In 1963, former President John F. Kennedy introduced the Civil Rights Act, which outlawed segregation of race, color and other “discriminating” factors in the United States. The act changed the political and social layout of the American sociosphere while also setting a precedent for how a president should act in the face of societal malcontent within the country. Fifty-four years and 10 presidents later, we have reached a predicament in American culture where our president has become the antithesis of all the revolutionary fundamentals laid out by Kennedy and his contemporaries.
On Monday, Nov. 27, during a ceremony in honor of the Navajo Code Talkers of World War II at the White House, President Donald Trump took a moment to bash Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has had a questionable past with her lineage. In a statement to the Navajo veterans in attendance, Trump commented, “You were here long before any of us were here, although, we have a representative in Congress who has been here a long time…longer than you — they call her Pocahontas.” Trump has had a longstanding history with poking fun at Warren by referring to her as “Pocahontas,” which has caused critics to call him out as racist toward not only Warren but also Native American individuals.
And while this history of Trump labeling Warren as “Pocahontas” certainly crosses the line of how a president ought to address his own senators, the setting of this particular incident makes it all the more cringeworthy. Referring to one of the most well-known Native American figures in history while surrounded by numerous Native American individuals is definitely risky, especially when you’re comparing this figure to a senator that you have a historically poor relationship with. Unless you’ve neglected to pay attention to the news since Trump was elected, it’s crystal clear that Trump’s relationship with Warren has been anything but positive so far. Thus, by making this connection between Warren and Pocahontas in front of Native American individuals, Trump is clearly shedding an unfavorable light on the Native American population, especially in their eyes. Expressing an unpleasant opinion of Warren, Pocahontas and Native Americans as a whole is one thing, but to do so in front of a room full of Native American individuals only amplifies the matter.
This particular incident highlights an increasingly prevalent issue in Trump’s presidency: his inability to sense his surroundings and refrain from insulting the audiences of his speeches and tweets. It’s human to slip up once or twice and accidentally insult someone in your presence if you’re not thinking straight. But if you’re the president of the U.S. and you’re consistently insulting different races, genders and sexualities, then it becomes less of a mistake and more of a malicious attack. In the remaining three years of his presidency, Trump ought to find better techniques for communicating with the various demographics within his country before he loses all the remaining support he has.