Trump: ‘African Americans Liked What I Was Saying’ [Opinion]

Susan WalshAP Images

Out of the rambling, wide-ranging interview of President Donald Trump by the New York Times that was posted Thursday night, it is hard to choose one statement that seems more outrageous than any of the others.

Trump indicated he could do whatever he wanted to do with the Justice Department, said the media would fall apart without him as president and still insists that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, can broker peace in the Middle East.

One outlandish statement that may stand out, even in that rarefied atmosphere of Trumpian statements, is the president’s assessment of his appeal to African Americans.

“The African American community liked me. They liked what I was saying.”

Undoubtedly, there were African Americans who liked what Donald Trump was saying in 2016, but the percentage of African Americans who cast their votes for Hillary Clinton would indicate otherwise.

Even before the election, Trump appeared tone deaf in his efforts to appeal to minorities. He sought the African American vote by saying, “You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth are unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?”

For some reason, that argument did not appeal to African Americans when he made it at his rallies, perhaps because it was hard to pick out an African American in audiences that were for the most part lily white.

On one occasion, he referred to an African American gentleman as “my African American,” a phrase that conjured up images of the days when people thought anyone who was not white could be listed on a property inventory.

Things did not change much after Trump became president, as CNN showed with a recent montage of some of his not-so-finest moments when dealing with minority communities.

Trump attacked football players, mostly African American who were protesting police violence against their community by kneeling when the National Anthem was being performed.

After the violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Trump clearly could not tell the difference between those who were screaming for violence against African Americans and the Jewish community and those who organized for peace.

“You had people that were very fine people on both sides,” Trump said.

From all indications, he truly believed what he was saying as he doubled down on it by telling reporters, “You know it.”

Trump attempted to distance himself from the alt-right and the neo-Nazis during his New York Times interview, but that ship sailed long ago.

It has not helped that Trump criticized one of the last remaining legends of the Civil Rights Movement, Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, saying Lewis was “all talk, no action or results,” adding the usual “Sad” postscript to the tweet.

The president did not help his cause December 9 when he accepted Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant’s invitation to speak at the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.

When news spread that Trump would be there, Lewis, someone whose exploits are featured prominently in the museum, someone who braved beatings and faced possible death as a Freedom Rider and during the voting rights march at Selma, said he would not be there.

The incongruity of the presence of the man who jumpstarted his presidential campaign with his evidence-free claim that the first African American president of the United States was not born in this country would be featured prominently while a man who has fought his entire life for civil rights was not in attendance was hard to miss.

Trump’s presence added an air of awkwardness to the event as he praised the accomplishments of former Mississippi NAACP leader Medgar Evers, who was assassinated by a KKK member in June 1963, reading them from a sheet of paper and seeming to be finding about them for the first time.

Donald Trump says African Americans liked what he was saying in 2016.
Featured image credit: Susan WalshAP Images

Trump also appeared to be surprised that Evers’ widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams, was there, though he praised Evers’ brother, nonagenarian Charles Evers, making it clear that it was primarily because Evers had said nice things about Trump when he met him at the Tarmac.

Trump’s speech, which lasted only nine minutes, seemed to take an eternity.

Even if African Americans liked what Trump was saying during the election, which is doubtful, the message that was sent to the president three days after his Mississippi Civil Rights Museum appearance, made it clear how the community feels about him now.

More than 90 percent of the African American community voted for Doug Jones, the former U. S. Attorney who fought to convict two of the men who were behind the 15th Street bombing that killed four African American girls in Birmingham in 1963, for U. S. Senate in Alabama.

Jones’ opponent, Judge Roy Moore, had the firm endorsement, accompanied by robocalls, of Donald Trump.

Perhaps if Trump really wants African Americans to like what he is saying, he might try listening to them first.