Vot­ing Trump a big risk

Don­ald Trump could set civil rights back 50 years

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By Michael Hig­gin­botham Michael Hig­gin­botham (hig­gin­botham@ubalt.edu) is a pro­fes­sor of law at the Univer­sity of Bal­ti­more and the au­thor of “Ghosts of Jim Crow: End­ing Racism in Post-Racial Amer­ica.”

Speak­ing to a pre­dom­i­nantly white crowd in Di­mon­dale, Mich., re­cently, Don­ald Trump asked African-Amer­i­cans: “What do you have to lose by try­ing some­thing new” like him. “You’re liv­ing in poverty,” he said. “Your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 per­cent of your youth are un­em­ployed. What the hell do you have to lose?”

The short an­swer is stark: The African Amer­i­can com­mu­nity stands to lose much of the progress we have made in the last 50 years if Don­ald Trump wins the White House, while the se­ri­ous prob­lems that we still face will cal­cify or worsen. As Pres­i­dent Barack Obama put it over the week­end, when he told African-Amer­i­cans he would con­sider it a “per­sonal in­sult” if they did not vote for Hil­lary Clin­ton: “My name may not be on the bal­lot, but our progress is on the bal­lot. Tol­er­ance is on the bal­lot. Democ­racy is on the bal­lot. Jus­tice is on the bal­lot.”

Even the wayMr. Trump­posed his “what do you have to lose” ques­tion re­veals his deep lack of un­der­stand­ing and com­pas­sion. He views African-Amer­i­cans as an un­dif­fer­en­ti­ated group: “You’re liv­ing in poverty,” he says. In re­al­ity, of course, some of us are liv­ing in poverty, some are work­ing our way up the eco­nomic lad­der, some are com­fort­ably mid­dle class and oth­ers are en­joy­ing eco­nomic pros­per­ity. Sim­i­larly, some of our schools are in­deed “no good,” but oth­ers range from good to ex­cel­lent. We are, Mr. Trump, a di­verse com­mu­nity that has over­come tremen­dous racial bar­ri­ers through hard work, per­se­ver­ance and un­end­ing hope to get where we are to­day.

His ten­dency to char­ac­ter­ize AfricanAmer­i­cans in a neg­a­tive light and to see African-Amer­i­cans as noth­ing but a group of “oth­ers,” was demon­strated long be­fore he started fir­ing peo­ple on “The Ap­pren­tice.” Early in his pro­fes­sional real es­tate ca­reer, Mr. Trump had to set­tle a racial dis­crim­i­na­tion law­suit brought by the Jus­tice Depart­ment on be­half of black and Latino po­ten­tial renters of Trump-owned prop­er­ties. Tes­ti­mony in­di­cated wide­spread de­lib­er­ate prac­tices de­signed to keep out mi­nor­ity renters.

Prior to run­ning for of­fice, Mr. Trump was a leader of the “birther move­ment” — de­spite his re­cent at­tempt to shift the blame to his op­po­nent — pro­claim­ing that Pres­i­dent Obama was likely born in Africa rather than the United States and chal­leng­ing the le­git­i­macy of his pres­i­dency. Mr. Trump took years to ac­knowl­edge the truth and re­fused to apol­o­gize for the of­fen­sive chal­lenge. More­over, Mr. Trump has of­ten re­ferred to Pres­i­dent Obama as the “af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion” pres­i­dent, im­ply­ing that Mr. Obama’s ad­mis­sion to Har­vard Law School and elec­tion as ed­i­tor-in-chief of the Pres­i­dent Barack Obama on Satur­day told the Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus Foun­da­tion that a vote for any­one but Hil­lary Clin­ton is a "per­sonal in­sult" to him. Har­vard Law Re­view were not de­served.

Dur­ing the pri­mary cam­paign, Don­ald Trump was asked by a re­porter whether he would dis­avow the sup­port of former KKK leader David Duke and white su­prem­a­cist groups in gen­eral. Mr. Trump sidestepped the ques­tion, say­ing “I know noth­ing about David Duke; I know noth­ing about white su­prem­a­cists.” And when Mr. Trump’s run­ning mate, Mike Pence, was asked about Mr. Duke’s sup­port of the Trump/Pence ticket and whether such sup­port by avowed racists should be re­jected, Mr. Pence re­fused to com­ment. Blacks un­der­stand that racism thrives when Amer­i­cans stay silent.

