“In short, Trump has left African Americans in the deepest hole with the shortest rope.”—Rev. Jesse Jackson.
As a non-partisan organization, the National Urban League does not endorse political candidates or encourage voters to choose one candidate over another. As a historic civil rights organization devoted to economic and social justice for African Americans, we have an obligation to combat racism, discrimination, racially-motivated violence and disinformation targeting Black Americans. Racial justice and the status of African Americans has been central to our mission since our founding. As such, we have a duty to evaluate the effect of federal policies on Black communities.
According to fact-checkers in the media, President Trump has made nearly 23,000 false or misleading claims over the course of his presidency.
His claim that he has “done more for the African American community than any president with the exception of Abraham Lincoln” is perhaps the most insidious, and the most insulting. It is the Big Lie of his presidency.
This administration has overseen a surge in all of these. Meanwhile, one out of every thousand Black Americans has died from Covid-19. Six of every ten Black households are facing serious financial problems since the pandemic began. Almost a third can’t pay their rent or mortgage.
The claim that this presidency has been the best for Black Americans since Lincoln is not just false but entirely baffling. Which of his achievements could he imagine exceeds the impact of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1965, all enacted under President Lyndon Baines Johnson?
The evidence he offers to support his claim is thin. Prior to the pandemic, he cited the lowest Black unemployment rate on record, but even then it was consistently twice the white race. Black unemployment fell four and a half times further during President Obama’s term than it did during the three years before the pandemic struck. Meanwhile, the Black-white wage gap continued to grow and the Black homeownership rate fell to historic lows.
Far from being a boon for Black Americans, the last four years have seen a dramatic rollback of civil rights protections, a surge in racially-motivated hate crimes, and a deterioration of the relationship -- between police and the communities they serve.
Shortly after Trump took office, the Justice Department – led by an Attorney General who once disparaged the Voting Rights Act as “an intrusive act” -- abandoned its long-standing opposition to a racially discriminatory Texas voter I.D. law. It was the first salvo in a war on Black voting rights that has continued through the establishment of a task force to promote the myth of widespread voter fraud, opposition to the Voting Rights Advancement Act, pushing states to purge voter rolls, and the sabotage of the Postal Service to thwart mail-in voting.
The Justice Department abandoned the use of consent decrees – formal reform agreements with police departments accused of racially-motivated excessive force and constitutional violations. It ended the Community Oriented Policing Services’ Collaborative Reform Initiative, a program aimed at building trust between police officers and the communities they serve. Trump himself has demonized peaceful protestors against racially-motivated police violence as terrorists, and his administration opposes efforts to reform racist police practices.
Last month alone, a whistleblower complaint alleged that Department of Homeland Security officials, directed analysts to downplay threats from violent white supremacy and Russian election interference, an executive order banned federal agencies, federal contractors, and grantees from engaging in anti-discrimination workplace diversity trainings, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development gutted the disparate impact tool under the Fair Housing Act, which will make it harder to challenge systemic racism by housing providers, financial institutions, and insurance companies.
Finally, in the midst of a pandemic that is killing Black Americans at twice the rate of whites, the Trump administration is trying to kill the health care law that shrank the racial health care gap and made insurance available to millions.
Stoking racial resentment among white Americans, even courting the support of white supremacists, has been part of the Trump playbook since he slandered Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals at his campaign announcement in 2015.
Even so, it came as a gut-punch early in his presidency when he declared there were “good people on both sides” of a deadly clash between white supremacists and anti-racist protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia.
In response to a question from Axios reporter Jonathan Swan in August, Trump not only confirmed that he believes his accomplishments surpass the Civil Rights Act, he belittled the landmark legislation and suggested it hadn’t “worked out.” As Jennifer Ruben wrote in the Washington Post, “The most charitable explanation for this exchange is that … he quite possibly has no idea or only a vague idea of what the Civil Rights Act is.” At the least, it’s clear that he has “no idea, or only a vague idea” of the lived experience of Black Americans and the effect of his policies on our communities.
Marc H. Morial is president and CEO of the National Urban League.