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How To Talk To Black People In Eight Easy Lessons

Today’s column is presented as a public service.

It is for serious politicians both Democratic and Republican — and also for Donald Trump. The urgent need for this service has been painfully obvious for many years and never more so than today. So, let’s get right to it. This is: How to Talk to Black People in Eight Easy Lessons.

1. Go where we are.

You’d think that pretty obvious. Then you remember Trump purporting to speak to black people whilst addressing audiences whose aggregate melanin wouldn’t fill a Dixie cup.

2. Don’t act as if going where we are requires machetes and a supply line.

“Some have said that I’m either brave or crazy to be here,” Republican Sen. Rand Paul once told a black audience. He said this at Howard University, which is about 15 minutes from the White House. They have cell service there and everything.

3. Stop confusing the NAACP with the Nation of Islam.

Donald Trump recently snubbed an invitation to address the venerable civil rights group. Bob Dole once did, too, claiming they were trying to “set me up.” Right. Because the NAACP has such a long history of incendiary rhetoric. As one of its founders, the great scholar W.E.B. DuBois, never really said, “I’m ’bout to bust a cap on these honkies if they don’t give me my freedom.”

4. Don’t use Ebonics unless you are fluent.

I still have nightmares about Hillary Clinton crying out, “I don’t feel no ways tired” in that black church in Selma. Stick to Ivorybonics. Most of us are bilingual.

5. Don’t make a CP time joke unless you are a CP.

When candidate Obama sauntered onstage about 15 minutes after the start time of a black journalists’ event and quipped, “I want to apologize for being a little bit late — but you guys keep on asking whether I’m black enough,” it was cool and funny. When Bill de Blasio joked in a scripted exchange with Hillary Clinton about running on “CP Time” — “cautious politician time” — it was, well, not.

6. Don’t make a slavery joke, period.

Joe Biden once warned a black audience that Republicans are “going to put y’all back in chains.” Can you imagine him warning a Jewish crowd how the GOP is “going to put y’all back in the gas chambers”? Can you imagine how offensive that would be?

7. Don’t talk to the black people in your head.

This is what Donald Trump was doing when he told black people they lived in the suburbs of hell and had nothing to lose by voting for him. He was speaking, not to black people, but to black people as he imagines them to be, based on lurid media imagery and zero actual experience. In this, he was much like Bill O’Reilly, in whose world black folks all have tattoos on their foreheads.

8. Know what you don’t know.

“I’m here to learn,” said Trump at a black church in Detroit a few days ago. It was a powerful expression of humility — or would have been, had it been said by someone who wasn’t an OG of the birther movement, a serial re-tweeter of supremacist filth and the star of David Duke’s bromantic fantasies. Still, he had the right idea. Politicians too often purport to lecture us about us without having the faintest idea who we even are.

The truth is, How to Talk to Black People isn’t all that difficult.

The candidate who wants African-American support should pretend black folks are experts on our own issues and experiences — because we are. He should learn those issues, tap that experience, formulate some thoughtful ideas in response. Then he should do what he would for anyone else:

Ask for our vote. Tell us what he’d do if he got it.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at

Photo: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a church service, in Detroit, Michigan, September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Minorities Not Buying Trump’s Bogus Kumbaya Chorus

Americans love to blame the media for bias, for presenting a slanted view of reality.

And in at least one case, I’ll concur: They have done a terrible job of representing to the broader public what life is like for black and brown America.

The inaccurate impressions created by “if it bleeds, it leads” news coverage were amply evident in Donald Trump’s recent “outreach” effort to African-American voters. He sought to enumerate the various unfair afflictions blacks suffer in America — problems supposedly only he can fix — but exaggerated them to a point that was insulting.

Trump’s messaging style is blunt and simplistic. And he is clearly ignorant of what life is like outside the bubble of wealth he has floated in all of his 70 years. So it’s no surprise that his appeal to black voters would be both naive and offensive.

But it’s worth considering how American news coverage has inspired and supported Trump’s assumption that African-Americans and Latinos are overwhelmingly mired in poverty, can’t get jobs, dodge bullets every day and struggle to graduate high school.

Trump is taking cues from headlines and breaking news bulletins. Last weekend’s murder tally, the latest poverty statistics, reports of public school systems struggling to educate poor urban children: those stories are familiar. They have an impact, they address problems and they deserve attention. I’m not apologizing for covering a murder in lieu of a high school fundraiser.

But the usual news coverage does not tell the whole story of any community; nor does it even relate the most prevalent life stories. A headline will not read, “One black male killed in shooting: Everyone else in a two-block radius went to work or school, mowed their lawn, did some grocery shopping and ate dinner with their family as usual.”

So when Trump addressed African-Americans from a white Michigan exurb to ask for their votes, he cited a litany of woes most black voters don’t face and asked, “What the hell do you have to lose?” The implicit answer would seem to be: the same things most American voters have to lose — quite a bit.

Now Trump is trying this shtick on Latinos.

To a crowd in Tampa, Fla., he said, “To the Hispanic parent, you have a right to walk outside without being shot.”

Then he added: “What do you have to lose? I’ll fix it.”

Let’s be clear: Disproportionately, Latinos and African-Americans do fare worse than white households in many areas, such as employment, measures of health and educational attainment. They are disproportionately likely to be victims of violent crime. They have far less wealth and suffered much more in the housing crash and recession of the last eight years.

But that doesn’t mean that all members of these communities are in dire straits and in need of salvation by a politician making promises. The majority of black households, like white ones, are considered middle class. Black college enrollment rates now equal those of whites (but not graduation rates). Many of the most pressing issues to black and Latino voters are — guess what! — the very ones that are pressing to white voters.

