Only a decade after George Wallace stood in a schoolhouse door to prevent black students from entering, some of his supporters participated in the Conservative Political Action Conference. It’s fitting that today, CPAC exists to support President Donald Trump, a genuinely racist president—and one who, when he addressed CPAC on Friday, proposed a militarization of American schools that will disproportionately harm black students.
Trump received thunderous applause and repeated standing ovations. He returned to his greatest hits, including reliving his electoral college victory, promising to build a wall and calling the media “horrible people.” He also read a xenophobic poem that was a staple of his 2016 campaign, in which he refers to immigrants, especially Muslims, as vicious snakes who will inevitably turn on their protector.
Trump’s most significant new proposal, which he has rolled out in the days since a school shooter in Parkland killed 17 people, is to allow teachers to carry concealed weapons and to add surveillance and metal detectors to more schools. “Why do we protect our airports, banks, government buildings, but not our schools?” Trump said. If Parkland had adopted his proposal to arm educators, he continued, “a teacher would’ve shot the hell out him.”
The proposal to arm teachers is almost too outlandish to justify countering with data. But all the available evidence already shows there is widespread racism in school discipline even account for the same offenses. More generally, militarization of the police going back to the 1960s has always been about enforcing punishment on black communities, even when carried out under ostensibly liberal pretexts. There’s no reason to believe militarization of schools would be any different.
Trump’s speech was the climax of a CPAC defined by seething, spastic vitriol from nearly every featured speaker. National Rifle Association spokesperson Dana Loesch declared “many in the legacy media love mass shootings.” Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president and CEO of the NRA, claimed Democrats were conspiring to “eradicate all individual freedoms.” Ben Shapiro, the right-wing polemicist who recently received a glowing profile in The New York Times, repeated his familiar anti-transgender bigotry, to the delight of the audience. The anger was even more pronounced in the wake of the Parkland shooting, which was referenced regularly over the course of the conference.