President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team has released what it’s calling a “new deal for Black America.” The entertainment website MediaTakeOut published the 10-point document late last week, not long before it was announced that Steve Bannon, Trump’s campaign chair, editor in chief of Breitbart.com, and champion of the views of “alt-right” white supremacists, would become his chief strategist.
Given Trump’s decades-long history of expressions of racism and allegations of racial discrimination, it’s unsurprising the document is both bursting with stereotypes and lacking in substance.
To be clear, “Donald J. Trump’s New Deal for Black America — With a Plan for Urban Renewal” lacks proposals designed to benefit African Americans or directly address demands from politicians or activists on remedying racial inequality. Rather, it’s a list of cursory declarations about a set of Trump’s previously stated views, lazily pitched to a black audience.
Trump says he’ll allow for more choices in where families can send their children to school, safer communities, equal justice under the law, and fiscal reforms to spur job creation, including tax reform, reducing outsourcing jobs to foreign countries, and heavily taxing companies that engage in outsourcing.
Many of these ideas are totally unrelated to race, but are peppered with assertions about how they’ll benefit black people. Others are reminders of his explicit embrace of racial discrimination.
That’s unsurprising. As Vox’s Ezra Klein wrote Monday, the evidence so far suggests that Trump plans to govern in very much the same way he campaigned: refusing to recognize his weaknesses or admit that he doesn’t know something. That theme applies to his thinking — or, lack thereof — about black people.
During his campaign, Trump spoke dismissively about how “the African Americans” had “nothing to lose” by voting for him because of the conditions in “the inner city” where he seemed to imply that all black people lived in total misery.
At a September town hall debate, he expressed enthusiasm for the revival and expansion of stop and frisk, a New York City policing tactic that a judge had deemed an unconstitutional violation of the rights of black and Latino residents. Trump was either unaware of this or unbothered by it. He said it was “so incredible, the way it worked,” despite the fact that it was completely ineffective. (A fact even the New York Daily news admitted in an August 2016 editorial headlined, “We were wrong: Ending stop and frisk did not end stopping crime.”)
That makes the statement in his “new deal” document, “We will apply the law fairly, equally and without prejudice. There will be only one set of rules — not a two-tiered system of justice,” especially questionable. In fact, in 1989, Trump waged a media campaign against five black and Latino teenagers who were accused of raping a woman jogger in Central Park. Those teens, known as the Central Park 5, were later cleared of wrongdoing in 2002 through a confession and DNA evidence, after some spent as many as 14 years in prison.
But when asked about the case this year, Trump said he still thinks the defendants are guilty, and that they deserved the death penalty. What’s even worse than a “two-tiered system” is a belief that it’s acceptable for opinions, rather than facts, to govern outcomes for some people — who just happen to be black.
The less outrageous segments of the plan simply shoehorn other policy positions into proposals for black people, with divisive statements like, “No group has been more economically harmed by decades of illegal immigration than low-income African-American workers” and the recitation of stump speech lines on trade, infrastructure, and job creation.
Despite the plan’s passing mention of “the African-American church” in a short section expressing generalized enthusiasm for organized religion, Trump offers no assurances to the 23 percent of American Muslims who identify as black against the religious discrimination he has threatened with his promises of a “Muslim ban” on immigration and increased surveillance of Muslim communities of US citizens.
Trump did say in the statement that he would “ensure funding for Historic Black Colleges and Universities.” That, however, does not signal much of a “deal,” as federal funding for those institutions already exists.
The inclination to speak directly to black people in statements heavy on platitudes and light on substance is a reminiscent of when Trump visited a black church in Detroit in September. For the event, Trump was provided with statements by his campaign staff, the New York Times reported, that completely shirk the current realities of racial inequality. For example, he said, “If we are to make America great again, we must reduce, rather than highlight, issues of race in this country,” and “I want to make race disappear as a factor in government and governance.”
His release of the “new deal” to an entertainment website famous for celebrity gossip and viral fight videos, instead of a legitimate news outlet, is yet another signal that he is either unserious about or intentionally mocking the concerns of black people. Though that message would likely be well-received by the white nationalists who made up an enthusiastic part of the coalition that propelled him to the White House.