Wednesday, July 22, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He treated being non-white and being poor as the same thing—again.

Trump has resumed giving the COVID-19 briefings he was forced to abandon in April after wondering out loud whether drinking cleaning products could cure the virus. The main difference now is that his Coronavirus Task Force briefings are given without any of the actual task force present.

Today's "briefing" featured this exchange:

Q: Would you like to respond to Joe Biden, who, today, described you — you might have heard that — as the first racist to be elected President.  Those are his — that was his words. 
TRUMP:  Well, you know, it’s interesting because we did criminal justice reform.  We passed criminal justice reform, something that Obama and Biden were unable to do.  We did opportunity cities.  We did the greatest — if you look at what we’ve done with Opportunity Zones, nobody has ever even thought of a plan like that. 
Prior to the China plague coming in, floating in, coming into our country, and really doing terrible things all over the world — doing terrible things — we had the best African American, Hispanic American, Asian American — almost every group was the best for unemployment.  The unemployment numbers were the best. 
You look at — so you look at employment; you look at Opportunity Zones; and maybe most importantly of all, you look at criminal justice reform; you look at prison reform.  I’ve done things that nobody else — and I’ve said this, and I say it openly, and not a lot of people dispute it: I’ve done more for black Americans than anybody, with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln.  Nobody has even been close.

In other words, Trump's response to being accused of racism was to brag about things he always associates with non-white Americans: poverty, crime, unemployment, and the "China virus."

Although Trump seems unable to believe that people of color live in anything other than grinding poverty, it's not clear why he always refers to "Opportunity Zones" in these moments. They are places—not necessarily low-income or with large minority populations—where certain kinds of capital gains taxes are waived.

Until the pandemic, employment among Black and Hispanic Americans was little changed under Trump, who inherited very low rates from the Obama administration. Since then, minority workers have been hit even harder by skyrocketing unemployment rates than whites.

How is this a bad thing?

  • Hearing a mention of race and free-associating to crime and poverty is pretty much the definition of racism.
  • When Black unemployment is at 15.4%, it's probably a bad time to be bragging about how much you've done to help African-Americans get jobs.