President Donald Trump is demanding black voters give him what white evangelical Christians have: absolution for awful deeds in exchange for a few policy agreements.
White evangelical leaders have given Trump a “mulligan” for reports he paid hush money to a porn star with whom he allegedly had an affair not long after his wife had given birth. They have abandoned their long-espoused principles that the U.S. needs more godly men so they can support Trump. White evangelical Christians – who chose Trump out of a field of 17 Republican candidates that included a preacher, voted for him in record numbers in the 2016 election and support him now more than any other group – seem to have recalculated their definition of acceptable behavior. If Trump does it, it’s either good or can’t be that bad, as long as he appoints Supreme Court justices they like and pays lip service to a faith his actions suggest he doesn’t adhere to.
That’s likely why Trump is confused about his ability to garner more black support. After hip-hop mogul Jay-Z criticized Trump, Trump tweeted Sunday that Jay-Z should appreciate that Trump’s policies had lowered the black jobless rate to a historic low.
He couldn’t be more wrong. The rate was more than cut in half from nearly 17 percent in 2010, as the black poverty rate was also dropping to an all-time-low under President Obama. Trump frequently takes credit for things he’s had little to do with while denying facts that put him in an unflattering light. The economic indicators he is touting to claim he turned around an already-growing, job-producing economy? He spent years referring to them as fake and phony news when they were showing major progress under Obama.
The real problem is that black people have had to contend with men like Trump all our lives, those who would spit in our faces, call us dirty names and support or implement policies that hurt the group while bragging about his relationship with a few of “the blacks.” For much of the country’s history, we’ve had to accept that tradeoff. But those days are coming to an end. While there is still an enormous amount of racial progress needing to be realized – the black jobless rate is nearly twice as high as the white rate, as is the black poverty rate – there’s been enough progress to convince black Americans that we no longer have to make that devil’s bargain. We can demand equality and civil rights while refusing to forfeit our dignity.
It would be indecent for black Americans to curry favor with a man who lit a fire under the bigoted birther conspiracy, reportedly said black people had a lazy trait and helped railroad five black and brown young men into a prison sentence for a crime they didn’t commit – none of which Trump has come close to apologizing for.
It would be indecent for black Americans to ignore how Trump treats other people of color. He even duped many poor white Americans who genuinely believed Trump could reopen the mills in their struggling towns. He must be held to account for all he has said and done before black voters should embrace him.
Black Americans are forgiving. Ask Dylann Roof. They repeatedly sent Robert Byrd, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan, back to the U.S. Senate after Byrd renounced his old ways and committed to a different path. But a few extra dollars in our wallets from an unnecessary tax cut weighted towards the already-wealthy will not be enough to buy us off.