Donald Trump Talks To Black People, But He Doesn't See Them

The president's tirades and produced appearances with public figures reveal a man disinterested in serious communication with African Americans.
It’s our house and we live here, too.
It’s our house and we live here, too.

*Disclaimer: This piece was written prior to President Trump’s “little breakfast” held on Wednesday in pseudo-acknowledgment of Black History Month.

Last Tuesday, President Donald Trump, seemingly concerned about the situation in Chicago, tweeted this: 

And so, it becomes even more clear: President Trump demonstrates a painful and clumsy inability to communicate with Black people, and about issues that affect them predominantly.

See, solving the situation in Chicago is more complicated than a simple matter of sending more federal officers (of course, like most major cities, Chicago has FBI, DEA, and ATF field offices).

To start, nearly half of Chicago’s gun violence takes place in five of the city’s most underserved neighborhoods ― neighborhoods in dire need of federal funding.

Earlier last month, the Department of Justice published the results of an investigation into Chicago’s police department (sparked by public outrage following the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by police officer Jason Van Dyke). The report concluded “…CPD officers engage in a pattern or practice of using force, including deadly force, that is unreasonable.”

On Tuesday, Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel sought to advise President Trump on how the federal government can help the city.

“I’ve been very specific about this,” Emanuel told reporter Paris Schutz on Chicago Tonight. The list is as follows:

“One, is work on gun control.” “Two, backup our officers with federal resources [in] dealing with [and] controlling gun running, and access for guns coming over the border from Indiana into Chicago. “Third, funding and being a partner in making sure our kids have good activities: mentoring, after-school, summer jobs. And then, ultimately, also investing in neighborhoods that are hard hit by poverty [which] become a breeding ground for violence.”

“In all aspects, the federal government can be a partner. And, to be honest, they haven’t been for decades,” Emanuel continued.

The Justice Department addressed combatting the climb in gun violence this way: “Over the year-plus since release of that video, and while we have been conducting this investigation, Chicago experienced a surge in shootings and homicides. The reasons for this spike are broadly debated and inarguably complex.”

But, President Trump can’t understand that. The complexity of the issue.

President Trump can’t understand the complexities of issues that predominantly affect Black people, because he does not understand the complexities of Black people.

He erroneously believes that the Black experience is uniform.

How can we be sure of this?

Well, on August 19, 2016, at a rally in Dimondale, Michigan, then Republican nominee for president Trump infamously said:

“Look how much African-American communities have suffered under Democratic control. To those I say the following: What do you have to lose by trying something new? Like, Trump. I say it again, look: What do you have to lose? What do you have to lose?! You’re living in poverty. Your schools are no good. You have no jobs. Fifty-eight percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose? And at the end of four years, I guarantee you that I will get over 95 percent of the African-American vote, I promise you. Because I will produce for the inner cities, and I will produce for the African-Americans.”

In this piece of Trump’s speech, we find no plan; and thus, justification of the notion that he has no idea what he’s talking about, or who he’s talking to.

He believes being Black is to live in poverty, attend poor schools, have no job, burn in hell, and thus have nothing to lose in voting. Someone told him these things and he repeated them. Perhaps, because though he’s indeed been face-to-face with Black people, he’s never seen them.

How can we be sure of this?

Well, following the second presidential debate in October of last year, Dr. Lynne Murphy ― Ph.D in Linguistics ― analyzed Trump’s use of “the” before referring to African-Americans.

“‘The’ makes the group seem like it’s a large uniform mass, rather than a diverse group of individuals,” she writes in Quartz. “This is the key to ‘othering:’ treating people from another group as less human than one’s own group.  The Nazis did it when they talked about die Juden (‘the Jews’).  Homophobes do it when they talk about ‘the gays.’”

It’s bad that he has no idea how to communicate with at least 12 percent of the country. But what’s worse is that he has no serious interest in learning how.

How can we be sure of this?

Well, save a few, look at the Black people with whom he has recently chosen to meet. A cast of comedians, musicians, kooky televangelists, and athletes.

It’s troubling to have to question if these are the only roles in which President Trump acknowledges Black people ― celebrities, and entertainers. But it’s clear that he either does not know how to even begin to address the problems challenging Black people in America (and if that’s the case, those who’ve met with him have done a poor job). Or –- and of course, much worse –- he just doesn’t care.