When asked about the prob­lem of ex­ces­sive force by po­lice against mi­nori­ties, Mr. Trump re­sponded that “po­lice are ab­so­lutely mis­treated and mis­un­der­stood.” Mr. Trump shows fright­en­ingly lit­tle con­cern for mi­nor­ity vic­tims of po­lice bru­tal­ity. To Mr. Trump, the pri­mary so­lu­tion is giv­ing “power back to the po­lice, be­cause crime is ram­pant.”

On the gen­eral elec­tion cam­paign trail, Mr. Trump made it clear he op­poses same-day voter regis­tra­tion and sup­ports voter ID laws, to, he says, pre­vent il­le­gal im­mi­grants from vot­ing and ci­ti­zens from vot­ing mul­ti­ple times. De­spite the ev­i­dence that such voter fraud is rare, statis­tics con­firm the dis­pro­por­tion­ate im­pact of these po­si­tions on ac­cess to the bal­lot for black vot­ers. In North Carolina, for ex­am­ple, 25 per­cent of vot­ing-aged blacks do not pos­sess a photo ID — a per­cent­age three times greater than whites. Re­cent fed­eral court de­ci­sions in Texas, Wis­con­sin and North Carolina in­val­i­dated such re­stric­tive vot­ing prac­tices be­cause they are demon­stra­bly racially dis­crim­i­na­tory.

And then of course, there’s the fact that when Mr. Trump en­tered the pres­i­den­tial race, he launched his cam­paign by im­pugn­ing an en­tire pop­u­la­tion. Mex­i­cans com­ing into the United States, ac­cord­ing to Mr. Trump, might in­clude a few good peo­ple, but far too many were “rapists” and “crim­i­nals.” He pro­posed keep­ing Mus­lims from com­ing to Amer­ica, de­lib­er­ately in­sult­ing a re­li­gion of over 1.7 bil­lion peo­ple, much to the de­light of the re­li­giously in­tol­er­ant.

Mr. Trump’s ap­point­ments to the Supreme Court would be dev­as­tat­ing to civil rights ad­vance­ments made over the last half-cen­tury. With the pass­ing of Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia, the court could forge new prece­dents on ma­jor civil rights is­sues in­clud­ing the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of voter ID laws; af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion in em­ploy­ment and school ad­mis­sion; racial pro­fil­ing in law en­force­ment; and anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion laws in vot­ing, hous­ing and em­ploy­ment. Most of the civil rights cases in re­cent years, such as Shelby County v. Holder, which elim­i­nated im­por­tant parts of the Vot­ing Rights Act, have been 5-to-4 de­ci­sions. If our next jus­tice is sen­si­tive to the cause of civil rights, the new court will be able to, once again, en­sure equal pro­tec­tion law. Mr. Trump’s list of likely nom­i­nees, on the other hand, will con­tinue Jus­tice Scalia’s ap­proach of un­duly lim­it­ing our civil rights pro­tec­tions.

Mr. Trump’s en­tire pres­i­den­tial cam­paign is based on “mak­ing Amer­ica great again.” The con­cept im­plies go­ing back to a time when blacks were sep­a­rated in neigh­bor­hoods, dis­crim­i­nated against in em­ploy­ment and lynched with im­punity.

As Elec­tion Day draws near, there is no doubt that both po­lit­i­cal par­ties, and in­deed the en­tire coun­try, must do a bet­ter job of ad­dress­ing racial in­equal­ity’s stub­born per­sis­tence. Yet, Mr. Trump’s de­spi­ca­ble record and of­fen­sive state­ments in­di­cate an over­all in­dif­fer­ence, at best, and, in some cases, an out­right hos­til­ity, to po­si­tions over­whelm­ingly sup­ported by African-Amer­i­cans. What­doblacks have to lose in the up­com­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­tion? Un­for­tu­nately, the an­swer is a great deal if Don­ald Trumpis not de­feated.

OLIVIER DOULIERY/TNS

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