“Tell the American people why they should elect you to be the next president,” moderator Chris Wallace prompted the candidates to close out the debate. Wallace said he wanted to end on a positive note, letting the candidates to make an appeal to voters.
In that moment, Trump waded his way into this gigantic mess:
Our inner cities are a disaster. You get shot walking to the store. They have no education. They have no jobs. I will do more for African Americans and Latinos that she can do for ten lifetimes.
It should be no secret that Trump isn’t really courting black voters. The first time he deigned to address any black community anywhere was just a month ago, in Detroit—which, tbh, really is quite late in the game for an election that seems like it’s been running since last century. This part of campaigning is not rocket science: If Trump wanted black people to vote for him, he would've stopped on the campaign trail in a black community—any black community—for some photo ops before September.
On Wednesday night, though, Trump did more than dismiss black voters. He alienated us. Here’s a breakdown of how he did that:
“Our inner cities are a disaster”
Inner cities, which by the way is a code word for poor, black urban communities, are not a disaster because of black people. First, they have actual people living in them, and people should not be referred to as a “disaster.” Second, black people in urban centers are disproportionately poor because of systemic racism: housing discrimination (like the kind that Trump was sued for in 1973 by, of all people, Richard Nixon’s administration), segregated schools, and job discrimination. Maybe Trump should've mentioned that, and not to deny it, like his campaign's done before.
“You get shot walking to the store”
Black Americans kill other black Americans at roughly the same rate that white Americans kill white Americans. To quote Jamelle Bouie: “People don’t go across town to steal or kill—they commit crime against their neighbors. And in the United States, where most lives are still segregated by race, that means blacks victimize blacks, whites victimize whites, and so on.” Violence in black communities does not occur because black people are inherently violent. It happens because of systemic racism. (See above: “Our inner cities are a disaster.”)
“They have no education”
Black people in urban centers do have education; it’s just inferior to the education that white middle-class communities receive. Because systemic racism. (See above: “Our inner cities are a disaster.”)
“They have no jobs”
“I will do more for African Americans and Latinos than she can ever do in 10 lifetimes”
Tell us, brother: What have you done for black people lately? Except call us “they.”
Collier Meyerson is a reporter at Fusion with a focus on race and politics. She lives in Brooklyn.