President Trump got to the White House by telling Americans — especially white, working-class, conservative, Christians in the heartland — that liberal politicians in Washington didn't understand or care for them.
In the process, Trump has caused many people of color in the United States to wonder whether he and his party are guilty of the same thing.
HANNITY: And disproportionately, his economic policies hurt black Americans, Hispanic Americans more. How will your policies help minorities that are still struggling?
TRUMP: Well first of all, minorities want police protection more than anybody. They need it more than anybody. What's going on is crazy. And you look at some of these inner cities where it's just out of control, and remember, I was saying things like we will — you know, what do you have to lose? We will fix it. We're going to fix it. But one of the things we're doing very strongly now is the inner cities. Now Chicago is out of control. I don't know what they're doing in Chicago to have this many shootings and this many killings and all of the different things that are going on.
This is not like it's the United States of America. And pure and simple that's bad management. That's bad politics. It's incredible. And then you talk to them, “Why aren't you doing something?” They don't even want to talk to you about it. It's really insulting to our nation and whether you take on the NFL or you take on Chicago and some of our other cities there shouldn't be murders like this. Now at some point you're going to have to let them do their job. And they want to do their job. That's the incredible thing. We did it on the border. The border was like a sieve. Now it's down 78 percent.
Trump went on to blame Democrats — the party for which most black and Latino Americans vote — for murders and shootings in urban areas.
“Don't forget, the Democrats have ruled the inner cities for 100 years,” he said. “This is their rule.”
The history of police violence in black American communities is a long one, and Trump hasn't said anything significant to express that he's deeply knowledgeable about it. In fact, many have concluded that calling Americans speaking out on it “sons of b----es,” as Trump did about the NFL players who kneel during the national anthem, has been counterproductive.
And during the campaign, he attacked Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for handing over the stage to Black Lives Matter activists who interrupted his rally to talk about racial injustice and police brutality.
“I would never give up my microphone, I thought that was disgusting,” he told reporters. “That showed such weakness, the way he was taken away by two young women. They just took the whole place over!”
After Trump's response to the August rallies in Charlottesville, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) — the Senate's only black Republican lawmaker — suggested that Trump spend time talking to Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who endured a fractured skull in 1965 when a law enforcement-led mob attacked activists marching for voting rights for black Americans.
Trump made headlines earlier this year when he attacked Lewis as “all talk” despite his contributions to U.S. history, as well as the city of Atlanta as a whole.
Congressman John Lewis should finally focus on the burning and crime infested inner-cities of the U.S. I can use all the help I can get!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 15, 2017
Trump thinks more law enforcement is the solution, but there's data to support that black communities are actually overpoliced. David Kennedy, author of “Don't Shoot: One Man, A Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America,” wrote that people of color experience high rates of arrest for minor offenses compared with white Americans — which goes on to perpetuate tense relationships between these communities and the law enforcement officers assigned to them.
Being overpoliced for the small stuff, and underpoliced for the important stuff, alienates the community, undercuts cooperation and fuels private violence: which itself often then drives even more intrusive policing, more alienation, lower clearance rates, and still more violence. The cops write off the community even more; the community writes off the cops even more.
Historians argue that the increase in policing black neighborhoods began during the Johnson administration as northern cities became more densely populated with black Americans looking for employment. And activists and educators say those methods have now trickled into policing black children in inner-city public schools.
From Trump's earliest days on the campaign, he's had some black Americans — many with ties to urban America — on his team. But many of these individuals — pastors of charismatic megachurches, athletes and entrepreneurs — reinforced the president's anecdotal views of urban life in the United States without addressing the countless data, surveys and reports on the issues that could be helpful in shaping policies on this issue.
Recent attempts to meet with black Americans more familiar with urban America than the president haven't been incredibly successful. The Congressional Black Caucus declined an invitation to meet with the president earlier in the summer. And Trump's campaign promises to spend more time talking to voters in inner cities after entering the White House have yet to happen.
But one common theory as to why Trump refuses to hear views on this issue that challenge his previously held ones — and at worse attacks those who disagree with him — is that when Trump talks about black Americans in urban communities, he's not talking to black Americans. The Washington Post's Philip Bump wrote about this when Trump launched into his pitch to black voters on the campaign trail in Dimondale, Mich., a city whose population is less than 1 percent black:
It's likely that Trump's continuing lack of meaningful outreach to black voters keeps him from understanding effective ways of arguing his case. When he went to Baton Rouge to see flood damage, he stopped at a Baptist church with a mostly white congregation.
Or maybe black voters aren't his intended audience. Maybe, with his poll numbers low thanks to soft support from his own party, Trump is trying to convince Republicans that he wants or can earn the black vote.
But with current approval ratings from black Americans in the single digits, he's got some work to do. Very few people are content with the present relationship between police and minorities in inner cities. But as leader of the country, the president is in a unique space to change that. During the campaign he told black voters at a Detroit church “I'm here today to learn.” More than a year later after asking black Americans “What the hell do you have to lose?” it's not clear that Trump is listening.