Donald Trump's presidential campaign began — within the first five minutes — with his accusing immigrants from Mexico of being criminals. Not all of them, mind you; some of them, he assumed, were good people. Some. A few.

This ended up being a prominent theme in his presidency, painting immigrants as criminals with a broad brush, such as when he travelled to Long Island to position the violence perpetrated by the MS-13 gang as an unavoidable result of immigrants entering the country illegally.

A few months into his campaign, Trump shared an image on Twitter that suggested that the vast majority of killings of white people in the United States were committed by black people. This isn't at all true.

Most white people are killed by white people. But Trump never apologised or corrected the tweet, instead quietly deleting it. The same theme cropped up repeatedly afterward, including his constant tying together of black Americans, inner cities and violent crime.

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A month after that tweet, Trump declared that the US should disallow entry to anyone who is Muslim. No other caveats or subcategories were identified, just "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States", full stop.

Once in office, this became his ban on immigration from Muslim-majority nations, a ban that multiple courts understood as nothing more sophisticated than what he'd proposed in December 2015.

Nearly every time a Muslim is accused of terrorism, Trump seizes on it as a way to link Muslims to terrorism.

All of that context — that Hispanics, Muslims and black Americans are dangerous — is worth considering in light of the comments that have trickled out of the White House over the past few weeks.

Yesterday Trump angrily lamented "having all these people from shithole countries come here". Those countries were ones like Haiti or African nations — not like Norway.

Trump sees immigrants as belonging to one of two categories, good or bad — and the bad immigrants are often the ones who aren't coming from Europe.

The New York Times reported that during a meeting in June, Trump allegedly referred to Afghanistan as a terrorist haven, described residents of Haiti as all "hav[ing] Aids" and migrants from Nigeria as being unlikely to "go back to their huts" once they came to the US.

The White House denied that Trump made those comments. The White House did not deny that Trump made the "shithole" comment.

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We dance around the word "racist" a lot, because calling someone a racist is a heavy charge that's often nearly impossible to prove. New York radio host Jay Smooth once drew an important distinction that's worth remembering.

Instead of saying someone is racist, it's more useful to point out that the things they said are racist, because that is both more defensible objectively and less likely to seem like an ad hominem attack.

So: Saying that Haiti and African countries are shitholes, unlike Norway, and claiming that Nigerians live in huts and that Haitians have Aids and that Afghans are terrorists — and, for that matter, that Mexican immigrants are criminals and that black Americans live in the crime-ridden inner cities and that Muslims are too dangerous to allow into the country? Those are racist statements.

Americans, perhaps unfamiliar with Smooth's distinction, are generally willing to ascribe racial bias to the President. Half the country thinks he's biased against black people, according to a November poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News.

A Quinnipiac poll last month found that 57 per cent of Americans think Trump doesn't respect people of colour as much as he respects white people — a finding that's certainly bolstered by yesterday's comments.

Racial tension is why Trump is President. Analysis of the general election found a key reason that less-educated Americans were more likely to support his candidacy was racial attitudes.

Often, successful presidential candidates shed their campaign-trail rhetoric in search of a message that can be used to unify the American people behind the presidency.

Trump has never made any effort to do so. He has the same attitudes now as he did on the campaign trail, clearly, and those attitudes seem to be that blacks, Hispanics and Muslims are dangerous or otherwise undesirable.

Call that what you will.