Why Some Black People Are Still Supporting Donald Trump
While majority of black Americans tend to disagree with Trump, I wanted to understand the part of the community that still supports the President.
*This article was meant to be published February 2018 when the pitch was picked up by VICE. Since VICE decided to ultimately not publish I decided to publish it here.*
Not too long ago Kanye West shocked fans, Republicans, the black community, and the entire pop culture world when he tweeted a picture of himself in a “Make America Great Again” hat and confessed his love for Donald Trump. I mostly paid attention to responses from black people who, for the most part, were stunned considering this is the same Kanye who had no shame is saying that President George W. Bush didn’t care about black people. The amount of backlash Kanye received was not surprising considering black celebrities who have openly supported Trump in the past such as Tina Campbell, Chrisette Michelle and Stacey Dash, have seen their careers take a hit from the lack of black support following their comments. As much as we tend to disagree with Kanye and other black celebrities who openly support Trump, there seems to be a decent amount of us that surprisingly feel a similar way. And while we do tend to shut out our fellow brothers and sisters whose political ideology doesn’t line up with ours, they are still a part of our underrepresented community. We have no problem calling out the part of our community who agree with a dangerous rhetoric like Trump’s, which is a big part in why I wanted to speak to the few black Americans who support him without any hesitation.
In general, it is hard for the majority liberal African American community to understand why any of us would support Trump considering his not-so-great track record with minorities. Just to name a few, Donald Trump insisted that the black men in the “Central Park Five” case were guilty, even though they were proven innocent from DNA evidence. He violateding the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against potential minority renters and has repeatedly tried to discredit Barack Obama by saying he was not born in America. In January, the President tweeted that his “approval ratings with black Americans has doubled.” However, the New York Times found that his approval ratings among black Americans actually declined from 20 percent in February 2017, his first full month in office, to 15 percent in December 2017.
The common reason many people supported Trump, whether black or white, was that he was an “outsider” who says whatever he wants regardless if his statements are insensitive or problematic. For Dominique Brown, a black man who ran as a Republican for the Maryland State Delegate election in 2002 his appeal to Trump was him not being a politician as well as having similar views to the President on most issues. For Pastor Mark Burns, a televangelist from South Carolina, his reason is tied to his faith. “One of the things that appealed to me when I first met him three years ago was our shared belief that Christianity, our faith, was under attacked by the liberal left and the Democratic party.” Pastor Burns is no stranger to the media. TIME even profiled him as “Donald Trump’s Top Pastor” since Burns’ open support for him during the primaries. After gaining a large public following around the 2016 election, he is now running for Congress to succeed Representative Trey Gowdy. Religious supporters of the President seem to acknowledge his not-so-traditional Christian past but believe he is a great example of someone who is better now with Christ. But where is the line draw for someone who is “not-so-traditional Christian?” A three time divorcee who allegedly paid off a porn star because of his affair is apparently a great example of a reborn Christian. Pastor is quick to mention that people who were used to carry out the mission of God were flawed people. “Yes Donald Trump has a flawed past. Yes he’s been married three times but who hasn’t? I have all kinds of stuff in my past. A lot of it came out on CNN. Donald Trump is not portraying himself as a saint that walks on water but he is a flawed person who has passion for people and making those people’s lives better.” Pastor Burns was caught of the middle of his interview with CNN of putting false information on his biography. He later apologized but also mentioned that the “attack” from the media happened because he is “a black man supporting Donald Trump for president.”
Personally, one of the most disheartening comments from Trump was his response to last year’s Charlottesville incident. The President claimed “there’s blame on both sides,” referring to the rally-goers, which on one side included neo-Nazis and members of the KKK who injured 19 counter-protesters and killed an innocent woman. Parson Hicks, a black woman who was voted in as an alternate at-large delegate for the Republican National Congress, believes his remarks were factual and that she is “not led by emotions.” “While only one person was to blame for the death of one woman; masked counter-protesters plus immobile police officers following an alleged stand down order also contributed to the escalation of a chaotic situation.” Hicks is referring to a conspiracy theory that police were told to “stand down” during the violence but the rumor was proven to be incorrect.
Following Charlottesville, lawmakers who met with Trump to discuss a bipartisan immigration deal mentioned that he allegedly said, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” referring to immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries. He instead suggested that the United States should bring more people from countries such as Norway. Pastor Mark Burns gained even more national attention for his appearance on MSNBC’s AM Joy where he clashed with host Joy Reid on the topic. Burns insisted that two senators denied the comments but was instantly debated by Reid who repeatedly asked how a man of God could justify sending people back to a country that is not capable of taking care of its people. Pastor mentions to me that he spoke to someone in the White House
who says the President did not say the remarks like the way they were being portrayed. He also mentioned that several African leaders agreed with Trump but that if there was a recording of the remarks like the “grab em by the pussy” tape, then he would have been extremely disappointed and spoken out against it. SinDee, a black transgender woman and YouTube personality known as “tranz,” 100 percent agrees with his remarks. “Just because the countries he happened to be talking about at the time were predominately African American doesn’t mean that there are not other countries that are shitholes as well. I don’t feel that he is racist at all. I feel like everything he says is dissected to a point where it’s almost cruel.” SinDee’s sympathy for the President might be a surprise for many since he announced on Twitter a ban on transgender military service members. She has mixed emotions about it. “Even if a woman or a man joins the military to get her transition, he or she still served their country. There are people that go into the military to get an education so what is the difference. However, that didn’t sit well with me but I don’t think that he’s perfect. I just think that he tries and that’s all I can ask for.”
