On Friday (Saturday AEST) Trump held a press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House. The only thing anyone in the country was talking about was Floyd’s death and the ensuing protests. But Trump was more focussed on shifting blame for his coronavirus response by announcing he would withdraw the US from the World Health Organisation. He didn’t mention Floyd or the protests at all.
At a White House event a few hours later, he got the tone right. “I understand the hurt, I understand the pain,” he said. But within hours he was back on Twitter, promoting partisan and divisive messages such as: “In Democrat cities you can get arrested for opening a business, but not for looting one.”
Joe Biden provided a vivid contrast by delivering a sombre message from his home in Delaware. “The original sin of this country still stains our nation today, and sometimes we manage to overlook it,” the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said.
“We just push forward with the thousand other tasks in our daily life, but it’s always there, and weeks like this, we see it plainly that we’re a country with an open wound. None of us can turn away. None of us can be silent.”
Former president Barack Obama released a statement urging white Americans to remember that “for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully, maddeningly ‘normal’ – whether it’s while dealing with the healthcare system, or interacting with the criminal justice system, or jogging down the street, or just watching birds in a park.”
The protests show no sign of abating; instead they are spreading throughout the country. Americans badly need steady and unifying leadership in this dangerous moment, but they’re not getting it from the Trump White House.
Matthew Knott is North America correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.