By Jane Kennedy
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – In his first address before a joint session of Congress, President Donald J. Trump on Tuesday struck a starkly different tone from more recent speeches. Gone were the references to the size of his Electoral College vote, rants against the media and the mad ad-libs that have been hallmarks of his previous performances behind the podium, causing some of his harshest critics to wonder whether the tide has turned in what has been a tumultuous and controversial start for his White House. Yet, there are still concerns about the plight of African-Americans under his presidency.
Trump began his remarks by heralding the end of Black History Month, which he said is a reminder of “our nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that still remains.” The speech was sprinkled with references to African-Americans and the deteriorated state of many inner cities, but according to Black lawmakers on Capitol Hill, his references highlighted just how much work Trump still must do before he truly understands the Black community. Despite his softer tone, it was clear that he continues to believe that all African-Americans are mired in a vicious cycle of poverty and violence from which they must be rescued.
“His proposal to restore law and order in Chicago and other inner cities would hurt African-Americans. Law and order without justice is a recipe for the criminal justice system we currently have: One that disproportionately incarcerates Black people even though they are no more likely than Whites to commit crimes, and one that disrupts Black families by taking parents out of the home and putting children on a path to prison,” said Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond.
The Louisiana Democrat said that the president’s proposal to cut $54 billion in discretionary spending to boost military funding and his proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act while preserving tax cuts for the nation’s wealthiest citizens and corporations also will hurt African Americans.
“Our nation is great when all Americans, including African Americans, can live their best lives. If President Trump wants to make the country greater, then these policies and programs and others he outlined tonight are a very bad start,” Richmond said.
The president outlined his vision to repeated applause; especially from Republicans, but even Democrats joined in, obviously welcoming his more sober tone.
“We’ve financed and built one global project after another, but ignored the fates of our children in the inner cities of Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit – and so many other places throughout our land,” the president said. “Our terrible drug epidemic will slow down and ultimately, stop. And our neglected inner cities will see a rebirth of hope, safety, and opportunity.”
The President urged Congress to pass legislation that funds school choice for “disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children.” He cited the success of Denisha Merriweather, a young African-American woman he invited to sit in the first lady’s box, as an example of how voucher programs help break the cycle of poverty. But first, he noted, the cycle of violence must be broken, using Chicago’s gun violence statistics to justify his administration’s new tougher on crime platform, that includes a step back from efforts by President Obama’s administration to confront police abuses in Black communities.
Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings says the President’s plans that pertain to Black communities are regressive. He lamented what he believes are efforts by the new administration to undo all of the positive initiatives and achievements of President Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House.
“While he is rolling back our progress, the American people are waiting on President Trump to keep his promises. Where is his alternative to the Affordable Care Act that will provide even better and more affordable health care for everyone? Where is his plan to invest in our nation’s infrastructure? Where is his plan to help Americans living in urban areas like Baltimore?” Cummings asked. “The president tried to spin these failures as victories tonight, but I see the state of our union every morning as I leave my house.”
According to Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, the Democratic National Committee’s deputy chairman, Trump’s speech was full of empty promises that African-Americans are too smart to believe.
“I think African-Americans know that the proof in the pudding is in the tasting, so until he delivers on some of the things he threw out there I don’t think he’s going to get much credibility from African-Americans,” said Ellison. “We’ve been through this before. He tried throw a lot of stuff in the air but I think in the end nobody’s buying it.”