While his supporters may still be by his side, Trump’s comments on race is making it hard for the Republican party’s few black members. Michael Steele, the first black chairman of the Republican National Committee, said in an interview with MSNBC that he believes President Donald Trump is racist, saying, “At this point, the evidence is incontrovertible, it’s right there.” Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only Republican African American serving in the Senate, labeled Trump’s remarks on predominately African countries as “disappointing to say the least.” Republican representative from Utah, Mia Love, whose parents are from Haiti, called on him to apologize for the remarks that were “unkind, divisive, elitist and fly in the face of our nation’s values.”
The Republican party is already struggling to gain a strong black voting presence with only 7 percent of black voters identifying or leaning Republican, according to the Pew Research Center. In the 2016 election, 12 percent of black male voters went to the polls for Trump and only 4 percent of black women voters did the same. Honestly, him gaining that much support from black men was surprising. One black Republican who stood out to me was Shermichael Singleton, a CNN commentator and opinion contributor to The Hill. who identifies with rational conservatism. He identifies with the Republican party because of its conservative tradition but believes the we have to be compassionate and understand that certain underprivileged groups need help. Singleton believes more black people are not a part of the Republican party because Democrats do a better job to champion the African American community by supporting issues such as criminal justice reform, Medicaid and Affirmative Action. The 28-year-old and HBCU Morehouse alumni has worked on numerous Republican presidential campaigns including Ben Carson and Mitt Romney. However, he has a more personal relationship with Trump after he was fired for his senior advisor position to Ben Carson in the Department of Housing and Urban Development for being critical of Donald Trump. Singleton believes there will be no increase in black Republicans unless the party works on policies that help the African American community but doesn’t see that happening due to the party’s stance in the past.
Speaking with some of Trump’s black supporters they love to point out his economic policies on the topic of success rather than pointing to any social advancements, especially for people of color. SinDee states, “African American unemployment is at an all time low. He has a hard job to do but he’s doing his best. He is going to make America great not just for the black communities but all of the communities.” Pastor Mark Burns believes that Trump’s pro business plan has made it easier for companies to hire more people and create more jobs, which has led to a lower the black unemployment rate. The New York Times mentions that the 6.8 percent unemployment rate for black Americans in December is indeed the lowest since 1972, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But it’s strange for Trump to take credit for the success since the rate has been in decline for several years, decreasing steadily from 16.4 percent in August 2011 to 7.8 percent in January 2017.
At first I thought that maybe black people would feel isolated among a group of Trump supporters that are overwhelmingly white. But after seeing his supporters embrace Kanye it seems that maybe they embrace any fellow supporter regardless of race. Pastor Burns has said he’s felt extremely welcomed among Trump supporters. “White Americans have embraced me tremendously. White Americans have opened up more doors than Black Americans have and that’s sad.” Even SinDee aka “tranz” says she hasn’t had negative things said to her from those on the Trump train. She does mention that she has received negative comments from Hillary supporters and feels “persecuted by the liberals.” “Sometimes I’m nervous to say that I’m a Trump supporter because for some reason I’m told that I’m suppose to feel another way or that I’m wrong but honestly I just want to make America great or at least try. Trump has done more for us in one year than Obama, President Bush Sr. and Jr. and President Clinton. All four of them combined.”
SinDee and Pastor Burns both admit that they have felt isolation within the black community. Burns recalls getting death threats from the beginning of Trump’s presidency. Dominique on the other hand, believes that black people talk about politics more than ever because of the election.
According to a Politico poll in October, 76 percent of Republican voters think the news media invents stories about Trump and his administration. SinDee believes Donald Trump has a lack of black supporters because social media and mainstream media brainwashing. “The media has made him seem like he is a full blown chauvinistic racist.” Dominique has the idea that the lack of black Trump supporters is due to lack of research and the media. “I’ve been to 4 of President Donald Trump’s rallies and sometimes there are more people of color than there are whites.” Pastor Burns on the other hand mentions the tradition that black people tend to vote Democrat and Republicans have not done a good job or reaching out to the black community. His solution to Trump having a larger black following would be to diversify his White House and have it look like America.
When I spoke to Parson Hicks I asked her why she thought more black women did not support the President. She replied a better question would be how so many black women could have supported Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party in general when there is absolutely nothing to show for their loyalty. “If I were one of the black women Democrats I would demand more from a party who only uses me around election time. The Democrats need black women far more than black women need the Democratic party. I hope one day black women will fully embrace and own that power.”
Pastor Burns also mentioned how the black community is ruled by one party. “We don’t make parties fight for us. We’re so blinded by this notion that Republicans are just racist and that’s the tools that Democrats use against Republicans. We’re failing to realize we should have strong representation of black Republicans, strong representation of black Democrats. We have no bargaining power. We can’t make Republicans do anything for us. Nor are we gonna make Democrats do anything for us.”
It’s hard for me to imagine many black people voting Republican in the near future. However, I could not help but to really think about Hicks and Pastor Burns’ statements. The Democratic Party does rely heavily on the black vote, especially votes from black women. Black women are a group that consistently vote Democratic but rarely see policies or actions from Democrats that benefit them directly. The only other options are to not vote, vote for a third party that will not win, or vote Republican. But is that party better for our interests? It’s a party whose actions make it harder on minorities such as gerrymandering attempts to exclude minority voters, enforcing voter ID laws, the Republican led proposal to triple rents for the poorest household and their lack of effort to reduce gun violence to name of few. Black voters are left with very few options so we tend to vote for the lesser of two evils. It doesn’t help that the party is currently represented by a man who has a history of making controversial statements on race relations. I question what Trump would have to say or do to make his small black following disappear as well as if there is anything he can do to gain more black followers during his current term.