Black Americans get a raw deal from Trump’s ‘new deal’ platform | Identity & Culture | Chicago Reader

Black Americans get a raw deal from Trump’s ‘new deal’ platform 

Don’t believe the hype: Black lives still don’t matter to the president-elect.

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click to enlarge Trump hold the child of a supporter at an October rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Trump hold the child of a supporter at an October rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

TASOS KATOPODIS/AFP/Getty

Did you know that Trump has a ten-point plan to help African-Americans?

I'll bet that's a no.

Trump's "new deal" for black America includes promises of jobs associated with infrastructure investment, "protection" from illegal immigration, his usual rhetoric on law and order, tax holidays for business investment in inner cities, and changing the country's approach to trade deals.

Maybe you haven't heard about this because Trump's transition team didn't push this policy platform directly to the likes of NBC, or even the "failing" New York Times, as he likes to call the paper. Instead, they sent it to MediaTakeOut.com, a black community-centered gossip blog the contents of which are one step below the sometimes-newsy reporting of TMZ and one step above the brazenly ratchet brawls on World Star Hip Hop. That is to say, MediaTakeOut isn't a destination for anyone hoping to stay up on politics. But perhaps since the site bills itself as the "most read urban website in the world," Trump's transition team thought it'd be best to send it their way.

Still, the choice of outlet is just downright laughable. Literally. When I mentioned MediaTakeOut during a phone call with a representative of a Chicago-based community group, I elicited a laugh so contagious that we had to pause and marvel at the sheer absurdity of the choice.

As for the plan itself, it's actually based on campaign remarks Trump delivered in Charlotte in late October. I'll get to what's in the plan in a minute. But here again, the choice of venue was telling of the Trump campaign's cluelessness. That speech didn't take place at, say, a black church, nor was it shared with a mostly black crowd, nor was it conveyed in a sit-down meeting with black publications of record, such as Ebony or the Root.

Rather, as the Charlotte Observer reports, this was a message shared—yet again—to a predominantly white, invitation-only audience. Indeed, it's part of a pattern. For all his talk about the troubles of black Chicago, for example, when Trump came to town, he visited only with Polish-American groups on the mostly white northwest side.

Now let's talk about what's actually in this ten-point plan.

This so-called "new deal" repackages and remixes campaign promises about the economy and policing in an attempt to sell a generic plan to this specific group of people. It includes Trump's "America First" foreign policy to redirect money spent on building democracies abroad, and regulatory changes so that small businesses—including black-owned ones—have an easier time getting the credit they need.

But for all its sweeping economic populism, the platform does nothing to address the disproportionate killings of often-unarmed black people by police officers, the issue that's been the biggest rallying cry of the Black Lives Matter movement since its inception. There's no mention of scaling back mass incarceration. Trump doesn't even promise to pick a Supreme Court justice who would ardently defend the civil rights of black people. And if one reads into his nomination for attorney general—Alabama senator Jeff Sessions, a man who in the 1980s was deemed too racist for a federal judgeship under President Reagan—it appears that Trump could care less about civil rights, even if his plan promises "equal treatment" under the law.

—Shari Runner, Chicago Urban League president

Trump swayed just 8 percent of black voters—his descriptions of "inner city" troubles was refreshing enough for some African-Americans to have earned their support. I spoke to an elderly black woman at a Hyde Park precinct on election night whose eyes lit up and who broke into a smile as she told me how she'd never before seen a wealthy white businessman of Trump's caliber specifically address the needs of black people.

Trump's campaign was music to her ears. But community leaders I spoke to this week say that to them his proposals are anything but.

"I find the ten-point plan insulting," says Shari Runner, president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League. Although some people believe this is the first time they've seen a specific agenda for black Americans, "that's not the agenda I want to see," she says. "It feels very empty to me."

Runner questioned the vagueness of the platform as well as its vapid references to institutions like the black church.

"[Rebuilding infrastructure] benefits everyone across the board. We need jobs, but how many African-Americans will get jobs to build that infrastructure?" she asks. "The African-American church is already strong. What is he going to do to make it stronger?"

Others felt the platform had more of the same old talk they've heard from conservative politicians in the past.

"I’m not sure what's so 'new' about this deal," says Katelyn Johnson, executive director of Action Now, an advocacy group that organizes in low-income black communities. "From the ten points, what I got were false promises. There were no specifics, and these items have historically hurt black communities."

Specifically, Johnson points out the plan's pledge to promote "school choice," which she argues is just school privatization under another name. Members of Action Now have been organizing to promote the vitality of neighborhood public schools, and are still working towards consensus about how they'll proceed in the wake of Trump's election, Johnson says.

Action Now has also advocated for corporate accountability; the tax-cutting aspect of Trump's plan doesn't sound appealing to Johnson either.

"People in Chicago and Illinois have clearly stated that they want the rich and companies to pay their fair share," she says, citing conversations she's had around restructuring the tax system and imposing financial transaction taxes. "I think people have seen what privatization and toxic reforms have done for our communities, and they're not buying it anymore."

Both Johnson and Runner say that whatever Trump has proposed, their organizations will continue working on the front lines. They stressed the importance of working in coalitions with people and groups that share similar visions for what a diverse America could look like.

"We want to make sure everyone's voice is heard . . . . It's going to be very difficult for the country to heal right now, and we have to be very aware that this is not business as usual, and that this is not the new normal," Runner says. "It is important to say that America wasn't great back in the time when they think that it was—and we need to build moving forward instead of going backwards."   v


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