On Friday morning, President Donald Trump managed to fit praise of Kanye West, Chance the Rapper, and black unemployment rates into a single tweet.
It’s his latest attempt to wade into the ongoing national conversation about race — something that hasn’t gone so well for him in the past.
“Kanye West has performed a great service to the Black Community - Big things are happening and eyes are being opened for the first time in decades,” Trump wrote. “Thank you also to Chance and Dr. Darrell Scott, they really get it (lowest Black & Hispanic unemployment in history).”
Kanye West has performed a great service to the Black Community - Big things are happening and eyes are being opened for the first time in Decades - Legacy Stuff! Thank you also to Chance and Dr. Darrell Scott, they really get it (lowest Black & Hispanic unemployment in history).— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 27, 2018
There’s a lot going on here, and it’s worth unpacking.
Trump’s tweet came shortly after West and Trump engaged in a highly publicized Twitter lovefest earlier this week, with West telling his followers, “You don’t have to agree with trump but the mob can’t make me not love him.” He also tweeted a photo of himself in a Make America Great Again hat, and later tweeted a photo showing that the hat was signed by Trump.
The West-Trump exchange is the latest sign of a mutual fascination between the president and the rapper that has been building for more than a year, with West visiting Trump Tower after the 2016 presidential election.
Several high-profile conservative figures have argued that West’s backing of Trump shows that the president — and, by extension, the right-wing conservatives who support him — have taken the correct stance on race in America. They also say that this refutes claims of racism that have long plagued Trump and his supporters.
Chance the Rapper’s connection to the Kanye-Trump lovefest
On Wednesday afternoon, Chance the Rapper tweeted, “Black people don’t have to be democrats,” a claim that Trump took as a message of support. Trump had regularly argued on the campaign trail that black voters were being mistreated by the Democratic Party and should back him as a result.
This explains why Trump’s Friday tweet included Chance in his praise. The president also gave a shout out to Darrell Scott, a black pastor who has long supported Trump and served on the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, a group of nonwhite Trump supporters founded in 2016, as well as on Trump’s transition team.
On Friday morning, Chance issued a statement saying that his comments were “poorly timed” and are not an endorsement of Trump or the Republican Party.
Trump ended his tweet with the misleading argument that he is behind record declines in the black unemployment rate — a claim that he has made repeatedly, even as economists note that the black unemployment declined largely due to Obama administration policies and explain that the black unemployment rate remains far higher than that of whites.
All of this fits into Trump’s broader argument — namely, that his support in the black community is increasing, though there’s no evidence that this is the case.
The tweet also shows that Trump, who has attacked black public figures and politicians critical of him, and who has argued that NFL protests against racial injustice are unpatriotic, still has no idea how to talk about race and the issues plaguing black communities.
Trump has long faced accusations of racism, starting with being sued by the Justice Department in the 1970s for discriminating against black apartment tenants and continuing into 2018, when he called Haiti and other predominantly black countries “shithole countries.” And when he talks about places like Chicago — the hometown of West and Chance — he often describes the city as uniquely violent and in need of federal intervention and increased policing, despite concerns about police violence and its effect on black communities.
In short, this new tweet, rather than bolstering Trump’s argument that his support is strong among the black community, is just the latest sign that the president seems increasingly out of touch with reality.