When then-candidate Donald Trump first uttered “Look at my African-American over there,” he put Black America on notice.
As much as many members of the GOP claim to hate identity politics, politicians like Trump use it when they see fit.
From cheap red hat publicity stunts with the once-revolutionary music artist, Kanye West, to parading Omarosa as his token representative to “the Blacks” (until she inconveniently became a “dog” to him), Trump appeals to Black America when it’s beneficial to him.
Last night’s Oval Office speech on immigration was no different.
“All Americans are hurt by uncontrolled illegal migration,” President Trump declared while squinting at the teleprompter.
“It strains public resources and drives down jobs and wages. Among those hardest hit are African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans.”
You don’t say?
I thought Black Americans were enjoying unprecedented employment numbers, only under President Trump and his policies?
Study after study shows that Trump manipulates facts to his advantage.
Here’s the truth:
According to Reuters, Black unemployment rates hit a record low in May 2018, the lowest since 1972.
But those rates reflected a trend started under the Obama Administration and job gains for Black Americans were actually “strongest during Barack Obama’s second term.”
Trump has done nothing magical or revolutionary for Black people by boosting jobs in the mining industry for example.
But aside from misleading self-congratulatory employment claims, Trump’s suggestion that American Blacks and Latinos, support his billion dollar wall effort to protect their jobs, is also an oversimplification.
Trump and the KKK share the same basic worldview – one in which white supremacy is enforced through physical barriers, exclusion and violence. The difference is the amount of power and resources our political system gives Trump to implement this agenda on a national scale. https://t.co/m5oSqe71fS
— Samuel Sinyangwe (@samswey) January 9, 2019
Many of the jobs which are held up as being “stolen” from Blacks and Latinos by immigrants are low-wage, low-skill jobs.
Why are these assumed to be our go-to and most desirable jobs?
There is some evidence that Black employment “is more sensitive to an immigration influx than white employment,” although scholars argue over making direct correlations between increased immigration and Black unemployment.
But rather than fix the structural racism that keeps Black people (and men in particular) overrepresented in low-wage jobs, it’s much easier to ask Black Americans to turn against “illegal” immigrants who are likely doing jobs we wouldn’t want to do.
“Cannibalizing stigmatized and marginalized groups against each other serves the wealthy interests that benefit from such divisive colonial and labor segmenting tactics,” said Professor Darrick Hamilton in an interview with The Washington Post.
A study of Census Bureau Data suggests American Blacks and Latin American immigrants specifically fill “complimentary roles in the labor market,” and immigration can boost wages and the overall economy of a neighborhood.
Economics aside, I’m suspicious of anyone whose talk doesn’t reflect their walk.
A President who cared about Black people would have a senior cabinet which reflects America’s diversity (besides Ja’ron Smith).
A President who cared about Black people wouldn’t embolden white supremacists, declaring there were “bad people on both sides” in Charlottesville after Neo-Nazis marched, leading to the death of an innocent woman.
A President who cared about Black people wouldn’t disrespect Black women members of the press who are simply doing their jobs, for example, calling awarding-winning journalist Yamiche Alcindor’s straightforward question “racist” and CNN correspondent Abby Phillip’s questions “stupid.”
A President who cared about Black people wouldn’t use a federal criminal justice reform bill as a bargaining tool to prove he cares about us (crime is not our sole issue).
To borrow a line from pre-MAGA Kanye with a revision:
Donald Trump doesn’t care about Black people’s interests.
He cares about Black votes.
As we prepare to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man most likely murdered for trying to unite poor people across race, I’m not moved by appeals to division.
Black people shouldn’t be manipulated.
And we, more than anyone, should know better.
Natasha S. Alford is Deputy Editor of theGrio and a digital host. You can follow her for news and updates at @NatashaSAlford on Twitter and on Instagram using her hashtag #ThePeoplesJournalist.