The first Martin Luther King Jr. holiday of Donald Trump’s presidency is taking place amid a racial firestorm of Trump’s own making.
In the same week that he honored King by making a national park out of the ground where King was born and preached until his death, Trump denigrated practically the entire African diaspora, and left many Americans headed into the civil rights icon’s birthday convinced that the leader of their country is a racist.
For African-Americans in particular, this latest insult from Trump felt like whiplash. Barely a year ago, America’s first black president, Barack Obama, marked his final King Day in office with his usual community service; now, his successor is presiding over a racial backlash the country has hardly seen in more than a generation.
Trump has denied being racist, labeling himself the “least racist person there is” during his 2016 campaign. Some of his actions leading up to this year’s federal holiday honoring King’s birth seemed to be an attempt to live up to that.
He began last week by designating the historic site around King’s Atlanta birth home as a national park. By week’s end, Trump was signing a King holiday proclamation with the martyred activist’s nephew at his side.
But in between, the president sat in a White House meeting on immigration policy and denigrated much of the African diaspora as…