Donald Trump really, really wants his predominantly white fanbase to know how much he cares about vanquishing black-on-black crime in America—by implementing a draconian policy that is as ineffective as it is reviled by black communities.
On Wednesday, Trump stopped by the New Spirit Revival Center (an African-American church in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, led by pro-Trump pastor Darrell Scott) with his campaign entourage featuring running mate Mike Pence and boxing promoter and convicted killer Don King. Following his speech, Trump sat down for a town-hall-style event at the church (hosted by Fox News personality and hardcore Trump booster Sean Hannity) to discuss “core black issues.”
He seemed to vow to push nationally a policy that led to widespread racial profiling of African-Americans in his hometown.
“I would do stop-and-frisk, I think you have to,” he said at the Fox town hall, in response to an audience member’s question about stopping violence in black communities. “We did it in New York, it worked incredibly well, and you have to be proactive and, you know, you really help people sort of change their mind automatically.”
(His campaign would later claim he was referring to applying the measure to Chicago, specifically.)
Studies—and then a federal judge—determined the practice wasn’t actually all that effective in making cities safer, and was applied disproportionately to African-American men.
Still, Trump frequently extols stop-and-frisk’s virtues on the campaign trail, and has been a major advocate of the policy for years.
Activists and civil libertarians who read the Republican presidential nominee’s comments on Wednesday afternoon gave his latest method of African-American outreach one gigantic eye-roll.
“Any politician who would go to a black community and say stop-and-frisk is the solution to your problems is showing no respect for the intellectual capacity of that community,” Jeff Robinson, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union and a policing expert for the organization, told The Daily Beast. “Trump’s message here is that in order to save the black community, we must destroy it … I don’t know if Mr. Trump has ever been stopped and frisked by the police, but … any politician who would suggest this as a solution has a serious credibility problem.”
Regarding Trump’s other proposals on criminal justice and law enforcement in this country, Robinson was equally unimpressed. “I don’t know any specifics of Mr. Trump’s policies on criminal justice because quite frankly I haven’t heard any,” he said. “All I’ve heard is that we gotta get tough on crime, racially profile Muslims, and we’re gonna be so tough it’s gonna make your head spin.”
Beyond his effusive praise for stop-and-frisk, Trump’s week of supposed overtures to black communities has been a disaster. That is, if the intention has been to genuinely woo black voters.
What started out months ago as a cruel joke — an African-American outreach team stacked with characters like Omarosa, Trump’s go-to reality-TV villain, and Mark Burns, Trump’s go-to black pastor who thinks Hillary Clinton wants a “genocide” for black people — is becoming less funny and more disagreeable by the day.
When Trump was introduced at the Cleveland Heights church by Don King on Wednesday morning, the boxing promoter managed to use the N-word while discussing the real-estate mogul, assimilation, and (of all things) Michael Jackson.
“I told Michael Jackson, I said, ‘If you're poor, you are a poor negro’ — I would use the n-word,” King told the crowd. “But if you rich, you are a rich negro. ... If you're a dancing and sliding and gliding nigger — I mean negro — you are a dancing and sliding and gliding negro ... So you're going to be a negro til you die.”
On Thursday, Kathy Miller, a county chairwoman for the Trump campaign in crucial swing-state Ohio, was forced to resign after alleging in an interview with The Guardian that racism in America never existed before Obama became president, and that the Black Lives Matter movement is a “stupid waste of time.” (She also asserted that low African-American voter turnout could be attributed to “the way they’re raised.”) For what it’s worth, Miller was quickly replaced by a black woman named Tracey Winbush.
And on Thursday afternoon, Trump took the stage at a Pittsburgh rally to make the claim that illegal drugs are playing a large role in this week’s violent Charlotte protests in the aftermath of a deadly police-involved shooting there.
“If you’re not aware, drugs are a very, very big factor in what you’re watching on television at night,” he said. “Our job is not to make life more comfortable for the violent disrupter, but to make life more comfortable for the African-American parent trying to raise their kids in peace.”
And that same afternoon, Mike Pence appeared at a town-hall event in Colorado Springs and told reporters that "Trump and I believe there's been far too much talk about institutional bias and racism within law enforcement."
All of these statements were made within just a single 30-hour span of campaigning—in a blitz of outreach that continued Trump’s conspicuous pattern of bringing his case for black voters straight to the comfort zone of largely white audiences.
Trump has created a demographic hole for himself that’s so deep it’s unlikely that he could dig himself out of it (even with Omarosa and Don King’s help!) between now and early November. Currently, his support among black voters is actually approaching zero percent in key swing states.
“What do you have to lose?” Trump asked black voters last month. “You're living in poverty. Your schools are no good. You have no jobs. Fifty-eight percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?”
For people of color in this country who care about their rights and civil liberties, the answer is simple: A lot.