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Donald Trump's Specific Racism Resurfaces as He Courts Black Voters

Donald Trump's Specific Racism Resurfaces as He Courts Black Voters


Former President Donald Trump headed into Michigan's Republican primary after openly reaching out to black voters. Not just any black voters, not the liberal electorate in Detroit or the residents of Flint, but the conservative voters in South Carolina. He did so during a speech Friday evening at the Black Conservative Federation gala in Columbia. Trump took the stage to his usual soundtrack of Lee Greenwood singing God Bless the USA. Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-Texas), one of several black men waiting to greet him, including Ben Carson and Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Florida), sang and banged the air to emphasize how how proud he was to be an American.

Most of those in attendance were dressed in formal attire, but Trump arrived in a dark suit with his bright red tie hanging under his belt. Much of what Trump talked about was familiar, like his insistence that he won an election he lost. Some of them were unfounded, like calling President Biden a racist. And much of it was simply a matter of Trump courting a black electorate while making clear the prism through which he viewed black people in general and their place in the social hierarchy. Trump's public exhortations toward black men and women reflect a sensibility somewhere between Jim Crow and late '80s rap.

Trump says black voters like him more because of his indictments and photo ID

Trump began his meandering speech with a familiarity that belied his rapport with the majority of black voters. Although his share of the black vote increased from 8% in 2016 to 12% in 2020 thanks to certain measures, he did not earn the right to speak as if he were family. He laughed about how the spotlight was in his eyes and he could only see the black people in the audience. He joked about Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth and who had hit the most home runs, and when the black men on stage told him that Bonds held the record, Trump acquiesced, but added: Tonight I'm with Barry. I'm with Barry. In front of another group, I may be with the Baby. Coming from another commenter whose relationship with black Americans was less transactional, less condescending, more respectful, and more truthful, these comments might have hummed with their “just us” humor.

But Trump has stubbornly placed black Americans in the category of you. According to Trump, this group of loyal Americans is reduced to the criminals and criminalized who, according to Trump, now find common cause with him because he has been indicted on criminal charges and has been found liable on civil charges. And now that Trump believes he has been wrongly accused of a multitude of crimes, he is deploying his grievances of shared commiseration. He ignores his own recent history. He has been at the forefront of unwarranted accusations in the service of his presidential ambition, most notably in Michigan, where he singled out election workers in Wayne County, which has the state's largest black population, and said they were tampering with votes.

Republican Byron Donalds is black. That's basically the point of discussion.

Trump sees you as shady characters, people who live their lives constantly entangled with police, the justice system, or gangster mythology. Black people, he says, love his mugshot, the one taken in Fulton County, Ga., when he was indicted on racketeering charges. According to Trump, they love this mugshot like it's a brand new health care plan, a road map for criminal justice reform, or a gift certificate for affordable, high-quality child care services.

In his telling of the facts, black people are residents of inner cities, a description that is meant to evoke images of crowded skyscrapers marked with graffiti and smelling of human waste, not skyscrapers of shiny glass and chrome which also exist in the towns where he lives. likes to ridicule the cities of Chicago and New York where he happily puts his name on the buildings in big shiny letters. In his speech to black conservatives, Trump gave no indication that he considers them to be well-educated, that they may be suburbanites, small-towners, or middle-class professionals living in urban bungalows . If he views their achievements, it is in the context of how these accolades benefit him. He noted that Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) gave a compelling speech earlier in the evening. He's better for me than he is for himself, Trump said. So Scott is a good person.

And by good, Trump means that Scott, the recently engaged former presidential candidate who wears his Christianity like a merit badge, compliments Trump exuberantly. He raves about Trump with the opacity and vagueness of someone who has looked directly into the blinding sun of ambition and tries to convince people that he can still see clearly and precisely. The truth floats around him like afterimages, dark spots that appear and blur.

For Trump, black people are workers. Whether they are lazy or capable, they are not his associates. Their presence serves a purpose. They are presented as stunning examples of excellence for choosing to support Trump, tearful and grateful beneficiaries of presidential largesse or pure entertainment from Trump.

But they never surpass Trump nor are they his equals. Trump acknowledged the presence of Carson, who for a brief period during the 2016 Republican primary season was a leading contender for president. But Carson is a good black man because even when he was leading, Carson confided that he believed Trump was ordained by God to win. This is the story Trump told. Among all of Carson's accomplishments, Trump remembers the famous surgeon's willingness to cede the spotlight to him.

In Trump's depiction of the world, everyone is working to make sure that he is not at the bottom of the ladder, that his back is not the back that everyone else stands on. Immigrants crossing the southern border, illegally or desperately, have not made it through the ladder at all. Blacks occupy one of the lowest rungs. Trump will reach out to black men and women who understand this. He promises to raise them. His political power can commute their sentences, lower their taxes and fuel their ambitions.

As long as people remember their place. And Trump makes it clear that this place is far from where he stands comfortably and disdainfully.




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