Impeached and now acquitted President Donald Trump has delivered his final State of the Union Address before the next presidential election set for Nov. 3.
The speech was replete with misleading information with an apparent aim to impress Black voters. In the 78-minute speech delivered before Congress and televised to millions on Feb. 4, Trump referred to Black civil rights leaders by name and invited African-Americans as guests in the audience. But a remarkable number of statements that he made pertaining to African-Americans or people of color was contradicted by policies, previous actions or statements by Trump himself.
Among the examples:
He called Harriet Tubman a hero in the State of the Union address while refusing to allow her picture to be posted on the $20 bill until after he is no longer president. During the 2016 presidential campaign, he’d suggested her photo be posted on the discontinued $2 bill instead.
He awarded an “opportunity scholarship” to African-American fourth-grader Janiya Davis to attend the school of her choice while proposing to strip funding from public schools where the educations of millions of African-Americans are suffering.
He praised the worthy service of Cleveland native Charles McGee as one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen during the pains of legalized segregation and promoted him to brigadier general. Yet, on the same day that he pinned on McGee’s stars, he awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest civilian honor – to radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, among the greatest purveyors of racist comments about Black people of all media personalities, including championing the so-called “birther” lie that President Obama was not born in the U.S.
Trump invited Joshua Smith, the brother of a teenage cyberbullying victim who committed suicide, to sit in the audience at the SOTU just before going on one of his usual cyberbullying tirades against Republicans and Democrats who opposed him or simply told truths during impeachment hearings.
Among the best descriptions of the speech probably came from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who ripped up her copy on live TV and then called it a “manifesto of mistruths” in a CNN interview.
From funding for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to an African-American unemployment rate being the lowest in history – while failing to give proper credit to his predecessor, President Obama, for that downward spiral — the 78-minute State of the Union address revealed back-to-back conflicts from the impeached president, who was acquitted by the U.S. Senate the next day.
But the Center for American Progress, in a pre-SOTU report, had already documented the harms done to African-Americans by the Trump administration.
According to Trump, “There’s a revolution going on in this country. I mean a positive revolution. So African-American, Hispanic-American, Asian-American. We have the best numbers we’ve ever had. African-American, the poverty numbers are now reverse and they’re the best they’ve ever had.”
But, according to CAP, “Trump has nothing to brag about when it comes to his treatment of people of color. The Black unemployment rate remains two times the rate of White Americans. We also know that most Americans cannot afford an unexpected $400 expense.
The fact-checking document on Trump’s record on communities of color, “365 Harms: The Trump Administration’s Record on People of Color,” aims to document “the numerous ways in which the Trump administration has been harming people of color. They are releasing seven instances each week and will document 365 instances of Trump harming people of color between Nov. 5, 2019, and Nov. 5, 2020,” according to CAP spokeswoman Julia Cusick.
Among some of the harms listed by CAP:
- Immigration – President Trump shut down the federal government for five weeks from late 2018 through early 2019 in order to secure funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. This action cost the U.S. economy $11 billion and jeopardized the financial security of more than 228,000 federal employees of color.
- Criminal justice – Black teenagers are arrested at higher rates than white teenagers. However, the Trump administration dissolved the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s research arm — the only federal office that consistently compiled data on racial patterns in juvenile arrests and incarceration. The Trump administration scrapped Obama-era federal guidance designed to ensure that school discipline policies do not discriminate against students of color or students with disabilities, U.S. Department of Education data show that Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, and American Indian or Alaska Native male students experienced a disproportionate amount of out-of-school suspensions during the 2015-2016 school year.
- K-12 education – Under the Trump administration, the U.S. Office for Civil Rights upheld fewer than 2 in 10 complaints of racial harassment, compared with a rate of 31 percent under the Obama administration.
- Addiction Crisis – The Trump administration attempted to withhold funds for combating the opioid crisis from the city of Philadelphia due to its sanctuary city policies, which protect immigrants.
- Nutrition – The Trump administration is reversing Obama-era rules ensuring that Title I schools — schools in which more than 30 percent of students qualify for the free and reduced price lunch program — receive adequate funding. This will disproportionately affect students of color, who were the majority of students in Title I schools for the 2016-17 school year.
- Drug laws – Drug laws disproportionately affect Black Americans, who are six times more likely to be incarcerated for drug-related offenses than their white counterparts. Despite these clear racial disparities, the Trump administration is instructing federal prosecutors to pursue the death penalty in both violent and nonviolent drug cases.
- Incarceration – The Federal Bureau of Prisons is cutting back on its use of halfway houses and other rehabilitative services, despite evidence of the importance of these services for successful reentry of the formerly incarcerated. Black Americans make up 40 percent of the incarcerated U.S. population, while Hispanics make up 19 percent of the U.S. incarcerated population.
- Economic Opportunity – The Trump administration wants to eliminate the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), which provides business consulting services to people of color who wish to start or expand their own businesses. The MBDA is the only federal agency focused on the development and growth of minority-owned businesses.
- Shootings of unarmed Black men – The growing media coverage of shootings of unarmed Black men since 2012 has brought attention to the importance of data collection in officer-involved shootings. Yet the Trump administration has delayed implementation of a law mandating data collection on arrest-related deaths until 2020.
- Juvenile justice – Despite disproportionately high arrest rates of Black teenagers in the United States, the Trump administration removed training manuals for local juvenile justice officials aimed at eliminating racial disparities.
- White supremacy – In response to White nationalists rampaging through Charlottesville, Virginia, and ultimately murdering one counterprotester, President Trump responded by defending the white nationalists and blamed “both sides” for the violence.
- Trump administration rhetoric – President Trump attacked African American professional athletes for protesting systemic racism and bringing attention to police brutality, urging team owners to fire any “son of a b—-” who knelt during the national anthem. He further inflamed emotions when he joked that police officers should rough up suspects upon arrest.
- Affirmative action – The Trump administration rescinded an Obama-era policy that encouraged universities to consider race in university admissions to promote diversity. Instead, the U.S. Department of Education is advocating for race-neutral methods.
- Higher education – While boasting about increasing funding to HBCUs, the Trump administration tried to cut funding for the federal work-study program and the Pell Grant program. This funding is essential for students of color: In 2015, 55.7 percent of Hispanic students, 54.1 percent of Black students, 48.2 percent of Native American students, and 25 percent of Asian students received Pell Grants.