Watching Donald Trump’s law and order speech in suburban Milwaukee last night, for a moment I had the feeling that I had been transported back in time to the 1968 “Law and Order” campaign of one Richard M. Nixon.  As Trump excoriated African Americans to “shape up” and support cops, I couldn’t help noting that his outreach to Black Americans was taking place before an all White audience, in an all White town, West Bend, and in a Wisconsin county (Milwaukee County) that is 96% White.   I’m assuming here, that he chose this venue and this audience rather than South Side Chicago, let’s say, out of fear that his exhortations for the Second Amendment folks to take the law into their own hands and assassinate Hillary Clinton might resonate with Black audiences a bit more than he might have wished.  His selection of West Bend was intended to highlight the lingering unrest nearby where folks have been demonstrating and six businesses have been torched. 

But while Trump’s rhetoric channeled Nixon’s, the contextual situation could not be more starkly different.  Back in 1968 there were around 14,000 reported murders pretty much the same number as today in 2016.  But, the U.S. population in 1968 was just under 200,000,000 while today’s population is around 320,000,000 so the murder rate is far lower today.  Then too, it wasn’t six buildings that were torched in 1968 but literally tens of thousands as riots spread to over 100 cities around the country, including Washington, D.C., Chicago and Boston, following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4th.  This explosion of rioting that summer was merely the most destructive of urban riots that had begun back in the early 1960’s and continued like night following day summer after summer.  Almost all resulted from some random “incident” involving cops that spiraled into riots.  We heard the same exhortations back then – “they” are destroying their own communities, “they” are simply lawless thugs, “they” must obey law enforcement officers – as we are hearing today following the disturbances in Ferguson, Baltimore and Milwaukee.  

Here’s a bit more of Trump’s speech:  “The violence, riots and destruction that have taken place in Milwaukee is [sic] an assault on the right of all citizens to live in security and to live in peace.  Law and order must be restored.” 

Not to make a big deal of it, but it seems to me that one of the reasons for the “violence, riots and destruction” Trump cites, is the result of African Americans feeling as if their security and their peace in their neighborhoods – and their lives - are put at risk by the discriminatory treatment they are subjected to at the hands of local police.  Now I know that The Donald believes that Black Lives Matter is some subversive organization out to kill cops and foment a race war, but would it be too impolitic to point out to The Donald that Black Lives Matter didn’t suddenly emerge as a result of a social media campaign or from outrage at Target’s hiring policies?   The protests stem from the legitimate grievances of Black folks who are and have been “arrested while being Black” and the number of Black people who die at the hands of the police under less than “transparent” circumstances.  At no time did Trump even feint to acknowledge that maybe, just maybe African Americans do have a couple of legitimate issues to get feisty about. 

Thus, it was probably a very wise move for Trump to deliver his “Outreach To African Americans” speech before an all White audience, in the all White Milwaukee suburb of West Bend and in Milwaukee County that is 96% White.  The above quote is merely one of several that fell from his lips.  Here’s another:

“It must be restored for the sake of all, but most of all for the sake of those living in the communities.  The main victims of these riots are law-abiding African American citizens living in these neighborhoods.  It’s their jobs, it’s their homes, it’s their schools and communities which will suffer the most as a result.  There’s no compassion in tolerating lawless conduct for anyone.” 

This quote could have been ripped directly from Richard Nixon’s 1968 playbook.  It brought back painful memories for me since I was here in D.C. during the 1968 riots and witnessed firsthand the massive destruction that they caused.  It took decades for the 14th  Street, U Street and H Street corridors to recover from their destruction with H Street just having come back to life less than a decade ago.   Then too, Trump’s appeal to African Americans that “the Democratic Party has ignored Blacks and caused their poverty and created Black ghettos” as some sort of invitation to vote for him, a Republican who’s going to shake things up, isn’t going to get a whole lot of traction in the African American community.  Even if what Trump says is true, imagine how much worse off the African American community would be if they had married their lives and their futures to the Republican Party.   Sorry Don.  This just doesn’t fly. 

But here’s my bottom line to Trump’s “outreach:” it’s a bunch of bullshit smoke and mirrors, simply another one of The Donald’s cons that has no relationship to the real world and particularly the real world that African Americans live in, in, as he points out, “their communities and their neighborhoods.”  Perhaps if African Americans weren’t stopped by the police for “looking like they either have or will commit a crime” while walking down a public sidewalk, or arrested for being in the “wrong” community at the “wrong” time, or shot and killed during a traffic stop with such frequency, then maybe Donald Trump could have given his “outreach” speech to the NAACP or right here in Black majority and Black ruled Washington, D.C. without fear that some anti-Second Amendment folks might try to take the law into their own hands and do him harm. 

But in fact, Donald Trump could come here to Washington to do a real African American outreach and our soon to be ex-Police Chief, White, Female, Tough As Nails, Extraordinary In Every Way, Kathy Lanier, would make certain that The Donald would be safe, secure and protected from both Second Amendment and Anti-Second Amendment types.  (Well, we don’t have all that many anti-gun control residents – maybe 6 or 7, if that.)  And this is the reality of life here in your nation’s capital.  We don’t need any help from The Donald to make us safe and secure.  We have a police force that – after a decade of hard work by our beloved Police Chief, Kathy Lanier – treats everyone, Black, White, Latino, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Gay, Straight with the respect and human dignity that each and every one of us both deserves and is entitled to.  She and we have done the hard work that’s required to ensure that we don’t need to fear our police officers.   And this, Mr. Trump, in your exhortations to law and order, your cries to support the police, your blindness to what actually happens in African American neighborhoods, is where you and your racist supporters, utterly fail.   Words are easy.  But you can’t get there without doing the long, hard, work to reverse years of discrimination, decades of racism, centuries of fallout from a nation that at its founding did not even count African Americans as human beings.     

Take Care Folks. It Can Be A Jungle Out There.  Hint: Stay Away From Trump Rallies.     


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