(CNN)As American institutions remove symbols or names tied to racist ideology, they have found a consistent opponent in President Donald Trump.
From Confederate statues to airports named for a movie star who once said he believed in white supremacy, the President has decried steps that would strip racists of their monuments and memorials — siding instead with those who would keep the honors intact.
It’s a stance increasingly out of step with public opinion and with the direction taken by other onetime bastions of white conservative culture, such as NASCAR. As the country engages in a renewed reckoning about race and history, aides have said Trump’s defiance on the issue reflects his adamance that “heritage” and “history” are winning sentiments for the voters who propelled him to the White House and who he believes will grant him a second term.
Yet Trump’s own actions have muddled the idea that his motives are purely about preserving American history. As he denounces the changes to racist monuments, Trump voiced encouragement — inadvertently, according to aides — to a group of his supporters, one of whom shouted, “White power.”
And he promoted a video of a White couple brandishing weapons as peaceful Black protesters marched past their ornate mansion, images that underscored an ongoing racial divide.
Aides and people around him have denounced everything from the removal of “Gone with the Wind” — one of Trump’s favorite movies — to the rebranding of Aunt Jemima pancake syrup, discounting stereotypes that have long been called racist.Combined with his efforts to protect federal monuments, Trump’s continued reliance on racist rhetoric and tropes has only exacerbated racial tensions that have been escalating after the police killing of George Floyd on May 25, an event that prompted protests and a new reckoning on racist symbols in America.