By Phillip Smith, StoptheDrugWar.org
Donald Trump’s efforts to reach out to the black community took yet another stumble-footed turn Thursday when he went off-script to blame the unrest shaking Charlotte this week not on police violence or racial inequality, but drugs.
“If you’re not aware, drugs are a very, very big factor in what you’re watching on television,” the GOP contender claimed. He offered no evidence to support his claim.
Charlotte is only the latest American city to see outbreaks of street violence amid protests over the police killings of black men. In this case, it was the gunning down of Keith Scott Tuesday by an undercover Charlotte police officer. Scott’s family maintains he was unarmed and holding only a book, while police say he was armed and they recovered a weapon at the scene. Police have so far refused to release body-cam video of the killing.
Casually blaming “drugs” for the community anger over the Scott killing is in line with Trump’s effort to portray himself as a “law and order” candidate who will protect the black community. But that’s a tough sell in minority areas where relations with police are, to put it mildly, fraught.
Trump is trailing Hillary Clinton by roughly 80 percentage points among African-American voters, and this is just the latest off-kilter attempt to woo them. Telling them they live in blighted communities hasn’t worked, telling them they’re living in the worst time ever for black Americans hasn’t worked, relying on the likes of Don King hasn’t worked. Blaming the unrest in Charlotte on “drugs” is unlikely to turn the tide, either.
But Trump is trying to make that “law and order” appeal.
“There is no compassion in tolerating lawless conduct. Crime and violence is an attack on the poor, and will never be accepted in a Trump Administration,” he said at the beginning of remarks to the Shale Insight Convention. “Our job is not to make life more comfortable for the violent disrupter, but to make life more comfortable for the African-American parent trying to raise their kids in peace, to walk their children to school and to get their children a great education. We have to cherish and protect those people.”
But then he ad-libbed his “drugs” remark, once again stereotyping the black community and contributing to the suspicion that his efforts to reach out to African-Americans are really aimed not at winning black votes but at convincing moderate Republicans and independents that he’s not a racist.
And he followed up with a shoutout to law enforcement. He praised police for risking their lives, although he did acknowledge that they could make mistakes.
“Police are entrusted with immense responsibility, and we must do everything we can to ensure they are properly trained, that they respect all members of the public, and that any wrongdoing is always vigorously addressed,” Trump said. “But our men and women in blue also need our support, our thanks, and our gratitude. They are the line separating civilization from total chaos.”