If you want to claim, as President Trump has, that you are the “least racist person,” it’s a good idea to avoid suggesting that one member of a racial group knows another person of that same group, simply because they share the same racial identity. It suggests you view them as people without individual distinction, personality and experiences, as interchangeable pieces of an unknowable other.
And yet Mr. Trump did exactly that during his press conference on Thursday, while answering a question from April Ryan, a veteran journalist and the White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks. Ms. Ryan, who is black, asked the president about his campaign pledge to “fix” inner cities, which prompted Mr. Trump to talk about his performance with African-American and Hispanic voters and remark that people in inner cities are “living in hell.” When Ms. Ryan followed up by asking whether Mr. Trump would be willing to meet and work with the Congressional Black Caucus to address these issues, the president asked her if she wanted to set up such a meeting.
“No, no, no,” she replied. “I’m just a reporter.”
As she spoke, the president pressed on: “Are they friends of yours? Set up the meeting.”
Putting aside the fact that Mr. Trump seemed unaware of the existence of the caucus until Ms. Ryan asked her question, his suggestion that she schedule a meeting between him and the legislators, as if he or his staff were incapable of doing so on their own, was both disrespectful and reflective of the way Mr. Trump has come to view black life in America.
Far from being “the least racist person,” Mr. Trump has long trafficked in racist rhetoric. In 1989, when five young black and Latino men were accused of raping a white woman in Central Park, Mr. Trump reportedly paid $85,000 to take out a full-page advertisement in New York City’s four major newspapers, including The New York Times. The bold letters of Mr. Trump’s ad read “Bring back the death penalty. Bring back our police!” The young men, who came to be known as the Central Park Five, were later exonerated. In recent years, Mr. Trump, despite the evidence, has continued to condemn them as guilty.
And then there is his constant association of black people with crime and the “inner cities.” When Representative John Lewis, Democrat from Georgia, said that he viewed Mr. Trump as an illegitimate president, the president tweeted: “Congressman John Lewis should finally focus on the burning and crime infested inner-cities of the U.S. I can use all the help I can get!” And why did Mr. Trump pick Dr. Ben Carson, famed neurosurgeon and a former Republican presidential rival, to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development? Mr. Carson has no relevant experience for the job — unless you view “black” and “urban” as synonyms.
Most of the black people whose opinions Mr. Trump has sought are celebrities. His closest black aide is Omarosa Manigault, who rose to prominence on his reality television competition, “The Apprentice.” Before taking office, Mr. Trump met with Steve Harvey, a comedian and game show host, about working with Mr. Carson on issues pertaining to the “inner cities.” He also met with the football legends Jim Brown and Ray Lewis and the hip-hop superstar Kanye West. He seemed less interested in meeting with black policymakers, academics, organizers, journalists or anyone else who might disagree with or challenge his characterization of black life.
Source: The New York Times | MYCHAL DENZEL SMITH