by Congresswoman Gwen Moore
Last week, before a primarily white audience in Dimondale, Michigan, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made the following pitch to African Americans: “You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58% of your youth is unemployed – what the hell do you have to lose?”
In saying this, the businessman-turned-politician exposed his new and unconventional strategy in courting African Americans: insulting our community.
It comes as no surprise that Mr. Trump’s outreach efforts to African American voters have been an exercise in futility, especially in Milwaukee. But with all of his campaign shake-ups and resignations, it’s clear that Mr. Trump’s team needs a little help in honing his minority outreach strategy. So, in the spirit of bipartisanship, allow me to give Mr. Trump some tips in how to reach out to the African American community.
1) Our community’s pain isn’t your photo op.
In the wake of this month’s civil unrest in the face of the officer-involved shooting of Sylville Smith, Mr. Trump made a campaign stop in West Bend and asked “for the vote of every African American citizen, struggling in our country today, who want a different and much better future.” He blamed what he called “Democratic crime policies” for producing “more crime, more broken homes, and more poverty,” and tried to erroneously brand Hillary Clinton as a “bigot.”
For a moment, let’s forget that Mr. Trump made this appeal before yet another predominantly white audience, nearly an hour away from Milwaukee. And let’s also forget that the social and economic injustice that has plagued Milwaukee for generations isn’t the fault of any one person or party.
What enrages me and so many of my constituents is how Mr. Trump used our community’s pain as a talking point to propel his campaign out of turmoil and attack Hillary Clinton.
In stark contrast, Secretary Clinton took a different route.
Rather than posing for pictures and inflaming tensions further, the Democratic presidential nominee personally reached out to me to get a better understanding of the situation on the ground and to offer her assistance.
She didn’t publicize it or turn it into a media circus, nor did she try to score political points off the backs of our community, still reeling after days of violent protests, like that of Mr. Trump’s campaign. That is what true leadership looks like.
2) Get to know us and our concerns.
It is painfully obvious that Mr. Trump doesn’t know our community and the good people who call it home. He doesn’t know our local veterans who have served our country with honor and distinction or the union members who have contributed to our state’s proud labor movement. He doesn’t know our young students who are shaping our 21st century economy through innovation or the dedicated city employees who keep this city running everyday.
He doesn’t understand the unique obstacles our constituents experience on a daily basis nor does he have any interest to learn about them. He doesn’t recognize how many of our neighborhoods are over-policed and underserved nor can he comprehend how years of neglect and economic immobility can lead to the protests we saw just weeks ago.
Fortunately for Milwaukee, the same cannot be said about Secretary Clinton. She has personally met with me and our locally elected leaders to glean a better understanding of the pressing issues facing our city. She has sat down with Maria Hamilton, the mother of Dontre Hamilton, and bore witness to how she turned her pain into bravery and action. Unlike Mr. Trump, Secretary Clinton is keenly aware of our community’s collective struggle to secure economic opportunity and our shared fight to preserve our voting rights. And unlike Mr. Trump, Secretary Clinton has a plan to address our concerns.
From raising the federal minimum wage and closing the wage gap to calling for an end to the era of mass incarceration and encouraging the use of police body cameras, Secretary Clinton has been a staunch advocate for the issues that impact Milwaukee. While Sectary Clinton has developed a plan to help communities of color, Mr. Trump is merely trying to piece together a plan that deals with us. There is a big difference.
3) Stop lying about us.
Pushing false narratives and hurtful rhetoric about minority communities has become common practice for the Trump campaign. He’s tweeted inflammatory and inaccurate crime statistics about African Americans, perpetuated the absurd and racially charged “war on police” battle cry of professional provocateur and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, and has spearheaded the efforts to discredit Barack Obama’s presidency by questioning the validity of his birth certificate. Sadly, racial provocation and misdirection has been a hallmark of his campaign from the very beginning.
Never do we hear Mr. Trump talk about the triumphs of our communities. No mentions of how Black women are now the most educated group in the United States or how 90 percent of Black Americans have a high school degree. No discussions about how faith leaders and young people came together to heal and strengthen our community after such a tumultuous month.
If Mr. Trump were truly sincere about reaching us, he’d stop stealing pages out of Governor Scott Walker’s political playbook where coded language and dog-whistle politics is considered business as usual.
From his reluctance to disavow the support of David Duke to the suit filed against him by the Justice Department for discriminating against Black tenants in 1973, it’s crystal clear that Mr. Trump is impotent and unwilling to help African American communities in any way, shape, or form.
Mr. Trump’s actions and rhetoric leave communities of color asking an important and unanswered question: How can Donald Trump be the solution in empowering us when he is so clearly part of the problem?