Opinion: Trump’s Trying To Court Black Voters. Who’s Buying It?

I’ve always been stunned at former President Donald Trump’s physical prowess.

I mean, who can forget when his White House director of communications, Anthony Scaramucci, gushed about witnessing Trump throw a perfect spiral through a tire? Or his claim that he’s seen the confirmed thousand-aire at Madison Square Garden in a top coat at the foul line swishing free throws?

And despite all of us knowing that the former president’s diet relies heavily on fast food, that didn’t stop his White House physician, now Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas), from praising his genetics.

“Some people just have great genes,” Jackson told reporters in 2018. “I told the president if he had a healthier diet over the last 20 years, he might live to be 200.”

So it has been quite the show watching the gymnast-like contortions of the former president to avoid getting to know, or actually court, Black people to support his campaign.

Earlier this month, in his latest episode of “See? Black people like me!” the president stood during an obvious photo-op at an Atlanta Chick-fil-A while smiling Black workers appeared to pose while taking his order. Trump reportedly ordered 30 milkshakes and some chicken, dealing out fast food for free publicity before heading to a high-dollar fundraiser in a largely white neighborhood.

A Black woman in the restaurant said, in her best untrained actor voice, “I don’t care what the media tells you, Mr. Trump, we support you!”

I later found out the Black woman was in fact Michaelah Montgomery, a conservative activist who had arranged the entire scene. To her credit, the bigger story was supposed to be a conversation between students from nearby HBCUs and the presidential candidate about conservatism and possible inroads with the Black community.

The moment became a meme. As with most Trump moments. Because what Trump and those around him don’t understand or care to involve themselves with is that Black people, more specifically Black women (also known as the spine of the Democratic voting bloc), are three dimensional, alive, actual human beings.

In Trumpland, Black people are caricatures of all of the worst stereotypes that have ever been imagined. They are rapists, thieves and murderers who want to terrorize… wait, no, that’s immigrants. But the point remains: The idea of even possibly courting Black voters never moves past stereotypical ideology. Which is comical when you consider that in 2024, the year of our lord Dawn Staley, an actual presidential strategy for winning the Black vote was… wait for it… sneakers.

In February, Trump unveiled his $399 “Never Surrender High-Tops” at SneakerCon in Philadelphia. Trump didn’t just premiere the gaudy gold high-top decorated with an American flag motif, the sort of faux patriotism that’s truly become Trump’s signature brand, he actually went to the event to help hawk the ridiculousness that was an attempt to capture not just youth culture but … well, I’ll just let Fox News contributor Raymond Arroyo say the quiet part out loud.

“This is … connecting with Black America. Because they’re into sneakers. They love sneakers. This is a big deal. Certainly in the inner city.”

Arroyo got bashed for his take, as he should, but his take was a glimpse into how many Republicans, especially Trump, see Black people as sneaker-loving, inner-city dwelling and easily swayed by shiny, expensive things. It’s Republican typecasting in which a Black person remains the villain/magical negro who serves only to further the white protagonist’s storyline. And make no mistake about it, in the story of Trump, as told by the narcissistic narrator, the former president is always the hero.

Which brings us to Blacks 4 Trump (aka Black Voices for Trump), you know, that hodgepodge group of Blacks (mostly men) who have proclaimed their allegiance to Trump and who stump for him despite his lackluster attempts at any tangible metrics with the Black community. Don’t act like you don’t remember Michael Symonette, Maurice Woodside and Mikael Israel (these are not three people; it’s one man who has gone by three names), more commonly know as “Michael the Black Man” (his name for himself, not mine) who magically appeared behind Trump at a 2017 rally in Arizona. Always strategically placed in the camera’s view wearing a shirt that says “Trump & Republicans Are Not Racist” or “Blacks 4 Trump.” The funny thing is that the group Blacks 4 Trump didn’t ever seem to really do anything other than allow their Blackness to be co-opted for the then-president’s political gain. The group didn’t have an agenda or a political manifesto (at least it never presented one) that noted how Trump could actually earn the Black vote. They just showed up and allowed their images to be used to sell a product.

