Even those just now taking their first steps into Racism 101 can see the blatant prejudice and systemic racism dripping from Donald Trump’s lips these days, but for those who still can’t see it, perhaps a 1973 lawsuit brought against Trump Management by the Department of Justice (DOJ) will help bring it out into the light for you. Trump was acting president of the company at the time.
According to the Oct. 15, 1973 lawsuit, the Trump real estate empire “allegedly” marked housing applications by people of color, especially black people, in Brooklyn, Queens, as well as Norfolk, Virginia, as “C” for “Colored, ” and the practice stemmed from direct orders given by both Fred and Donald Trump down through their staffers. Marking “C” on an application was code for “UNDESIRABLE,” resulting in the application’s direct placement in the nearest trash bin. Those orders and their subsequent practice were direct violations of the Fair Housing Act (FHA).
It’s that old racist trick you heard about from the 60s where black folks were turned away for housing that had allegedly become filled, but white folks were quickly shown the “filled” vacancies the very next day. The “least racist person on Earth” did that, as did his father, as far as the Justice Department and several Trump staff members are concerned. His company practiced that on the regular, according to employees such as superintendent Thomas Miranda, and such actions by Trump Management were all noted in the suit by the Department of Justice.
To pull the discrimination off under the radar of the FHA, Trump told superintendents to attach a separate piece of paper bearing the code, or letter “C.” Other Trump-owned and run buildings, like the Briarwick, used the same process, but different codes, such as the number “9,” as alleged by the superintendents of those corresponding buildings.
Providing very little shock to modern readers’ systems, the Trumps responded with outright denial, counter-allegations and juvenile, hyperbolic bravado.
“We have never discriminated and we never would,” Trump said, adding, “There have been a number of local actions against us and we’ve won them all.”
The Trumps counter-sued for $100 million, utilizing their “connected” lawyer Roy Cohn in the matter – a man of matching ego and arrogance to the Trumps, who quickly pounced by letting his audacious mouth serve as a distraction for his clients’ misdeeds by referring to prosecutor Elyse Goldweber as a “hot-tempered white female” in a letter he’d written to her.
Sound like something Trump would say?
Cohn also called the suit “Gestapo-like” and claimed Trump Management was being forced to rent to “welfare” tenants who couldn’t afford Trump’s buildings. Ironic, considering Trump is now being called a modern-day fascist and elicits comparisons to Adolf Hitler.
Suddenly, Miranda, who had told the Justice Department that he was reluctant to speak out against Trump because “he was afraid that the Trumps would have him ‘knocked off,’” flip-flopped, claiming he never said a word about the illicit, racist coding system used by the Trumps that Miranda, himself, helped bring attention to in the first place. Suddenly he was a “busy man” who wanted nothing to do with the case.
Miranda had also been reluctant to disclose to Trump that he was Puerto Rican because he believed Trump would not have wanted a Puerto Rican living, or even working, in his building.
Flip-flop or not, Miranda’s statements all remain on record, just like his statement indicating that Trump had only begrudgingly allowed an Indian man to live in one of his buildings after stating that his connections to the United Nations “might cause an unnecessary confrontation” for the Trumps.
Trump made it clear Trump Management only wished to rent to white people, with exceptions for “Jews and executives.” It also helped the Justice Department’s case that Miranda was not the only superintendent or Trump staffer who had come forward.
According to the suit, Trump Management used every trick it could come up with to avoid renting to people of color, from lying about the rates; to signed checks and leases to show disappointed would-be residents; to innumerable excuses; to flat-out denial and refusal sans explanation. One assistant to a Trump building super backed up her boss when she said she was told, “Trump Management tries not to rent to black persons.”
Additionally, the Justice Department claims former Trump rental agent Donald Herman said he’d been informed “that Trump Management believes that Jewish tenants are the best tenants.” Herman also acknowledged awareness of the “C” for “Colored” code.
Rental agent Allan Gross claimed he was aware of the “UNDESIRABLE” code, as well. Yet another rental agent at Tysens Park Apartments said Fred Trump ordered him, himself, not to rent to black people. He said Fred wanted to “decrease the number of black tenants already residing at Tysens Park by encouraging black tenants to locate housing elsewhere.”
The Justice Department’s lawsuit lists over half a dozen examples of blatant discrimination in its case, and likely could have added more. Several of the cases were actually sting operations involving the New York Urban League, which thereby proved the prosecution’s case.
Trump Management eventually settled the lawsuit in 1975, emphasizing at the time that the settlement did not “constitute an admission of wrongdoing.”
The Trump counter-suit was formally denied the year before on Feb. 5, 1974. Trump’s racism and dubious practices, however, continued to live on, and judging by his recent rhetoric on the campaign trail, still do.
Featured image by Gage Skidmore via WikiMedia.