The death of Nykea Aldridge on Friday afternoon is a death of the sort that's become sadly familiar in Chicago this summer. A young mother fatally shot on the street — this time accidentally, after hundreds of others that were intentional. What made Aldridge's death unusual is that she had a famous relative, Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade.
Wade tweeted about his cousin's death, in a call to address the gun violence that has plagued the city.
My cousin was killed today in Chicago. Another act of senseless gun violence. 4 kids lost their mom for NO REASON. Unreal. #EnoughIsEnough
— DWade (@DwyaneWade) August 27, 2016
Wade's hashtag, #EnoughIsEnough, was a slogan used at the start of ESPN's annual awards show this year by Wade and other basketball stars to try to draw attention to the problem of gun violence. "The end of gun violence in places like Chicago, Dallas, not to mention Orlando, has to stop," Wade said during the program. "Enough. Enough is enough."
Wade wasn't the only one to tweet about Aldridge's death. So did Donald Trump, on Saturday morning.
Trump's message was different. "Just what I have been saying," he said about Aldridge's death. Which is true: Trump has been regularly using gun homicides in Chicago as a broader representation of an increase in violent crime across the nation — an increase for which there isn't evidence.
Moreover, he's been using gun violence in Chicago as a way of arguing somewhat circuitously that he deserves more support from black voters. In most national polling, Trump gets the support of a handful of black respondents, usually in the low single digits. It's probably in part because Trump has been seen as appealing to bigotry in his campaign rhetoric, as Quinnipiac University showed in a poll earlier this week. That belief is one that extends well beyond black voters.
It's also probably in part because black Americans have been supporting Democratic candidates by wide margins for decades. Trump has tried to use this as an awkward appeal to black voters, suggesting that since things aren't perfect for black Americans, they should give his candidacy a shot. "What do you have to lose?" he has asked repeatedly, in a pitch that seems hard to outdo for ineffectiveness.
One of the challenges Trump has faced over the course of his campaign is a refusal to embrace the nuances of American politics. Everything is presented hyperbolically and at its extremes. The idea that black communities suffer thanks to the policies of black Democrats is a long-standing one, but implying that this is thanks to dutiful, unthinking votes being cast by voters incapable of making their own decisions is obviously incorrect (not to mention fraught). Trump here blitzes past the normal considerations of propriety and rhetoric to squeeze a chain of thought into 140 characters: Someone is dead, which is tangentially related to part of his scattershot arguments on race and crime, and therefore this bolsters one of the quivering poles supporting his wobbly pitch to black voters. That's the utility of the life of Nykea Aldridge as far as Donald Trump can see it.
What's interesting is that the broader context undermines Trump's argument. Wade was already active in trying to fight the scourge of gun violence, part of any number of efforts to do so by members of the black community. Trump hasn't spent much time with that community, so he (as with many others, no doubt) may be unaware of the programs and efforts that are undertaken every day to keep people from being shot in the streets. For example: Wade's World Foundation, which focuses on helping children and also works to curtail violence in Chicago neighborhoods.
Trump's interest in the problem is new, mind you. Before the past few weeks, he had rarely mentioned the problem of urban gun violence; before running for office, he doesn't seem to have ever engaged in trying to help solve the problem. (Trump's pre-campaign history doesn't include any recent charitable outreach, for example.) He did famously get involved when a group of four black young men and one who was Hispanic were accused of raping a woman in Central Park: He bought ads in New York papers calling for the death penalty. The five were later proven to be innocent.
We've noted from the outset that Trump's outreach to black voters was mostly about convincing the one-fifth of Republican men and one-quarter of Republican women who see him as biased against women and minorities that he was a palatable option as president. Trump's tweet Saturday morning seems unlikely to make his case in that regard stronger. The tweet streamlined the affectations of that outreach past the point that they can continue to serve their purpose. It comes off not as a thoughtful statement of concern for a tragedy that needs to be fixed but more as an attempt to leverage a slaying into a campaign slogan.
It's fitting to end by talking about Nykea Aldridge. The Chicago Tribune reports that she and a man were walking down the street at 3:30 p.m., having gone to register her children for school at the Dulles School of Excellence. Someone tried to kill the man Aldridge was with, hitting her by mistake.
Four children, one a newborn, lost their mother.
Update: At about noon Saturday, Trump deleted the original tweet. Shortly afterward, he tweeted it again. The problem? He'd spelled Wade's name wrong.
Dwyane Wade's cousin was just shot and killed walking her baby in Chicago. Just what I have been saying. African-Americans will VOTE TRUMP!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2016
Update: Two hours later, Trump offered his condolences.
My condolences to Dwyane Wade and his family, on the loss of Nykea Aldridge. They are in my thoughts and prayers.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2016