What does Trump know about being Black in America? Take a guess | Opinion

There was Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin and George Floyd. Now America can add Donald Trump to the list of men who’ve faced the weight of a system tilted against them.


There’s very little — or nothing — we don’t expect to come out of the former president’s mouth. One day he’s urging Russia to do “whatever the hell they want” to NATO countries that don’t meet spending guidelines. The next he’s pandering to Black conservatives by making himself, as always, the center of a narrative of persecution and injustice.

Speaking to the Black Conservative Federation in Columbia, South Carolina, Friday night, Trump said he believes Black voters will support him “because they have been hurt so badly and discriminated against, and they actually viewed me as, I’m being discriminated against. It’s been pretty amazing,” the New York Times reported.

“I think that’s why the Black people are so much on my side now,” he said. “Because they see what’s happening to me happens to them. Does that make sense?”

Here’s one key difference between Trump’s situation and that of Black Americans, who have faced systemic racism: Trump is facing the consequences for his own alleged actions in the 91 criminal charges filed against him in four different cases, including for his efforts to overturn the 2020 elections.

Far from being able to relate to what it’s like to be Black in America, Trump has actually stoked racial stereotypes and animosity. He fueled the racist birther theory that cast doubt on whether then-President Barack Obama was a U.S. citizen. To this day, Trump emphasizes Obama’s Muslim middle name, Hussein, in his speeches. It was also Trump who, in the 1980s, ran full-page ads in four New York newspapers advocating for the death penalty after five Black and Latino teenagers were accused of raping a jogger at Central Park. They were wrongly convicted, and their convictions were eventually vacated. As far back as the 1970s, Trump was accused of discriminating against potential Black tenants by the Justice Department.

We’ll give Trump one thing: He did sign into law a criminal justice reform package when he was president, something he avoids mentioning when speaking to white crowds. It’s in front of those supporters that he’s most comfortable accusing immigrants of “poisoning the blood of our country,” a trope straight out of the playbook of Adolf Hitler, who used similar rhetoric to accuse Jews of “poisoning” Aryan German blood.

We know by now that Trump will pander to whatever crowd is in front of him. If they are supporters fed on conspiracy theories about a Democratic-supported immigrant invasion, that’s the red meat he will give them. Or he will use his widely circulated mugshot from the elections interference case he faces in Georgia to find commonalities with Black voters.

“You know who embraced it more than anybody else?” Trump asked during his South Carolina speech. “The Black population.”

Assuming that a mugshot will make a white, wealthy New Yorker relatable to southern Black voters is at the very least offensive. More absurd is that the man who was recently ordered to pay a $355 million penalty by a New York judge for lying about his wealth has the nerve to decry discrimination against himself while his party — in the name of fighting “woke” — is trying to silence discussions about real discrimination from schools and colleges. And he makes this claim during Black History Month.

It’s highly unlikely that Trump will win the Black vote if and when he becomes the Republican presidential nominee, but polls indicate he’s getting more support from those voters in battleground states. It’s no secret that Black voters have felt for very long they have been taken for granted by the Democratic Party. Trump’s overtures to them — as well as his growing popularity with Hispanic voters, especially in Miami-Dade County — is a warning sign for President Biden.

If Democrats cannot make the simple case that Trump has a history of contempt for Black people, then shame on them.

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