President Donald Trump knows almost nothing about America’s inner cities. We are now more than a month into the Trump presidency and it is now abundantly clear that our President knows very little about the problems plaguing America’s inner cities. Over and over again, we have seen President Trump unfairly conflate “African-Americans” with “inner cities.” He did it during the October 9th Presidential Town Hall Debate. He did it during numerous campaign speeches. And he even did it during his “carnage” infused inaugural address.
Here is the truth, while President Trump is correct that Black economic achievement isn’t where it should be, he is wrong on his haphazard conflation between Blacks and America’s inner-cities. According to the Brookings Institute, 39 percent of African-Americans live in the suburbs, 36 percent live in cities, 15 percent live in small metropolitan areas, and 10 percent live in rural communities. This is a noticeable shift from 2000, when 41 percent of African-Americans lived in cities. So clearly, Mr. Trump is behind the times.
And while many of us will join with him on trying to pass a $1 trillion infrastructure and community revitalization bills, the truth still remains the same, African-Americans need more than just lip-service, platitudes, and broken promises. The complexities facing communities of color go way beyond crime and the lack of opportunity and are the end result of oppression that dates as far back as the founding of the Jamestown Colony in 1607. Here are a couple of ideas for President Trump to think about before he throws our community into another one of his trumped-up, poorly delivered speeches on America’s inner cities.
- More Youth-Available Jobs in the Summer
It is obvious that a major issue plaguing America’s cities is violence. 2016 marked Baltimore’s second deadliest year on record with 318 murders largely in part to gang-related warfare. In Chicago, 300 people were shot and 50 were killed in January 2017 alone. While a “no-tolerance” stance towards gang violence would work in an ideal world, there are more active strategies that can be implemented to tackle the rising rate of violence in America’s cities. Summer job programs for city youth are a realistic and proactive approach to the issue of gang-related violence and have been proven to help the problem. With more of these jobs available, kids are given the opportunity to gain valuable skills and experience in the workforce, while also keeping them off the streets. It is imperative that state-funding be allocated to these programs in order to create these opportunities. Otherwise, there is very little stopping inner-city youth from joining gangs and becoming a part of the violence occurring across the country.
- Funding for Urban Public Schools
In a recent article on Huffington Post, I discussed policies for alleviating the issues troubling the streets of the South and West sides of Chicago. Of these strategies, I mentioned the need for increased financing for struggling public schools in Chicago. But the fact is that greater funding for urban public schools is a countrywide necessity. Perhaps what is most frightening about the issue is that there is a direct statistical correlation between schools with higher numbers of minorities and significantly lower funding. Not only is this resulting in lower test scores and higher dropout numbers, but insufficient funding also poses threats to the safety and overall well being of students. In 2015, two children died after getting sick at their public school in Philadelphia where there were no nurses on duty because of budget cuts. These are the types of horrifying stories that we hear about on a weekly basis that arise from underfunded public schools where students are not provided well-resourced classrooms and wraparound services necessary to their well being and ability to grow and thrive.
- Criminal Justice Reform
For almost a decade, we have seen local police departments utilizing a practice called “Broken Windows” policing. In other words, the practice of policing against minor crimes and activities—such as vandalism, public drinking, and toll-jumping—has led to the criminalization and over-policing of communities of color and an excessive use of force for harmless crimes. In 2004, police killed almost 300 people who were involved in minor offenses and harmless activities. And while some have praised this practice as effective, the truth is this practice is only treating the symptom of a larger disease, poverty. Study after study have made it clear, mass incarceration and over-policing fuel violence, increase joblessness, and deplete the purchasing power of communities of color. If Mr. Trump wants to improve outcome for America’s black population, he should be focused on reforming our broken criminal justice system and listening to the calls being made for policy change by those living in the black community.
While moving forward, we can expect that Trump’s statements about the betterment of Black and Brown folks will be more lip service, this does not mean that we should leave our communities in despair. That is not the American way and just because we now have a leader who is obviously too self-absorbed and bigoted to help minorities in need, we cannot stop fighting for our fellow Americans. Progressives and millennials must come together to pressure the Trump Administration to follow through on promises made to struggling cities and urban communities.
Richard Fowler is the host of the nationally syndicated radio program “The Richard Fowler Show,” which can also be viewed on YouTube as an affiliate of The Young Turks network. Follow him on Twitter @RichardAFowler.