Just when you thought that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s “outreach” to African-American voters could not get more absurd, The New York Times on Thursday published the “draft script” of an interview Trump is scheduled to videorecord Saturday in Detroit with Bishop Wayne T. Jackson of the Great Faith International Church.
That script reveals the antipathy that Trump and much of the Republican Party, especially its alt-right conservatives, have for even acknowledging the existence of systemic racism and their virulent disdain for the remedies that would actually address the roots of racial disparities. The script also shows how Trump is using his feigned concern for the African-American community to advance an economic agenda that will most benefit the nearly exclusively white club of the 1 percent.
The script has Jackson asking Trump what he would do “to bring down the racial tension that is in our country.” Trump would begin by saying, “Our best hope for erasing racial tensions in America is to work toward a colorblind society” and then go on to suggest that we should “reform our tax system” – he’s no doubt thinking of his proposals to cut tax rates for corporations and particularly dramatically for wealthier individuals – as well as implementing “stronger enforcement of our immigration laws” and “renegotiat[ing] our trade deals.” “Most importantly,” he says, we need to improve our education system, but he does not mention putting more resources into our chronically underfunded public schools. Instead, he says “we must bring school choice programs to our cities and we must get rid of Common Core,” the highly debated set of national academic proficiency standards.
Other than typical red-meat generic lines Republican candidates are expected to throw to their base – such as “I will work to repeal the [Affordable Care Act] and replace it with market-driven solutions” – the script exemplifies Trump’s apparent allergy to proposing even specific conservative policies designed to address chronic racial inequities and to advance a real debate about solutions.
In fact, perhaps the worst statement in his script is his assertion that “we must reduce, rather than highlight, issues of race in this country.”
To the extent to which Trump has reduced the African-American community to a pathology of crime, drugs, poverty and failure while ignoring such crises as police racial profiling and abuse of deadly force, mass incarceration, the persistent black wealth gap, school segregation, and continuing patterns of economic discrimination, Trump has modeled blindness to the difference color continues to make in America.
Trump’s willful blindness must be countered by a different agenda. Recently, the Movement for Black Lives released just such an agenda, and this week the Institute for Policy Studies issued a call for people to endorse that agenda, which you can do at the bottom of this webpage.
“We have created this platform to articulate and support the ambitions and work of Black people,” the platform’s opening statement says. “We also seek to intervene in the current political climate and assert a clear vision, particularly for those who claim to be our allies, of the world we want them to help us create. We reject false solutions and believe we can achieve a complete transformation of the current systems, which place profit over people and make it impossible for many of us to breathe.”
The platform calls for the end of policing policies that have ended in the deaths of unarmed black people, often when they have committed no crime at all, as well as laws that have led to wildly disproportionate numbers of black people being incarcerated. It makes the case for “reparations for past and continuing harms” done to African Americans that are responsible for persistent racial inequities, as well as investment “in the education, health and safety of black people.” The platform contains an “economic justice” agenda that includes “a progressive restructuring of tax codes” and a set of policies designed to raise worker wages and bargaining power. It also calls for more community control (as opposed to the conservative agenda of having states preempting local governments from enacting policies at the behest of their corporate or ideological benefactors) and “a remaking of the current U.S. political system in order to create a real democracy where black people and all marginalized people can effectively exercise full political power.”
The platform is packed with specific proposals for addressing the real problems facing African-American people. They range from eminently mainstream to audaciously radical. But the point is that they represent the kinds of policies that people who are serious about engaging in a dialogue about race in America have to discuss.
It is clear, though, that Trump is not serious about addressing institutional racism in America; he will go only as far as his alt-right, white nationalist base will allow. The rest of us who are serious should read this agenda, consider its proposals and force into the political debate a more substantive discussion about race and racism in America.