Contrary to recent headlines, Donald Trump isn’t reaching out to African-Americans. He isn’t even talking to us. He’s talking past us, and saying exactly what his alt-right base wants to hear him saying to black folks.
Donald Trump is telling African-Americans that our biggest problems are simply the result of listening to the wrong white people.
- As Isaiah Poole wrote in, “Donald Trump’s Most Racist Speech Ever,” Trump stood in front of an all-white audience in the 95-percent-white suburb of West Bend, Wis., called for “law and order,” and denounced the “war on police,” even as the death of another black man in a police-involved shooting caused unrest in Milwaukee, just 25 miles away. Trump feigned concern for African-Americans, and repeated well-worn Republican rhetoric, that African-Americans have been taken advantage of by Democrats.
- Speaking in Dimondale, Mich., the predominantly white suburb of Lansing, Trump again stood in from of an all-white room and pretended to be speaking to African-American voters. “You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58% of your youth is unemployed,” Trump said. “What the hell do you have to lose?”
- In an interview with Jean Pirro on Fox News — a network with an African-American viewership of 1 percent — Trump reiterated his Michigan remarks: “It’s just, like, a total catastrophe, the unemployment rates, everything is bad — no health care, no education, no anything, no anything. And poverty is unbelievable. Then, I said, ‘Hey, wait a minute, vote for me. What have you got to lose? You can’t do worse, you can’t do any worse than what these people have been doing and I will do better.’”
Most African-Americans will probably have the same response to the above as Hillary Clinton.
This is so ignorant it’s staggering. https://t.co/t2fZl9sqKs— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) August 19, 2016
First, Trump’s “outreach” is backhanded, at best. His words drip with a contempt that many African-Americans — and a lot of white Americans, for that matter — can’t help but pick up. It’s to be expected. He may claim to be “the least racist person on earth,” but Trump’s words and actions tell another story. Attacking Muslim Gold Star parents, to claiming a judge was biased because “he’s a Mexican,” to refusing to condemn the white supremacists who are campaigning for him, all suggest someone who has little but contempt for people of color. Trump’s own racism and discrimination against African-Americans is a matter of record, going back decades.
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That contempt is something that’s long been a part of Republican “outreach” to African-American voters. Mitt Romney was more subtle about it, when he spoke to the NAACP in 2012, and essentially told audience, “If you knew what’s good for you, you’d vote for me.” Trump is simply being more blunt is asking, “What do you have to lose?” We know the answer to that question already. That’s why polls show Trump is getting 1 percent of the African-American vote. In battleground states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, Trump’s getting 0 percent of the African-American vote.
Republicans have a long history of asking the wrong question when it comes to African-Americans. They ask, “Why aren’t more of them supporting us?”, instead of asking “How are we failing to address their concerns, so that more of them will want to support us?” The latter is the harder question, as answering it requires change on the part of the GOP. The answer to the former is easier: They don’t know what’s good for them. It let’s conservatives off the hook, and puts the onus on African-Americans for being too dumb to know what’s good for us, and thus mindlessly voting for Democrats. The contempt plainly flows from there.
The racist contempt in Trump’s words to African-Americans is reflected within his own campaign. Trump’s paid campaign staffers have expressed racially charged views on their social media accounts, according to an Associated Press review of their postings. Trump’s hiring of Breitbart’s Stephen Bannon only makes official what was already clear from his re-tweets of white supremacist and white nationalist propaganda, and his reluctance to denounce white supremacists who’ve endorsed and funded robocalls for him. Trump’s campaign is now fully aligned with white supremacists.
That’s who Trump was really talking to, under the guise of addressing African-Americans. He’s not really talking to us, and he most likely knows it. Trump claims that, if elected, he’ll get 95 percent of the African-American vote when he seeks reelection. Trump may have convinced himself of this, but even running mate Indiana governor Mike Pence couldn’t keep a straight face when he heard it. If Trump really wanted to reach out to African-Americans, he’d go to where we are and talked directly to us. More importantly, if he really wanted African-American support, he’d listen.
Donald Trump is no more interested in really listening to African-American voters than he is in talking to us. His “outreach” allows him to at least say that he reached out to black voters, but signal to his “white right” base where he really stands, while possibly convince a few more white, college educated voters that they aren’t really backing a racist if they vote for him.