Donald Trump’s efforts at Black voter outreach have been curious at best. Over the last couple of months, the Republican presidential nominee has been trying desperately to convince Black people to vote for him. With refrains of “You live in your poverty” and “You have no jobs,” Trump has been making his case in places like Michigan and North Carolina.
Or has he?
It seems odd to me that any Black person is enthusiastic about voting for Donald Trump after his questioning the birthplace of President Obama; his alleged statements quoted in a 1991 book that “laziness is a trait in blacks” and not anything we can control; his family’s refusal to allow Black people to rent some apartments in New York City; and the 1973 lawsuit Trump filed against the federal government in which he complained about “reverse discrimination” and the government trying to force his family’s company to rent property to “welfare recipients.” But even if those examples aren’t enough, certainly his overblown rhetoric during this election about life for Black Americans is cause for alarm.
During a town hall event recorded Wednesday night co-hosted by die-hard Trump enthusiasts Sean Hannity and Pastor Darrell Scott, Trump declared that he is a big supporter of New York City’s stop-and-frisk program and that he wants to expand it nationwide:
You understand, you have to have, in my opinion. I see what’s going on here. I see what’s going on in Chicago, I think stop-and-frisk. In New York City it was so incredible, the way it worked. Now, we had a very good mayor, but New York City was incredible, the way that worked, so I think that could be one step you could do.
Stop-and-frisk is a program that permitted police to stop and frisk a person without reasonable cause to do so. A federal judge in New York, Shira Scheindlin, concluded in her 198-page opinion in the landmark 2013 decision Floyd v. City of New York that while enforcing the program, New York City and the New York Police Department violated the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from unwarranted and unreasonable searches. She noted that the NYPD not only violated the Fourth Amendment, it also engaged in racially discriminatory policing in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Judge Scheindlin did not mince words in her ruling. “Under the NYPD’s policy, targeting the ‘right people’ means stopping people in part because of their race,” she wrote. “Together with Commissioner [Ray] Kelly’s statement that the NYPD focuses stop-and-frisks on young blacks and Hispanics in order to instill in them a fear of being stopped, and other explicit references to race … there is a sufficient basis for inferring discriminatory intent.”
The policy was an abject failure. And it was racist. But according to Donald Trump, “it worked incredibly well.”
That “very good mayor” is Rudy Giuliani, apparently, Trump’s decades-long friend who has been criticized by racial justice advocates and the media for making racist remarks in recent years. Trump praised Giuliani although no connection exists between the Giuliani administration’s “tough-on-crime” policies—like “broken-windows” policing—and the reduction of crime in New York. Indeed, in a 2006 article for Slate, Stephen Metcalf wrote that “the principal causes behind New York City’s crime drop had nothing to do with Giuliani.”
These details don’t matter to Donald Trump who, as Rashad Robinson, executive director of the racial justice organization Color of Change, aptly put it in a statement, has been “disturbingly eager throughout his campaign to declare that racial profiling is the answer to crime, terrorism, and other challenges our country faces, while dismissing civil rights concerns as political correctness.”
On Thursday in an appearance on Fox & Friends, Trump walked back his comments about a national stop-and-frisk policy, pointing out that he doesn’t want to expand the program across the country, but that he wants to deploy it in Chicago only. Why Chicago? Because Chicago, aside from being home to Barack Obama, has become the symbol of all that is defective with Black people in this country, particularly for those who fancy themselves a member of the whimsically monikered “alt-right.”
Trump said during the Fox & Friends interview:
I think Chicago needs stop-and-frisk. Now, people can criticize me for that or people can say whatever they want. But they asked me about Chicago and I think stop-and-frisk with good strong—you know—good strong law and order. But you have to do something. It can’t continue the way it’s going.
Well that’s fantastic. He’s not going to stop and frisk all Black people in the country, just those unfortunate to live in “Chiraq.” Thanks, Donald. You’re a real gem.
Of course it’s important to note that these comments aren’t intended for Black voters. Trump’s often talking about Black people to white audiences, as was clear in this alleged photo of the town hall event on Wednesday. Unfortunately for Mr. “I am the least racist person” Trump—seriously, that’s what he told an audience of Black people in a church in Detroit—pledging to deploy stop-and-frisk to deal with those out of control negroes in Chicago is just as problematic as pledging to deploy it nationwide, as evidenced by its failure in New York.
Under NYPD Commissioner Kelly, between 2002 and 2011, there was a 600 percent increase in stops in New York City. In 2011, 685,724 people were stopped. Of those, 84 percent of the people stopped were Black or Latino; no cause for either arrests or even summons were found in 94 percent of the cases of stop and frisk. And only in less than 2 percent of cases were weapons or contraband found on the stopped person.
Setting aside the fact that the president doesn’t have the authority to institute a national stop-and-frisk program, Trump’s remarks are indicative of the putative “law and order” zeitgeist that surrounds his campaign.
Policies that end up unfairly targeting Black people represent the sort of discrimination that presupposes there’s something wrong with them. This benevolent racism permits whoever supports these programs to still feel good about themselves because, at the end of the day, it is really only about doing what’s best for Black people. Pinky swear.
And that’s what this renewed call for stop-and-frisk in areas like Chicago, which have been ravaged by poverty and systemic racism, is about: More cops. More racial profiling. More infringement on constitutional rights. That’s Trump prescription for Black America.