy choice, this set of politics. And that’s a big, big deal.”

Newsbusters’ Matthew Balan reports that when asked how this functions in practice, Muhammad responded “citizens feel that it’s okay to be afraid of potential black criminals or brown ones or Native American ones — they are not feeling like they’re going to be censured for that.”

Garcia-Navarro ended the interview with her slanted question about “black people in white spaces means there’s something criminal going on.” The guest replied with a racially-tinged summary of American history:

MUHAMMAD: Absolutely. What you’re describing there is the longest story of America — which is a story that essentially said that this is a white European’s country, and everyone else has to play by our rules — including when your presence is defined on very limited terms. And when you step out of that — which was the story that we know so well in the Jim Crow period — then you’re subject to all sorts of sanctions, including death by a lynch mob. And so what I’m trying to suggest here is that we’ve got to come up with some policies that raise the costs of bad behavior — of treating people differently than you would want to be treated. And that is a problem of white fear being weaponized; and that is a problem of police officers being a little too prickly when people are upset about having been judged harshly or inappropriately.

However, even though the professor claims these “white fear” events are innumerable (“We cannot keep up with the names or the footage itself of these instances”), he admits he doesn’t know if there’s actually been an increase in this “weaponization”; it may just be, in this age of social media, that there’s more of it being documented.

Read the full Newsbusters piece and NPR transcript.

MORE: Yale defends police who responded to call about black student

MORE: Teacher defends lesson which calls Donald Trump ‘racist,’ ‘sexist’

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