In order to fire up his white electoral base, the president is lashing out at African-American members of Congress, unafraid of being accused of racism. But, at the same time, he is also capable of surrounding himself with black celebrities.
We are seeing one controversy after another. After violently lashing out at the Muslim representative of Somalian origin Ilhan Omar, Donald Trump is starting a new controversy. For several days now, another member of Congress, Elijah Cummings, an African-American from Baltimore, is the victim of the U.S. president’s poisoned darts.
The congressman dared to criticize the conditions under which underage migrants are held in detention at the Mexican border. Trump took it badly; he quickly called Cummings a racist and accused him of doing “a very poor job for his district and the City of Baltimore,” a city that he described as “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.”
Reverend Al Sharpton, Too
A campaign strategy to ensure his reelection in 2020? By targeting African-Americans, Donald Trump wastes no time in exacerbating the racial tensions that divide the United States, conscious as he is of galvanizing his electoral base, which is mostly white. This is not the first time he has aggravated such tensions. Long before becoming president, he drew criticism as a real estate developer for his discriminatory policies against blacks. As Andra Gillespie, associate professor of political science at Emory University, observes, the current controversy proves that the first election of a black man as president in 2008 has not been “a panacea to solving America’s racial problems.”
Baltimore is a city with a black majority and also, as is the case in a lot of American cities, with poor neighborhoods where violence and drugs often go hand in hand. Donald Trump has criticized other towns in no less measured terms. That is the case with Chicago, Barack Obama’s hometown. Obama responded, by the way, by sharing an opinion piece on Twitter signed by 149 African-Americans who worked for him and who are worried about the White House occupant’s aggressive rhetoric and the rise of racism in the country. Obama himself was the target of Trump’s despicable “birther” campaign, which questioned whether Obama was really born in the United States and thus whether his presidency was legitimate.
Donald Trump did not stop his criticisms with Elijah Cummings. The Reverend Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist, according to whom the president clearly has “a particular venom for blacks and people of color,” received the same treatment.
This whole affair is reminiscent of the controversy around “shithole countries” in January 2018. Donald Trump spoke in these terms of African immigrants, as well as those from El Salvador and Haiti, living in the United States. The United Nations condemned these remarks as “shocking and shameful comments” that were racist and xenophobic.
But Donald Trump knows how to have it both ways. As if he is trying to make up for these harsh accusations, he likes to make appearances with Tiger Woods, the boxer Mike Tyson, and the basketball player Dennis Rodman. Or even the rapper Kanye West.
Defending an Incarcerated Rapper
Trump has also publicly defended another rapper, A$AP Rocky, whose trial began this Tuesday, July 30 in Sweden. He was accused of committing assault in the streets of Stockholm. A$AP Rocky has seen the worst that life has to offer: a father in prison, a brother killed by gun shot, a stay in a homeless shelter with his mother. He has also sold drugs. Not exactly Donald Trump’s type. The president’s unconditional support for him thus seems all the more surprising.
Trump, who continues to describe himself as “the least racist person anywhere in the world,” has just accused Sweden of “letting our African-American community down in the United States” and even hurried his envoy for hostage affairs to the country. But for the moment, the black electorate is the real hostage of the controversy which has arisen from the extreme polarization of American society.
What if this controversy were actually to the Democrats’ advantage? In 2016, African-Americans were guilty of a very weak voter turnout. Things could be different in 2020, especially if Donald Trump continues to target them. Democrats have certainly realized this. Reparations for slavery are now part of the policy agendas of most of their candidates.