Of all the delusional claims President Donald Trump has made about his achievements, none may be more galling right now than his declaration in a tweet last week that he has “done more for the Black Community than any President since Abraham Lincoln.” Not only does that stunning claim ignore Lyndon Johnson’s passage of the Civil Rights Act, Harry Truman’s desegregation of the military, Barack Obama’s breaking of the presidential color barrier and more — it also ignores the racial damage Trump himself has done, and continues to do, in his politics and his policies.
Trump’s deep racist roots before becoming president include a real estate career steeped in redlining, a campaign to see the Central Park Five executed even after they were exonerated and, of course, his leading role in promoting the malignant lie that Obama was born in Kenya. In office, Trump has consistently wooed the worst elements of white nationalism and white supremacy. The most infamous example was his 2017 declaration that there were “good people” on both sides of dueling protests in Charlottesville, Va., even though one side was composed of neo-Nazis and their ilk.
Trump has also suggested that four black or brown congresswomen should “go back” to their home countries. He has attacked NFL players who knelt in protest against racism. During the nationwide protests this month over George Floyd’s death, Trump has repeatedly employed the Nixonian racial dog whistles of “silent majority!” and “law & order!” without even attempting to work toward racial healing. That healing would have been easier with Ferguson-style federal consent decrees to prod police departments toward reform, but the Trump administration made a deliberate decision two years ago to curtail the use of such agreements.
Trump’s repeated claim of having done so much for African Americans is based almost entirely on the declining unemployment rates of the pre-pandemic economy — a trend he inherited from the American-born Obama. Trump’s main economic initiative, a fat tax cut, served mostly to enrich the rich while exploding the deficit. Trump and other Republicans subsequently suggested that debt would necessitate cutting safety-net programs that serve the poor, a group that includes an outsize portion of black America.
Poor minorities will be among those hurt the worst if Trump is successful in his ongoing campaign to destroy the Affordable Care Act. Even Trump’s bizarre tweet last week claiming to have so helped “the Black Community” included, as proof, his support for “School Choice” — a movement that hurts public schools and disproportionately hurts African American children. The urban centers Trump has denigrated throughout his presidency have some of the highest minority population rates in the country.
Even measuring by the low bar most U.S. presidents have set, Trump has been anything but helpful in aiding black America. It would be more accurate to say he has had his knee on its neck.
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