The first night of the Republican National Convention kicked off with the expected praise for Donald Trump, but it also included an obvious appeal to Black voters. For the occasion, convention organizers lined up a handful of the impeached president’s Black friends to deny his racist history and make a case for four more years (or 12 if they’re among the supporters who encourage his autocratic pursuits) of a Trump presidency.
Trump’s Black friend in the Senate, Tim Scott, struck an optimistic tone. He shared that his grandfather was forced out of school in the third grade to pick cotton, but was alive to see him become the first African American to be elected to the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. “Our family went from cotton to Congress in one lifetime,” Scott said. “And that’s why I believe the next American century can be better than the last.”
Scott believes supporting the Republican ticket is the best way for Americans to achieve the American Dream, much like his family had. Based on transcripts and video footage of his remarks, however, there seems to be no mention of Trump’s attempts to scare suburban housewives, just this month, into believing that by allowing low-wage earners to get just a piece of that American dream through homeownership, it would somehow diminish theirs.
Much of the night carried a recurring theme of omission. In the same way Nikki Haley omitted 400-plus years of American history when she said, “America is not a racist country,” everyone who took the stage to praise Trump’s coronavirus response also omitted the fact that more than 170,000 Americans have died on his watch. Trump’s Black friend Herschel Walker kept the theme going by omitting all of Trump’s racially motivated transgressions to attempt to make a point that he had been friends with Trump for 37 years and he was unequivocally not a racist.
“He shows how much he cares about social justice in the Black community through his actions and his actions speak louder than stickers or slogans on a jersey,” Walker said. “He keeps right on fighting to improve the lives of Black Americans and all Americans. He works night and day. He never stops. He leaves nothing on the field.”
Walker’s assertion that he knows racism intimately because he grew up in the Deep South may have swayed White suburban voters, but it’s unlikely that the speech shifted support within the Black community, who overwhelmingly believes that Trump is bad for Black America.
The campaign relied heavily on actual Trump associates to soften his image with voters of color, but they also tapped two Black pro-Trump politicians to speak on the topic as well. Vernon Jones is a Democrat and Georgia State representative, and Kim Klacik is hoping to fill the House seat once occupied by Elijah Cummings.
During Jones’s address, he failed to mention that he once served as CEO of DeKalb County but, much like his new friend Trump, was investigated and found responsible for creating a hostile work environment and racial discrimination. He was fined punitive damages, but the county also lost millions fighting the case. As for Klacik, she went viral for a campaign ad that condemned Black mayors for their leadership over the past several decades, but on Monday she never mentioned that Jared Kushner, the son-in-law tasked with bringing peace to the Middle East, has been lambasted for being a slumlord unable to bring peace to his Baltimore tenants.