During the presidential debate, Trump proved he doesn’t even know what racism means


It’s about Trump, a president who has been endorsed by a Ku Klux Klan-affiliated newspaper and white supremacists like David Duke. It was Trump, who ran a full-page ad in various New York newspapers calling for the death penalty for the five innocent black boys, then known as the Central Park 5. It was Trump, who referred to the homelands of immigrants of color as “shithole country”. This is Trump, who has consistently failed to see the humanity of immigrants of color (including the many children) crossing our southern border.

Lincoln wasn’t even an abolitionist, but he still took action that forever changed the course of black life in this country. Right now, our president has proven to many of us that he doesn’t see the full humanity of non-white people. I find it hard to believe that, even if it were politically advantageous, Trump would seize the opportunity to create the kind of seismic shift in black opportunity that the end of slavery did.

Further evidence of the president’s inability to see the full humanity of black people came to me when, in the same breath used to compare himself to Lincoln, he brought up criminal justice reform — even though Welker had asked about race. Welker’s questions about race issues used language that went beyond the subject of the criminal justice system, such as when she asked about the impact that the decrease in federal regulations on oil refineries and chemical plants is having on communities of color, a question about the reality of environmental racism that shows how race is a factor in so many of our political realities.

But Trump has demonstrated how black people are too often used as a talking point in these debates between mostly white politicians. And too often the talking points focus only on the systemically racist relationship that the police, prisons and courts have with black people. It was telling and predictable that in response to his relatively open speech question about “how black and brown Americans experience race in this country” and asking the candidates if they understood why these parents “fear for their children,” the president’s response quickly devolved into a discussion of crime.

It was when Trump didn’t know what to say. He vaunted his criminal justice and prison reform, his work with historically black colleges and universities, showing the lack of dimension he gives to people of color. Then he did it on himself, saying it makes him “sad” that people fear for their children because of his rhetoric.

Compare this with Biden’s response that his plans will help improve access to education, health care and wealth for black Americans, before showing empathy for the specific human side of his question.

“I never had to tell my daughter if she pulled over… ‘Put both hands on the wheel and don’t reach for the glove compartment because someone might shoot you,'” Biden said. “But a black parent, whether rich or poor, has to teach their child, ‘…don’t wear a hoodie when you cross the street.'”


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