The Republicans wrapped up their 2016 convention last night and Donald Trump had a “message” for Black America: He is the Law & Order candidate. And he is going to restore order. He is going to protect law abiding Americans from crime and disorder. He is going to get our wayward urban Black and Brown youth under control and restore order.
Why do I say that Trump had a message for Black America when only .7% of GOP delegates (18 out of over 2400) at this year’s convention were Black? And less than 8% of African Americans voted for Mitt Romney in 2012? Because Trump made a not-so-subtle coded reference to America’s cities, the violence in the streets, the deaths of police, and more. But not once, and I mean not once, did he even allude to or mention the fact that more than 580 Black people have been killed at the hands of police this year, and that on the very day he gave his speech that another Black man, trying to help a mentally disabled man who was sitting in the street, was shot with his hands up by police.
Trump’s GOP is a place where Black and Brown people, and immigrants are simply not welcomed. Rhetoric aside that the GOP is a “big tent” (from looking at TV the last four nights, we know it is not). Trump made no effort in his speech to address Black voter concerns, and he declined to speak to the NAACP earlier this week at their annual convention — something Mitt Romney did in 2012. Trump and his running mate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence are fighting for an America gone by. One that was more White, more conservative, more traditional and more moral. When in reality, the demographics of the nation have shifted dramatically toward a diverse melting pot that is closer to our founders’ vision of E Pluribus Unum: “Out of Many, One.”
Let’s quickly recap what we saw after four nights at the GOP Convention. The convention started in controversy with an admission of plagiarism by Melania Trump’s speechwriter, Meredith McIver, for having lifted parts of First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech about her then-Senator husband, who was the Democratic nominee. Then we watched Dr. Ben Carson stunningly make a reference to Hillary Clinton admiring a supposed follower of Lucifer. Worse, we watched Rudy Giuliani scream at the top of his lungs about race and policing, how the President has divided Americans, and the threat of radical Islam and keeping Muslim refugees out of America (as was reinforced last night by Donald Trump).
Next up, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie went on a mock prosecutorial trail regarding Mrs. Clinton’s emails (as the crowd chanted “Lock Her Up”), while VP nominee Gov. Mike Pence called Hillary Clinton the “Secretary of Status Quo.” These are just some of the highlights of speaker after speaker, almost all White, who talked about “taking our country back.” They talked about “returning to God, and our Christian values” (which probably plays well to Black voters, who are huge churchgoers). And to top it all off, Senator Ted Cruz took the stage and told people to vote their “conscience” and he refused to endorse Trump at his own convention as Cruz was booed from the stage.
What America saw is a GOP that is badly divided. Angry. Very white. Non-inclusive. And bent on a message that President Obama has destroyed America, and that we need (as one Conservative Talk Radio Michael Savage put it on air yesterday), “Two straight white men, to straighten out America.” He was, of course, referring to the Trump/Pence ticket. Ironically, Trump mentioned the LGBTQ community last night in his speech and “protecting” it. But, again, not once did he speak to how he will help Black men and women in this country be safe from being shot to death by police at routine traffic stops or at convenience stores.
In reality, however, what Trump said last night about crime was false. Crime is actually lower than it has been in many years according to crime statistics. What has happened, however, in the wake of recent tragic shootings of Police in Dallas and Baton Rouge, where eight police officers have been gunned down in the space of just one week (by two black men, both former military vets) is that Donald Trump’s campaign has seized on the palpable fear and anger of many White Americans who feel that these shootings are a sign of a larger Black pathology when it comes to crime and disrespect for law enforcement. Mayor Rudi Giuliani spoke to this point most vociferously at the GOP Convention on Tuesday night. Trump’s stance last night to make the GOP the “law-and-order party,” was in many ways politically savvy. Indeed, the theme for the opening night of the Republican National Convention was “Make Our Country Safe Again.”
Safe from what? Or better from who is what we should be asking. By almost any measure, according to a recent Politico Magazine story on this issue, the United States is safer than it has been in decades. Notwithstanding localized spikes in urban homicides, for the past decade the crime and violent crime rates have hovered at near-50 year lows. And despite the recent tragedies in Dallas and Baton Rouge, the same is true of the number of police officers killed in the line of duty. Which begs the question, what kind of message is Trump sending to America when he intentionally distorts the facts about America being riddled with crime and disorder.
In my opinion, as someone who was a Republican for many years. And who worked in the trenches of the GOP, and at the highest levels on Capitol Hill, the Republican party has made its last stand to “restore” America to the 1950s America that we saw showcased in Cleveland. I do not think the Trump campaign cares about outreach to Black and Brown people. I think they have made their case: America is a dark place, full of rancor and crisis, in need of restoration from President Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Sophia A. Nelson is an award winning author and journalist. Her forthcoming book, “epluribus One” is due in stores January 2017. Follow her on Twitter @iamsophianelson.