Democracy Dies in Darkness

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African Americans are 'in the worst shape they’ve ever been,' Trump says in North Carolina

September 20, 2016 at 7:06 PM

Donald Trump speaks at a rally at the Duplin County Events Center in Kenansville, N.C., on Sept. 20. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

KENANSVILLE, N.C. — Donald Trump faced a swift backlash Tuesday after declaring that African Americans are "in the worst shape they've ever been" during a campaign event here.

"We're going to rebuild our inner cities because our African American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they've ever been in before. Ever, ever, ever," Trump said during a campaign event at the Duplin County Events Center, where thousands of supporters gathered.

The comments drew immediate criticism on social media from critics who accused him of failing to consider the United States' history with slavery and North Carolina's history with Jim Crow laws and segregation. Kenansville itself is named after a man whose family owned a slave plantation.

Trump has been regularly blasted for the way he has spoken about the struggles facing black Americans around the country. Black leaders have accused Trump of stereotyping African Americans. He has compared American inner cities to war zones, has overstated unemployment among blacks, and has often asked several times, "What do you have to lose?"

"You take a look at the inner cities, you get no education, you get no jobs, you get shot walking down the street. They're worse, I mean honestly, places like Afghanistan are safer than some of our inner cities," Trump said Tuesday. "And I say to the African American communities and I think it's resonating, because you see what's happening with my poll numbers with African Americans. They're going, like, high."

President Obama on Saturday tore into Trump on that very issue, suggesting that Trump lacked historical awareness. "You may have heard Hillary [Clinton]'s opponent in this election say that there's never been a worse time to be a black person. I mean, he missed that whole civics lesson about slavery or Jim Crow," Obama said during the Congressional Black Caucus gala in Washington.

Obama urged voters to support Clinton over Trump.

"If I hear anybody saying their vote does not matter, that it doesn't matter who we elect, read up on your history. It matters. We've got to get people to vote," Obama said. "I will consider it a personal insult, an insult to my legacy, if this community lets down its guard and fails to activate itself in this election. You want to give me a good sendoff? Go vote."


Jose DelReal was a national correspondent covering America's rural-urban divide, the USDA and HUD. He left The Washington Post in June 2017.

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