GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump continued his supposed outreach to African-American voters on Wednesday with a pair of events at a black church in Ohio.
The first function, which the New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland Heights billed as a “meeting on African-American concerns,” featured Trump flanked by a few of his most prominent black supporters. Pastor Darrell Scott played host as a leader of the church. Legendary boxing promoter and convicted killer Don King introduced Trump, at one point dropping the N-word. The setting may have projected an air of diversity and inclusion, but it was a mostly white audience that sat and listened as Trump declared black communities can’t get “much worse” and that only he could “fix it.”
Trump then hurried to another room in the church to film a closed town hall, hosted by Fox News’ Sean Hannity. The cable news network described the gathering as a forum to “discuss the core issues and concerns surrounding African-Americans this 2016 election cycle.”
It’s not entirely clear what “surrounding African-Americans” means in this context, but a photo of the audience suggests the event itself was “surrounded” by white people.
The crowd certainly didn’t appear to reflect the church’s usual congregation or the general population of Cleveland Heights, which is 42.5 percent black, according to the most recent Census figures.
The Hannity special is scheduled to air Wednesday night at 10 p.m.
By this point, the frequent lack of diversity at Trump’s events, and among his supporters more broadly, has been well documented. Like many Republican candidates, Trump has struggled to court people of color, especially African-Americans. His support among black voters has fallen as low as 0 percent in a few swing states, according to some polls.
Yet Trump has repeatedly made his pitch to black voters at campaign events attended almost exclusively by white people. Many now see this strategy as an attempt not to win over black voters, but to increase Trump’s palatability among white Republicans and independents who are concerned about Trump’s troubling record on race and his enthusiastic supporters in the white supremacist community. By making at least a perfunctory effort to woo black communities, Trump may be able to persuade some white people that he’s not racist at all.
Of course, just the idea that some Americans might be so easily convinced says a lot about how reluctant we still are as a nation to identify and confront racism in all its forms.