Sen. Tim Scott (R.-S.C.), the only black Republican in the Senate, will try to get through to President Trump following Trump's poorly received response to the protests and violence in Charlottesville last month.
Scott is attempting to do something that most black lawmakers on the Hill have quit trying: to make some progress with the president's views on race in America. The Congressional Black Caucus, a bipartisan group of lawmakers who advocate for policies affecting black Americans, declined a meeting request from the Trump White House in June after concluding that their concerns from a previous meeting “fell on deaf ears.”
But Scott evidently doesn't think Trump is a lost cause, and The Washington Post's Ashley Parker reports he will meet with the president on Wednesday to discuss historically black colleges and universities, poverty and other issues facing communities of color.
“Racism is real. It is alive. It is here,” Scott told VICE News after Charlottesville.
But some questioned if Trump fully grasped that following his comments about the violent rally that was sparked by white supremacists descending on a Southern college town to protest the removal of Confederate memorials.
“I think there is blame on both sides,” Trump said at a much-criticized news conference Aug. 15 in the lobby of the Midtown Manhattan Trump Tower.
“What about the 'alt-left' that came charging at, as you say, the 'alt-right,' do they have any semblance of guilt?” he asked. “What about the fact they came charging with clubs in hands, swinging clubs, do they have any problem? I think they do.
“You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say it, but I will say it right now,” Trump added.
Nearly 6 in 10 voters say Trump has encouraged white supremacists, according to a Quinnipiac poll. Most Americans — 56 percent — viewed his response negatively, according to a Washington Post-ABC News survey. Scott was one of them.
“What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority. And that moral authority is compromised when Tuesday happened. There’s no question about that,” he told VICE.
Scott, who supported Trump's candidacy, has previously criticized the Trump's often controversial rhetoric on race and planned to meet with the president before the Charlottesville violence, but people familiar with the meeting said the incident made the meeting a higher priority.
Trump has regularly been criticized by activists and lawmakers across the ideological spectrum for his words on race. A prominent part of his pitch to black voters was: “What the hell do you have to lose?”
Scott seems to think that Trump could have a better idea of what black Americans stand to lose under his presidency if Trump listens to him.
A person with knowledge of the meeting said that it is an outcome of Scott's comments on “Face the Nation” in August that Trump needs to have more interaction with people of color, and that Scott is “meeting with Trump Wednesday to discuss race/Charlottesville/issues facing [people of color] and sharing his perspective.”
But Trump's words, positions and policies can't be the result of never having heard personal stories from people of color about racism and discrimination.
His housing secretary is Ben Carson. One of his White House aides is Omarosa Manigault. His “old friend” hip-hop legend Russell Simmons wrote an open letter to him. Television host Steve Harvey made the trek to Trump Tower — although he now seems to regret it.
All of these associates of the president have spoken publicly about their experiences with racism in the United States.
At some point, those who still want Trump to hear them out have to ask if Trump isn't doing so because he doesn't want to get it, is incapable of getting it for some reason or thinks it's not in his best interest politically to get it.
It is worth noting that significant numbers of Americans are just fine with how Trump is responding to racial tension is this country. While most disapproved of Trump's response to Charlottesville, white supremacists cheered it, as did most Republicans — 62 percent of them.