After Tuesday’s State of the Union speech and the abundance of accolades presented by President Donald Trump about the Black community, anyone unfamiliar with this relationship might assume things are good. After all, according to Trump, the Black unemployment rate is at its lowest ever including that for Black youth, HBCU’s are at their strongest and his administration is directly responsible for uplifting the economic ills of many urban neighborhoods.
Trump, as proven by the allegations that brought upon the impeachment, is not someone who does something for nothing, which makes sense when framed in the context of The New York Times report that the President “has professed bafflement that his numbers with Black voters are not higher, telling allies he assumed he would fare better because the economy is doing well and unemployment among African-Americans has dropped.”
After all, during a 2016 campaign stop in Dimondale, Mich., Trump asked a direct question to Black voters: “What do you have to lose?”
Since that moment, Black voters have been very clear that their vote is not up for sale. Trump only got 8 percent of the Black vote in 2016. A nationwide Washington Post/Ipsos poll of African Americans released in January shows that about 8 in 10 Blacks believe he is racist and 9 in 10 disapprove of his job performance. Still, Trump remains confused as to why he isn’t garnering more support in the Black community.
To compete for Black votes, which will likely still overwhelmingly go to the Democratic party in 2020, the Trump campaign launched a new outreach initiative in Atlanta in November making his case by offering vague, self-praise about his accomplishments citing tough reinforcements against illegal immigration and criminal justice reform.
“We’re thriving like never before and ladies and gentlemen of the African American community, I just want to tell you very, very strongly the best is yet to come,” the President said to the cheers of a room filled with MAGA hat wearers.
In his most recent effort, Trump ran a Super Bowl ad on Sunday about his prison reform efforts by touting his role in the release of Alice Johnson, who had served 21 years of a life sentence after being convicted of conspiracy to possess cocaine. Johnson, however, was granted clemency only after Kim Kardashian West enlisted the help of attorneys from the Buried Alive Project, an organization dedicated to overturning unfair federal life sentences for drug possession. Trump later signed the First Step Act in 2018, aimed at criminal justice reform, but its success has been scrutinized by critics.
Cornell Belcher, an African American pollster who worked on former President Barack Obama’s campaign team remarked that Trump’s campaign efforts to gain Black support actually ignore a more complicated history.
“It’s almost as if they think we’re all kin to each other,” he told the Times. Noting that the First Step Act “does not erase this man’s record of just absolute, over-the-top racist rhetoric and policies that frankly hurt African-American communities.”
In the more broad spectrum, there are several good reasons for Blacks to mistrust this President. Reaching back to 1989, long before he even considered a White House run, Trump took out a full-page ad in The New York Times essentially calling for the death penalty for the Central Park Five, the group of Black and Latino youths who were wrongly convicted of the brutal assault of a white woman jogger in New York City. As recently as last year, Trump refused to walk back from his position on the case.
More recently, Trump maintained in the aftermath of a deadly, 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. that there was “blame on both sides,” angering many who were appalled at the violence that took place.
That same year, he threatened to send federal intervention into Chicago to address the city’s violent crime rate. “If Chicago doesn't fix the horrible ‘carnage’ going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!” he tweeted.
Trump also consistently bashed NFL players who followed former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s lead in kneeling in protest during the national anthem before games. He even went as far as saying at a Huntsville, Ala., rally: "...wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when someone disrespects our flag to say, 'get that son of a b***h off the field right now. Out. He's fired. He's fired."
All these things loudly answer the question of why Blacks aren’t turning in droves to support the President. Jovan Brown, a 21-year-old voter who says he’ll support Sen. Bernie Sanders, told the Associated Press that Trump’s State of the Union speech, where he bragged about low African American unemployment essentially used “Black people as a prop.”
“I don’t know too many black people who care for Donald Trump,” Brown said. “I’m sure he has Black friends, but he’s not a supporter of our community.”
(Photo by: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)