As an African-American women focused on using policy and business to produce better outcomes for low-income women, men, children, and seniors, especially in communities of color, I'm used to having my voice overlooked or ignored and my ideas either marginalized or even stolen on occasion.
So I thought nothing of it when I received no response in December of 2015 when I repeatedly asked Donald Trump via Twitter to share what he would do to address racial wealth inequality in which African Americans and Latinos own only six and seven cents for every dollar of wealth owned by whites in the U.S.
At the time, I figured (wrongly, it turns out) that a businessman whose name was synonymous with wealth would jump at the chance to demonstrate to key voting blocs how he would leverage his presumed expertise to produce economic benefits targeting groups for whom historical policies and practices have created an economic chasm so wide that one study said it would take African American families 228 years to catch up to white families.
Although he ignored me, Trump has since chosen to have a tweet-fest with white supremacists and neo-Nazis, retweeting people focused on #whitegenocide and those who have called for certain folks to "swing from lampposts." He has refused to disavow former KKK grand wizard David Duke, a known anti-black racist. He has repeatedly tailored his speeches to appeal those who hate non-white immigrants and Muslims.
Until his very recent debut before an African American church in Detroit, Donald Trump's audiences had been almost entirely white, lending credence to reports about the Trumps' long-standing bias against African Americans.
It is because of his dubiously short track record of engaging substantively with African Americans and his much longer track record of affirming white nationalists that I listened to his speech at the Detroit church with more than a hint of skepticism.
And yet, Trump said things at that church that were exactly right: African Americans have suffered from discrimination; the U.S. does lose out when it fails to harness the talent of young black men; and, the nation does need a new Civil Rights agenda focused on quality education and jobs for all. And gauging the reactions of the congregants in the pews one could almost believe that Donald Trump is an empathetic and genuine person after all.
The most fascinating part of this entire campaign has been watching Trump outwit the Republican establishment, whom he undermined in his quest for the nomination by demonstrating the large policy gap that exists between them and Republican primary voters who showed themselves willing to turn their backs on pillars of conservative orthodoxy such as free trade, entitlement reform, and a ban on Planned Parenthood.
And yet on certain issues, Trump and the Republican Party establishment remain in lock step. Neither Donald Trump nor top Republicans in Washington have spoken out against the efforts of Republican state legislatures to deny American citizens--disproportionately low-income, black, and brown--the right to vote.
And, neither Trump nor Republican establishment leaders have articulated their support for primarily African American communities whose constitutional rights have been systematically violated by police departments that employ rogue officers who have been outed for blatantly racist and sexist behavior.
Donald Trump is notorious for being a master manipulator and a serial flip flopper. We saw both of these traits in action when he exhibited a graceful and almost-Presidential demeanor during his visit with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto only to embrace the language of bigotry and intolerance upon his return to U.S. soil only a few short hour later.
I suspect African Americans won't have long to wait before the preternatural humility exhibited by Trump in his Detroit church speech gives way to language and stances that will reinforce what seems to be ingrained in his DNA: an innate belief in his own superiority and in that of those who look like him as well as the belief that this country was greater when Barack Obama and people who look like him weren't in power.
And, because this seems to be the default position shared by many Republicans, an assumption reinforced by those who refuse to disavow their Trump endorsements despite their candidate's ongoing love fest with white nationalist supporters, then the nation has a long--and likely rocky--road toward reaching a more perfect union that allows Americans of all backgrounds the right to pursue happiness and enjoy equal protection under the law.
Elected officials should be representatives of all people and not just designated subgroups or the privileged few. It's time to ask Donald Trump and Republican leaders to be fully transparent with the public by disavowing platitudes in favor of inclusive representation and an inclusive policy agenda that creates true prosperity for all.
Dr. Maya Rockeymoore is President and CEO of Global Policy Solutions and a policy wonk, strategist, and commentator on pressing issues at the intersection of politics, policy, and popular culture.