I don’t think anyone expected a thoughtful, nuanced take on the racial issues that continues to plague American society to come from the Trump administration. Despite Trump’s claims that “MAGA loves the black people,” some of his most prominent cabinet members have denied that systemic racism within law enforcement even exists.
On Monday, when asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer if George Floyd would still be alive if he were white, Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said, “No, I don’t think he would. What I heard in that eight-and-a-half minute clip was someone who was a bully, who is abusing his position of authority and power in the law.” When Blitzer asked him if he felt systemic racism was a problem within law enforcement he said, “There are individuals who are racist, they’re a small number. I would suggest that a bigger problem that can be filtered and trained for is simply bullying.”
Over the weekend, multiple Trump administration officials expressed the view that systemic racism is not an issue for police forces. “I don’t think that the law enforcement system is systemically racist,” Attorney General William Barr said in an interview with CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday. Barr went on to roll out the “few bad apples” argument by saying “I think that there are instances of bad cops. And I think we have to be careful about automatically assuming that the actions of an individual necessarily mean that their organization is rotten. All organizations have people who engage in misconduct.”
Barr also expressed opposition to repealing qualified immunity, which exempts police officers from personal liability when using deadly force while on the job. “I don’t think you need to reduce immunity to go after the bad cops, because that would result, certainly in police pulling back,” Barr said. It’s unclear what he meant by “pulling back.”
Chad Wolf, the acting Homeland Security secretary went on ABC’s This Week and also minimized the idea that systemic racism exists within policing. “Painting law enforcement with a broad brush of systemic racism is really a disservice to the men and women who put on the badge, the uniform every day, risk their lives every day to protect the American people,” Wolf said.
Black people make up 13 percent of the country’s population yet comprise 23 percent of the people who are shot and killed by police each year. In Minneapolis, where George Floyd died at the hands of law enforcement, police are seven times more likely to use force against black people as compared to whites.
If there has been any constant to the last four years, it’s that the worldview of the Trump administration isn’t necessarily predicated on facts or statistics. According to them, millions of Americans have taken to the streets to protest the actions of a “few bad apples” and not a broken system in desperate need of reform. If there’s a message here, it’s that sweeping reform probably isn’t going to happen at the federal level under this current administration.