Ask anyone what they think of Donald Trump and you are guaranteed one of two reactions: “great” (admire his guts, love his strength and honesty) or “awful” (disgusting, self-serving bigot and demagogue).
When Trump asked blacks during his campaign what they had to lose by voting for him, he connected with few of them, garnering roughly 8 percent of the black vote, compared to Hillary Clinton’s 88 percent.
So what can African-Americans expect from a Trump administration? Who is helping Trump set goals and strategy that affect black America? Why aren’t there more blacks speaking to and about “black issues”? With black Americans’ suspicions of Trump, will he seek to reach, or exceed, the “diversity levels” of the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations?
It’s time blacks ignore paid Democratic operatives and engage “new thinking.” As Trump moves into the Oval Office, Republicans predict he will be a sort of CEO-president, setting grand strategy for the country. Blacks in business and entrepreneurial ventures expect low taxes, light regulation and free markets where capitalists can start and thrive with a minimum of government involvement. But who has Trump’s ear to set strategy toward his “new deal for black America”? The billionaire rarely risks out to talk with blacks.
During his campaign, Trump talked about blacks’ plight, criticizing years of Democratic rule for leaving black America behind: “American politics is caught in a time loop. We keep electing the same people over and over and over.”
Addressing black issues, Trump said his deal “is grounded in three promises: safe communities, great education and high-paying jobs.” He called for incentives to move companies into blighted neighborhoods to bolster employment, help African-Americans get better access to credit and push cities to declare “blighted communities” disaster areas to help rebuild infrastructure.
Trump dissed the black/Democratic alliance: “And every day, the same people, getting rich off our broken system, say we can’t change and we can’t try anything new, because it’s not good for them. I have a message for all the doubters in Washington: America’s future belongs to the dreamers, not the cynics and not the critics. Too many African-Americans have been left behind.”
Nevertheless, Americans are far more pessimistic about progress in race relations under Donald Trump. Nearly half of U.S. voters (46 percent) expect Trump’s election will lead to worse race relations, while just 25 percent say they will improve and 26 percent say there will be no difference. And roughly three-quarters of blacks (74 percent) expect race relations to worsen under Trump’s presidency, while just 5 percent expect them to improve.
Recently, the HNIC in the Trump clique brought football great Jim Brown to Trump Tower for a discussion with the president-elect about issues facing the African-American community. Cleveland Pastor Darrell Scott orchestrated the meeting, attended by former “Apprentice” star Omarosa Manigault and in which Trump gave a “verbal commitment” to Brown’s Amer-I-Can inner-city program.
But while Jim Brown and Don King are great photo ops, Trump needs some Jesse Lee Peterson, J.C. Watts and Claude Anderson types, too.
If Trump is smart, he’ll do all he can to erase the stigma of the racially divisive 2016 campaign. One way of dealing with that image will be deploying African-American surrogates in high-profile positions that signal diversity. Republicans have to cultivate blacks that embrace Trump’s “try something new” philosophy, scuttle the myth that race is irrelevant and employ “pro-black” messages, acknowledging that race plays a major role in how people live their lives.
William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and available for projects via Busxchng@his.com.