I nearly executed a perfect spit-take of my Cheerios Saturday morning when I heard Donald Trump’s pitch to black voters to support him because, apparently, why not?
“You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed — what the hell do you have to lose?”
Did I just hear that? Did Donald Trump just tell black people that they are poor, unemployed, poorly educated and they’ve got nothing to lose by voting for him? Tone-deaf doesn’t begin to describe it.
Then I realized, no, he didn’t tell black people that. He told an audience of white Republicans that. And of course, angry white Republicans are about the only people such a fantastically ill-conceived appeal might, y’know, appeal to.
Here was a man who made his foray into politics by accusing America’s first black president of being a Kenyan-born, Muslim usurper and demanding to see his “papers,” ostensibly courting the black vote in the most insulting and condescending way possible. Can a candidate poll at less than 0 percent among a demographic, I wondered.
What the hell do black voters have to lose? Has he read the Republican Party platform?
I soon got a text asking what I thought. So many things.
I think that I watched 15,000 Republicans cheer wildly at speaker after speaker in Cleveland scream, “All lives matter” last month. I think I’ve watched Republican leader after Republican leader dismiss and denigrate the Black Lives Matter movement for years now, since the death of Trayvon Martin and every other unjustifiable homicide committed against unarmed young black men since.
I think Republicans have exploited and stoked racial animosity for over 50 years, since Harry S. Dent, Sr. first conceived of the odious “Southern Strategy” to exploit the political divisions of American apartheid on behalf of Richard Nixon and every Republican presidential candidate since.
I think that in the 1970s, Donald Trump was sued for essentially redlining his rental properties, not only denying black people residency, but crudely using codes such as “C” for “colored” to delineate them for denial.
I think that Republican Saint Reagan’s War on Drugs led to an explosion of already rampant inequity throughout the American justice system that shamefully persists today, exacerbated by Republican policies in U.S. Congress and state legislatures throughout the country.
I think that by the late 1980s, the Republican Party and Lee Atwater issued one of the most repugnant race-baiting political television ads of all time to defeat Michael Dukakis with Willie Horton and an overt appeal to racist white people. I think Republicans political campaigns have generally continued to dog-whistle those racist appeals ever since.
I think that Republican policies since the mid-’60s on education, healthcare, housing, and the social safety net have been absolutely wicked toward poor people in general and people of color specifically.
I think that white Americans generally either don’t know or try to ignore the history of race in our Republic and the role it continues to play today in employment discrimination, housing discrimination, education discrimination, jurisprudence discrimination, and so on and so forth.
I think that nothing embarrasses me more as an American than our continued failure to even acknowledge this history and its ongoing and shameful consequences.
For instance, I think that in Shelby County v. Holder, a Republican-appointed majority on the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965, rolling back key legislation of the Civil Rights movement.
I think that America’s first black president has seen for the last seven-and-a-half years unprecedented obstruction, intransigence and disrespect from the opposition party that has now nominated Donald Trump, one of the foremost disrespectful voices of President Obama’s presidency.
I think that there is only once race, the human race. But if we must be divided demographically for the sake of politics, I think it’s perfectly clear that black voters know all of this, and all of the stuff I’ve left out, and a whole lot more, a lot more intimately than I do.
And I think that on the subject of race in America, Donald Trump couldn’t find his own ass with both hands.
D.C. DeWitt is a writer and man of sport and leisure. He has also written for Government Executive’s RouteFifty.com, the National Journal’s Hotline, and The New York Observer’s Politicker.com. He is the Associate Editor of The Athens NEWS in Athens, Ohio. DeWitt can be found on Facebook and Twitter @DC_DeWitt.