President Donald Trump cited a statistic he was “very proud of” in his State of the Union speech Tuesday: “African-American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded,” he proclaimed to roaring applause.
But one group of lawmakers was notably not applauding: the Congressional Black Caucus, a group of roughly 49 African-American representatives and senators, many of whom chose to boycott tonight’s event.
Those who did attend said they were doing so to “stare racism in the face,” CBC Chair Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) said in a news conference Tuesday, adding that Trump has made the country “less safe for people of color.”
“The President has taken every opportunity to divide this country along racial lines,” Richmond said. “Words matter. President Trump’s racist rhetoric makes the country less safe for people of color by encouraging and emboldening and pandering to those who wish to do harm to others based on the color of their skin.”
In his first year in office, Trump failed to immediately condemn a Nazi sympathizer at a white supremacy rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. He started an online feud with black NFL players protesting racial injustice and police brutality, and allegedly called Haiti, El Salvador, and countries in Africa “shitholes” in a private immigration meeting with lawmakers, to name a few.
And as for the the unemployment statistics Trump cited in his speech, Vox’s Matthew Yglesias points out that “a simple eyeball of the African-American unemployment rate ... makes it clear that Trump has nothing to do with this trend.”
The African-American unemployment rate has been on the decline since 2011, long before Trump was in the White House.