But my presence as a Black man with a Black family in a predominantly White neighborhood in a predominantly White county is apparently a nightmare for President Trump and his supporters. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted that he was “happy to inform all of the people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream that you will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low-income housing built in your neighborhood.” In other words, he will keep my White neighbors who find me walking-home-while-Black threatening safe from me.
This is not just a desperate ploy to entice the suburban voters — 68 percent of whom are White, as estimated by the Pew Research Center — Trump needs for reelection. It is also the ammunition White Americans load in their guns when they shoot a Black person who scares them in their neighborhood. It is the ammunition that killed Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin and Elijah McClain.
Trump’s tweet was an announcement that he was rescinding the Obama-era guidance on the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule, which was part of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) of 1968. The Fair Housing Act was meant to prohibit the type of “no vacancies for blacks” housing discrimination that was the original sin of the Trump family fortune.
The AFFH was supposed to address some of the systemic factors that make housing segregation possible but was largely ignored by both the federal government and the localities that took the federal funds allocated toward mitigating that. Then, in 2015, the Obama administration offered new guidance on the implementation of AFFH rules that required counties that received the federal funds had to fill out an extensive survey, meet targets based on regional diversity and submit five-year plans for improvement. That is what Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson rescinded. Carson called the guidance, “unworkable and ultimately a waste of time.”
But Trump’s tweet was not as subtle; it is not concerned with arcane housing regulation but with his desire to scare the bejesus out of White people in suburban communities. Trump wants White suburbanites to think he is the only thing standing in the way of violent, dark, “urban” menaces intruding on their communities.
This would be laughable if it was not so dangerous. I know the danger, because these people are my neighbors. My neighborhood alerts constantly ping my phone with “warnings” submitted by my neighbors about people they do not recognize who might be stealing packages or parked cars. Most of the time, it is just a Black guy walking down our streets or the actual UPS man. Black people committing crimes is a perpetual fear of my White neighbors.
That sort of thing eventually takes a toll in Black lives. There is a direct line between the assumption that Black people in White neighborhoods are criminals and Ahmaud Arbery’s on-camera lynching in Georgia, where his White neighbors said they thought he was a thief. Assuming a Black person cannot possibly live in your neighborhood is how you end up with two White guys in a truck chasing down and murdering a brother out for a jog. It is how you get a third man recording the murder. It is how you get the officer called to the scene to ignore the murder and let the killers walk free. It is how you get officials calling the whole affair “perfectly legal.”
Black people living in predominantly White neighborhoods are not a gateway drug for crime. We do not depress housing values. But Trump is right about one thing: Our mere presence seems to “bother” some White Americans. Trayvon Martin bothered George Zimmerman, that is why Zimmerman followed him, harassed him and eventually shot him to death. When Trump promises White suburbanites that they will not be “bothered” by us, he is giving them a license to harass, brutalize and even kill us.
When I first moved into my house, a police SUV tailed me from the train station to my driveway, then parked in front of my house. I calmly went out to greet them, hands up and open the entire time. When I got to the window of the patrol car, the officer asked me whether I had just moved in. I said yes and then, as affably and obsequiously as possible, listed all the other members of my family, and their physical descriptions, for the officer’s edification. The officer thanked me for being so “reasonable” and drove off.
Suspicion is a tax I pay for daring to live in a White neighborhood.
Trump is trying to raise my rates.