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How is this for stark juxtaposition? As the president of the United States was reportedly demonstrating his racist leanings, Southern states were banding together to promote the U.S. Civil Rights Trail.

Announcement of the tourism initiative came as part of the celebration of the Martin Luther King holiday. The trail will include about 130 sites linked to the modern civil rights movements, including the Memphis motel where King was assassinated 50 years ago this year.

MLK Day marks the birth, not the death, of the civil rights leader. Importantly, this is the first year the day, a federal holiday, was a stand-alone tribute to King in Arkansas. In the state's recent past, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was simultaneously recognized by a state holiday.

It took years of trying, but Gov. Asa Hutchinson succeeded last year in getting the Legislature to separate the two.

Arkansas, like some other Southern states, has actually been promoting civil rights tourism for years. Most notable among state sites is, of course, Little Rock Central High School, famously desegregated in 1957 over another governor's objections.

Other sites in central Arkansas and many more across 14 states are cited on this new U.S. Civil Rights Trail, ranging from the Alabama statehouse where the Confederacy was born to places like Selma where "Bloody Sunday" took place.

A new website,, identifies destinations important to the movement under a banner, "What happened here changed the world."

That's an understatement. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to have changed President Trump or perhaps the base of voters he believes supports him still.

Last week's outrage came in a meeting between Trump and a handful of U.S. senators and others over immigration policy.

The senators reported different stories from the meeting, leaving the rest of us to decide whom to believe.

Given Trump's propensity for racist statements, frequently displayed in his campaign and his short tenure as president, the more believable account eventually came from Sen. Dick Durbin.

The Illinois Democrat laid it all out for the public, asserting that Trump had used vulgar language to describe Africa and disparaged Haitians as the president proclaimed a preference for immigrants from Norway.

A couple of others at the meeting, including Arkansas' Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican, disputed the crude language.

If you didn't get anything else from the heated conversation being reported out of the White House, you had to hear Trump's stated preference for white over black immigrants.

This was hardly the first such revelation from this president.

He questioned the validity of President Barack Obama's birth certificate. He accused Mexico of sending rapists and criminals to the U.S. He tried to ban Muslims from entering the country. And, of course, he stood up for "some very fine people on both sides" at the march of neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan supporters in Charlottesville, Va., that ended in violence.

Still, the president declares, "I am not a racist."

He also dutifully marked MLK Day on Monday, reading a proclamation that sounded rather hollow against the backdrop of the immigration controversy.

Perhaps he should travel the Civil Rights Trail and ponder how much King and others in the movement in their time and place sacrificed to change this world the president sees in black or white.

Commentary on 01/17/2018

Print Headline: This week's outrage

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