The Republican nominee promised yesterday to do more for African Americans than Hillary Clinton.
By Dwyer Gunn
Donald Trump speaks at a rally on October 26th, 2016, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo: Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
At a speech in Charlotte, North Carolina, last night, Donald Trump promised to do more for African Americans than Hillary Clinton. Trump’s plan, which he described as a “new deal for black America,” calls for “urban renewal” driven by larger federal investments in distressed, urban areas and tax breaks for businesses that invest in or relocate to “blighted American neighborhoods.” Trump also promised to reform banking laws to make it easier for African Americans to get loans, and vowed to restore law and order to black communities, which he described as “more dangerous than the war zones we’re reading about and seeing about every night.”
“I mean, you walk to the store to buy a loaf of bread, maybe with your child, and you get shot, your child gets shot,” Trump added.
Trump also argued that his immigration policy would benefit African Americans, saying that illegal immigration “violates the civil rights of African Americans,” and proclaiming that “[n]o group has been more economically harmed by decades of illegal immigration than low-income African-American workers.”
This isn’t the first time that the Trump campaign has argued the Democratic party, and Hillary Clinton in particular, has failed African Americans.
The timing of the speech isn’t mere serendipity: North Carolina, with a population that’s 22 percent African American, is a crucial battleground state, and current polls show Clinton and Trump in a dead heat. Recent weeks have seen Barack Obamacampaigning heavily there, paying particular focus to African-American voters. Michelle Obama will be campaigning with Clinton in the state today (the first time the two have campaigned together).
This isn’t the first time that the Trump campaign has argued the Democratic party, and Clinton in particular, has failed African Americans. At a speech in August, Trump accused Clinton of bigotry, saying that “[t]he Democratic Party has failed and betrayed the African-American community.” And while it is indeed an area where Clinton could be vulnerable — her support of the 1990s-era welfare reform and crime bill, as well as her infamous use of the term “super-predator,” emerged as contentious issues during the primaries—only 3 percent of African-American voters currently support Trump.
From an economic perspective, some of these are ideas are worth considering. Few, for example, would argue with the premise that at least some of America’s inner cities could use a big injection of public and private investment. In fact, in a report on racial equity published earlier this year, the progressive Roosevelt Institute called for a massive public infrastructure investment campaign in (both rural and urban) asset-poor communities. (Clinton’s anti-poverty plan would also direct federal investments to particularly poor communities, with “a special emphasis on minority communities that have been held back for too long by barriers of systemic racism.”)
But many of the assumptions underlying Trump’s speech, much like his proposals, rely on flawed thinking. For starters, not all African Americans live in the “inner city” — the majority of black Americans today live in suburbs, rural areas, or small towns, as Simone Sebastian explained recently in her article for the Washington Post. “Using ‘inner city’ as a stand-in for ‘black’ is even less accurate than using ‘suburban’ as a stand-in for ‘white,’” Sebastian wrote. “When Trump addresses black America by talking about urban centers, he overlooks the diversity of America’s black population and the unique issues that affect the millions who live in the rural South and the suburbs.”
Trump’s statement that black communities are crime-ridden, and facing their highest murder rates in 45 years, is also wildly inaccurate. And while America must address the troubling racial gaps in income, education, and wealth, it must also be noted that the vast majority of African Americans in this country are not poor. African Americans certainly deserve “a new deal,” but one that’s premised on an inaccurate and monolithic depiction of “black America” is unlikely to be a success.