Because, never forget, Trump is always in the Trump business.

Which leads to arguably the most disturbing attempt by Trump’s campaign to court Black voters, which Trump’s camp openly admits they need to win over in the upcoming election: Insisting that because Black people have been the victims of an unjust criminal system, they relate to Trump more because he, too, is a victim of the Man.

Speaking at the Black Conservative Federation gala on Feb. 23 in Columbia, South Carolina, Trump claimed that Black people like him more now because he’s been indicted and has a police mug shot.

“A lot of people said that’s why the Black people liked me, because they had been hurt so badly and discriminated against. And they actually viewed me as I’m being discriminated against. … Maybe there’s something to it,” he said.

There isn’t. There never was. There never will be.

First, I didn’t know that there were enough Black conservatives to make up a “federation.”

Secondly, the president does a lot of sinister musings in these few sentences, so let’s take this slowly.

Trump acknowledges that there is discrimination and, more important, that Black people have been discriminated against. This means nothing to him, of course, as that only serves to get him to his second point, which is that he can relate, which therefore makes him more relatable to the discriminated class. He doesn’t want to fix the problem, he only wants to leech off of the sympathies related to it. It is in this brushstroke that Trump ― who has been charged by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, a Black woman; Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Black man; and New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Black woman ― that he, too, is a victim of systemic racism.

“When I did the mug shot in Atlanta, that mug shot is number one,” Trump said. He added that the Black population “embraced it more than anyone else.”

He also said: “I’m being indicted for you, the Black population.”

First, the obvious. I’ll just let President Joe Biden’s campaign spokesperson Jasmine Harris explain it.

“The audacity of Donald Trump to speak to a room full of Black voters during Black History Month as if he isn’t the proud poster boy for modern racism. This is the same man who falsely accused the Central Park 5, questioned George Floyd’s humanity, compared his own impeachment trial to being lynched and ensured the unemployment gap for Black workers spiked during his presidency,” Harris told The Washington Post.

“Donald Trump has been showing Black Americans his true colors for years: an incompetent, anti-Black tyrant who holds us to such low regard that he publicly dined with white nationalists a week after declaring his 2024 candidacy.”

Yep, everything she said and also, What does “I’m being indicted for you, the Black population” mean?

Is Trump claiming that he’s being sacrificed for the sake of Black people? Is he alleging that the 88 charges in his four criminal indictments are because he was such a champion of the Black community that he had to be taken out? Is Trump implying that he’s being crucified like, oh, I don’t know, the great religious leader who died on a cross? That couldn’t be what he means.

Well, he used the same line during a February speech in Tennessee before the National Religious Broadcasters Association, in which he claimed, “I’m being indicted for you.

Turns out “I’m being indicted for you” is a slogan, all pomp and propaganda, or “POMPAGANDA!” As with most things Trumpian, it means nothing. Because Trump so loved the world, he was indicted for us. All of us. And the strange part is I don’t think he’s being facetious. I believe that he actually believes this. I believe that he believes most of the things he spouts, but what’s always been scary to me has been the number of people who believe him; the people who actually believe he’s a billionaire and that he owns the buildings that bear his name. The people who believe that he’s being railroaded and those who are willingly going to vote for him again. You know, those people who still believe that he’s going to build a wall and get Mexico to pay for it. Or that hydroxychloroquine could prevent COVID-19. Those people who will still argue that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.

There are obvious inroads that Republicans could make if they were actually interested in reaching the Black community. Obvious areas like student debt relief, economic inequality, systemic racism and police reform. But that would require a level of humanity that I’m not sure Republicans have. It would mean that Republicans would have to actually have to learn about Black folks instead of destroying, hiding and whitewashing the history that made them. And why do that when you can easily cast Black people as the villains of your hero narrative, in which they remain flat, barely two-dimensional, distorted and exaggerated drawings that love some wildly overpriced ugly sneakers and have a penchant for criminality so strong that they find an accused criminal’s mug shot endearing.

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