Trump using black lives to gain white votes fits America’s long tradition of exploiting black bodies for profit
by: David Harris-Gershon on August 21st, 2016 | Comments Off
Donald Trump’s latest pitch to black voters is not actually an effort to make inroads in the African-American community, or to convince more black voters he’s an attractive option. Instead, the effort is about wooing white voters embarrassed by his past racism and bigotry. It’s about giving white, suburban voters the rhetorical cover they need to vote for Trump in November.
It’s why Trump made his appeal to black voters before a mostly white crowd in the mostly white, suburban town of Lansing, Michigan. And it’s why his appeal included the following words:
“What do you have to lose? You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?”
Denigrating all black Americans as poor, uneducated and unemployed is not a serious recruitment effort. It is, however, a way to paint the African-American community as wholly blighted before a white audience inclined to nod. A white audience which might appreciate Trump’s reaching out to African-Americans as they think, Yeah, why not try something new, you destitute blacks?
Their not voting for Trump becomes their own fault, rather than a response to Trump’s history of racism and bigotry.
Now, it should be stated that, yes, poverty rates in the black community are staggeringly high, and an indictment of how systemic racism continues to harm black families. After all, 27.4 percent of blacks live in poverty compared to 9.9 percent for whites. But those are the only numbers Trump is interested in, and not the fact that nearly 40 percent of black families reside in the middle class. It’s also why the unemployment numbers Trump chose to use are farcically high. For his interest is in casting blacks as helpless, and then projecting himself as the lone savoir who can help them. But this projection is being done to white voters, because his interest isn’t in helping black families, but profiting from images of their destitution in the service of wooing white votes.
Today, such a strategy was confirmed when Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, was interviewed by George Stephanopoulos:
“Many in the African American community saw that as insulting because they say most African Americans don’t live in poverty and that Mr. Trump was making those comments in communities that are more than 90 percent white,” [Stephanopoulos] said.
Conway responded that African Americans’ perception of the speech was not the only thing that mattered.
“Those comments are for all Americans,” she said. “And I live in a white community. I’m white. I was very moved by his comment.”
I’m white. I was very moved by his comment. That’s the whole point: to move white voters, to give them the cover they need to vote for Trump.
This is the Trump campaign exploiting black lives to gain white voters, which is merely an extension America’s tradition of exploiting black bodies for material profit – a tradition upon which our country was founded.
Few things could be more racist.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published by Oneworld Publications (London).
Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.