Donald Trump said he has done more for black people than Abraham Lincoln. Since it’s likely Trump doesn’t know what Lincoln did–or may think he made logs, it’s difficult to blame him for making this claim. But when reporters have asked Trump to explain how he has helped black people, he cites the unemployment rate. His response provides insight into his limited knowledge of the black experience in America.
Trump doesn’t know how to improve education, healthcare, diversity, housing, or college affordability. He has no experience or curiosity. He doesn’t read or learn, and he surrounds himself with equally incompetent people, so it’s no surprise that he always defaults to something as simple as an employment statistic. And, of course, in part due to his inexcusable failure to responsibly prepare for and respond to the coronavirus, black unemployment is now at the highest level since the Great Depression. There goes that talking point.
An examination of Trump’s record reveals that his policies have significantly harmed the black community.
Trump exacerbated the problems within our criminal justice system by weakening and overturning protections that President Obama implemented. Trump reduced police accountability and federal oversight aimed at rebuilding trust between community members and police, and advocated for police brutality.
Trump has inflamed race relations. Instead of engaging in meaningful conversations to advance causes that matter to the black community and acting as a bridge to find common ground, Trump stokes tension and further divides people. His unconstitutional clearing of peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park with batons, tear gas, and rubber bullets will be featured prominently in history books as a grotesque abuse of power.
Trump developed policies that discriminate against defendants and inmates. He removed protections for lower-income people that aimed to prevent them from unfair legal fees and cut funding for halfway houses that reduce crime and help inmates successfully return to society. Trump bragged about criminal justice reform, but he undermined bipartisan legislation with policies that increase prison sentences.
Trump advocated for more severe sentences for non-violent drug offenses. He increased the ability of prosecutors to pursue severe sentences for drug possession.
Trump defended white supremacists and refused to denounce the KKK. He continues to advocate for confederate statues without showing any sensitivity to how they offend people. Trump said there were “very fine people” on both sides at a white supremacist march.
Trump’s incompetence handling the coronavirus disproportionately impacted black communities. Black people are contracting the disease and dying at much higher rates, in part because of institutional racism in the health care system and housing discrimination.
Trump doesn’t want black people to vote since they overwhelmingly don’t support him. To achieve this goal, he has taken steps to suppress the vote by unnecessarily strengthening voter ID requirements, and falsely suggesting there’s widespread mail-in ballot voter fraud. His efforts at voter suppression aim to marginalize the black community further since they’re more likely to have alternate forms of ID, and lines tend to be longer in more densely populated areas where more black people reside.
Trump’s reckless tax cuts for the wealthy disproportionately disadvantage black people. His tax policies further widen the economic divide between white and black America.
Trump failed to address housing and urban development effectively. He appointed Ben Carson to lead HUD. Before he accepted the job, Carson said he could never do it because he didn’t know anything about housing, and he wasn’t qualified. If Trump cared about black people, he would have appointed an expert in the field.
Trump has used Betsy DeVos to siphon federal funding away from public schools–overwhelmingly attended by black students–to private, religious schools, which are dominated by white, affluent students. Devos has also cut funding for loan forgiveness, after-school programs, and Title I schools that overwhelmingly serve black students.
Trump rolled back President Obama’s policies aimed at protecting black students from discrimination in school punishment. The guidance provided research-based steps to reduce racial bias and prevent black students from being punished more severely.
Trump’s catastrophic environmental policies and anti-climate science agenda have significantly harmed black people. His anti-environmental measures have disproportionately impacted black communities. Black people are more likely to live near toxic coal plants and breath in toxic air. Hurricanes and other storms disproportionately affect black people as they are less likely to have the means to evacuate and live in less stable housing. Trump has deregulated the world’s worst polluters and failed to address the existential climate threat by appointing political hacks to head the EPA.
Trump has always made it clear that black lives don’t matter to him. The Justice Department caught him discriminating against black people in the 1970’s by denying them housing. The Central Park Five case spotlighted his racism as he advocated for executing five innocent men. He carried the torch for the racist birther movement. He described black communities as “crime-ridden, rat-infested, filthy places” where “people live in hell” and stated, “no human being would want to live there.” And he has openly disparaged the Black Lives Matter movement.
Before the pandemic, Trump merely continued the downward unemployment trajectory that President Obama started in 2010. Trump did it, however, by running up trillion-dollar annual budget deficits and taking shortcuts by deregulating industries at the expense of people, animals, and the planet. This chart shows the trend. Nothing impressive. President Obama’s employment record required significantly more business and political acumen and deal-making, given that he inherited the Great Recession from George Bush. And he did it much more responsibly.
The only life that matters to Donald Trump is his own. He cons people into voting for him, so he can retain and abuse his power, and continue to cheat, lie, and loot from the American people. Trump’s most significant contribution to the Black Lives Matter movement is that his white supremacy has united the majority of the country against him. It shows in his most recent poll numbers–the lowest for any president at this time in their presidency. Black lives don’t matter to Trump, but on Election Day, voters have an opportunity to ensure he no longer matters.