That group of people is white farmers in South Africa.
This is the first time as President that Trump tweeted his concern about Africa — Twitter is our window into his brain, remember — and it was to let the world know that after a Fox News report he was directing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to study and monitor the treatment of those white farmers in South Africa.
Some people who might share his concern are US voters who still think Trump was unfairly criticized for his openness to white supremacists marching on Charlottesville, or his closure of US borders to refugees from mostly non-white countries he’s referred to as shitholes?
Don’t misunderstand; this tweet does not seem like an intentional plea for votes. But it is certainly another glaring example of Trump being very literally and specifically concerned about white people.
And those concerns are an important part of his political power.
Here’s Trump’s full Thursday tweet on Africa.
“I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers. “South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers.” @TuckerCarlson @FoxNews”
He actually posted it twice, the second time to correct Pompeo’s official Twitter handle.
(Note: Trump did tweet once before as President about Africa, just after he referred in private meeting to refugees from sh**hole countries, to say he was “Honored to host a luncheon for African leaders this afternoon. Great discussions on the challenges & opportunities facing our nations today.”)
Which isn’t to say any killing of of any farmer in South Africa is OK. It’s not. And it’s not to say white farmers in South Africa don’t have a legitimate gripe about government plans to expropriate land in order to put more in the hands of black South Africans. They may. That’s an extremely complicated issue that builds on generations of racial and economic injustice and inequality and South Africa’s attempts to deal with continuing problems in the 24 years since the end of Apartheid.
Of all the many, many things that a president deals with on a given day, this is one that Trump chose to tweet about.
Of all the possible injustices on the continent of Africa, the one the US President has chosen to seize on is the plight of white farmers who own the vast majority of fertile land in the country.
Before he was President, in 2015, Trump did embark on a bona fide days-long tweetstorm about his fear of an Ebola outbreak in West Africa. He wanted the US to ban all flights to the US from West Africa and he was extremely critical of the Obama administration after a doctor who contracted the disease (and survived) traveled to Trump’s hometown of New York City.
Here’s a selection of his tweets from that time period:
“Looks like Obama will not stop the very potentially dangerous flights to and from West Africa. What the hell is wrong with this guy?”
“Despite the ever increasing Ebola disaster, Obama refuses to stop flights from West Africa.It’s almost like he’s saying F-you to U.S. public.”
Now with only black Africans endangered by the disease, Trump is silent.
In all likelihood, Trump was simply watching Tucker Carlson’s show and saw the report criticizing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for not trying to influence South Africa’s ongoing land debate. The President probably won’t make South Africa a US election issue, but his tweet shows that a Fox News report that criticizes the State Department can catch the eye of the President and influence US policy.
None of this should be surprising.
His concern for white farmers in South Africa is yet another example of Trump’s version of identity politics.