At his first public event since being diagnosed with Covid-19, President Donald Trump spoke to hundreds of supporters on the south lawn of the White House and delivered a speech to honor law enforcement officers at a time when Black Lives Matter activists are calling the police disappoint.
The crowd consisted mostly of black and brown people invited by Blexit, an organization trying to get black voters away from the Democratic Party, and Trump used their presence to both salute their policies and attack his Democratic rivals.
"Every day, more black and Latin American Americans leave behind left-wing politicians and their failed ideology," the president said during his address. "And they welcome our pro-jobs, pro-workers, pro-police – we want law and order, we must have law and order – and a pro-American agenda."
While this is not exactly true, Trump enjoys some support from black and brown voters – especially men.
A recent analysis by FiveThirtyEight found that black and Hispanic voters who backed Trump in 2016 are largely still with him, despite the poor reviews the president has received for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump won just 8 percent of African American voters in 2016 and appears to have around 10 percent support in the weeks leading up to the election. Despite this modest gain, the president remains deeply unpopular in the group, which makes his appeal to them "a game of inches," as Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni of the New York Times wrote – and his ability to attract new key black voters win races unclear.
Even so, Blexit co-founders Candace Owens and Brandon Tatum are adamant black Americans who want to leave what Owens called a "democratic plantation".
Overall, the Blexit movement presents itself as a desire to "change the narrative that surrounds American minority communities" by advocating for school choice, criminal justice reform and entrepreneurship, among other things. And these themes could not only be seen at the Trump event, but also at the Blexit rally, which continued.
The rally took place near the White House on the National Mall and included speeches from Owens, Tatum, and conservative black talk radio host Larry Elder about how oppression is not real, how blacks must take responsibility for their actions, and how cops are allies.
"Today is about making sure we make some noise to support our cops in America," Owens said. "If you remove cops, the thugs stand up."
After these remarks, the crowd moved into the White House. They were required to wear Blexit clothing – light blue tops that read "We the Free" on the front and "Blexit Backs the Blue" on the back – and masks, but reportedly did not have to wear them.
There Trump gave a campaign-style speech honoring the police and containing his pitch to black and brown voters.
"We call this a peaceful protest in the White House in support of the incredible men and women in law enforcement," Trump said, later adding, "It's a dangerous job and you did an incredible job."
Trump also took the opportunity to characterize protests against Black Lives Matter as violent, focusing on looting that resulted in a study The project found for armed conflict location and event data took place in less than 10 percent of the demonstrations. “The homes, churches, and businesses of Black and Hispanic Americans have been looted. … They were destroyed and burned by left fanatics, "said Trump.
Black and brown people are hardest hit by the coronavirus. The event likely posed a serious threat to the health of the participants.
Although Trump expressed enthusiasm and gratitude for the black and tan supporters who stood on the lawn below him, the fact that he hosted the event in the first place suggests he cares little about their welfare.
From the very beginning, Covid-19 has disproportionately affected the black and brown communities. Analysis by the non-partisan study group APM Research Lab shows that 1 in 1,000 black Americans has already died of Covid-19. According to the CDC, the death toll from coronavirus for Hispanic, Black and Native American adults under 65 is twice that of whites – and skin-colored children account for 75 percent of coronavirus deaths in people under the age of 21.
Lots of people are at risk of spreading the coronavirus. But a crowd like that in the White House – made up of black and brown people, some of whom had traveled to attend with intermittent mask use – risked spreading Covid-19 further among the hardest hit populations and the most likely to kill .
But on Saturday Owens claimed that "Black Americans, Latino Americans, and minority Americans are dying because the media lies," and did not acknowledge the coronavirus as viewers stood shoulder to shoulder and some of the hats "Make America Great Again" wore them without masks.
Similarly, Trump also ignored the impact of the coronavirus on the people standing before him, saying, "Our nation will defeat this terrible China virus, as we call it … by the power of the American spirit, I think, more than everything else. Science and medicine will eradicate the China virus once and for all. "
Despite Trump's optimism and trust in the "American spirit," experts warn that due to Trump's inaction and states' pulling back of restrictions in the fall and winter, the coronavirus is likely to spike, with cases trending since mid-September. And should that next climb be like the last, the brunt of it will be borne by black and brown Americans.
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