By getting this wrong, Trump is broadcasting how little he knows about the communities he’s pretending to court.

Nor does he get that the demographic cleavages that persist are tied to the continuing impact of racist attitudes and once legal segregation and institutional racism. To black and Latino listeners, the omission screams volumes.

Trump’s outreach smacks of being contrived. If it were sincere, he’d be acting differently. I’d recommend that he sit silently among minorities in their own communities. Be the only white face in a church filled with African-Americans. Attend a Sunday service and a funeral of a beloved community member. Hang for another hour as people mingle upon leaving the sanctuary.

Sit around with a bunch of women making tamales and watch the interaction as members of different generations parade in and out of the kitchen. Talk to fourth-generation American with a Latino surname who doesn’t speak a lick of Spanish. Really hear his or her story.

People develop familiarity and comfort levels outside of their normal circles only through sustained interactions. Even very adept politicians can’t fake it. And Trump’s level of emotional intelligence is as low as his polling numbers with black and Latino voters.

In case it isn’t obvious, Trump isn’t really directing these appeals to African-Americans and Latinos. He is talking to white audiences, trying to dispel the air of racism that has hung around his campaign from the very start. The pity is that many of them don’t know any better.

(Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star. Readers may write to her at: Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108-1413, or via e-mail at


Photo: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S., August 25, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

#EndorseThis: Eugene Robinson On Trump’s New ‘Outreach’: ‘He Wasn’t Speaking To African Americans’

Eugene Robinson, columnist for the Washington Post and contributor to MSNBC’s Morning Joe, pushed back on Joe Scarborough’s claim this morning that Donald Trump is better off trying to reach out to minority communities than continuing with his scorched earth campaign to win on a small, “angry” portion of the electorate.

The premise, Robinson asserted, is a false one: If Trump really wanted to reach out to black voters, why hasn’t he accepted the numerous invitations he’s received over the course of this campaign to speak to black voters directly, and to minority and civil rights organizations like the NAACP and the National Association of Black Journalists, whose convention (co-hosted with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists) Trump skipped just two weeks ago.

“Your lives are miserable! You live in hell! What do you have to lose!” Robinson said, mocking Trump’s style. “Clearly, he’s talking to white voters… in the suburbs in Philadelphia, in the suburbs of Washington D.C., and he’s trying to say ‘Look, I care about African Americans, too, in my own totally inappropriate, insulting, and condescending way. I care about them, so I’m not a racist and therefore you can vote for me.”

Trump has made a few speeches in which he addresses his awful deficit with minority voters, but his actions speak much louder than his words: He recently hired far-far-right media executive Stephen Bannon to lead his campaign, which released an advertisement last week that makes immigrants look like an invading swarm of sub-humans, and he continues to parrot an incorrect unemployment statistic about African American youth, wildly inflating the number by counting full-time students and other groups justifiably out of the labor force.

And that’s in the past month alone. Trump has a long, racist history: He was sued by Richard Nixon’s Justice Department for alleged housing discrimination (talk about a high bar to clear…), he took out a full-page newspaper ads in 1989 calling for the execution of the so-called “Central Park Five,” young teenagers who were later found to be completely innocent of the murder for which they were accused, and, just a year ago, he retweeted an phony image from a white supremacist website, spreading a lie about crime statistics. The link in Trump’s tweet has since been deleted (his tweet is still there), but here’s the image it linked to:

2015-11-23 11_56_07-Donald J. Trump on Twitter_ __@SeanSean252_ @WayneDupreeShow @Rockprincess818 @C














So, maybe a speech in a white suburb of Milwaukee isn’t going to cut it.

Photo: MSNBC

At CPAC, Republicans Grapple With Low Support Among Minorities

How should conservatives reach out to “non-traditional” (read: non-white) Republican voters? Just tell them that because they have a lower life expectancy than whites, they should care less about Social Security and vote with the party that cares more about protecting personal wealth than earned benefits.

That’s the advice that Elroy Sailor — CEO of J.C. Watts Companies, a lobbying firm — gave at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the country’s largest gathering of conservative voters, businesses, and leaders in America. Sailor, who’s African-American, did not explore why blacks have a lower life expectancy, and he notably ignored how that’s connected with gun violence (nearly 50 percent of homicide victims are black). Instead, he touted his family’s history of gun ownership, proudly claiming that when he was 13 years old, his father told him to protect his family when he had night shifts. In the ghetto, he said, guns are a necessary part of life.

Sporting cowboy boots and a southern twang, Sailor was one of four speakers addressing the issue of low minority support for Republicans at a panel entitled “Reaching Out: The Rest of the Story.” He was joined by one other African-American panelist: Robert Woodson, president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, a Washington, D.C.-based organization built to “help residents of low-income neighborhoods address the problems of their community.” They were two of only a handful of black faces among thousands of overwhelmingly vanilla CPAC attendees.

Republicans are clearly worried about low support among minorities, and they have every reason to be. Speaking on the panel, Senate hopeful Ed Gillespie of Virginia said that in the last election, only 11 percent of black voters supported Republican candidates (up from 9 percent in 2008). Furthermore, the last election had a higher turnout among black voters than white voters.

“We are on an unsustainable path if we don’t correct things,” warned panel moderator Jason Roe, a political consultant.

The question the party is grappling with is whether to change its tactics to court minority voters, or instead try to show these voters that its tactics work for them. Gillespie prefers the latter approach.

“It’s about sticking to our conservative values and showing people that they work for them,” he said. “Everything that [Democrats] do results in lost income, lower take-home pay, higher health care costs. We’ve got to provide a positive alternative.”

Woodson stressed the importance of building a grassroots movement among black voters. “We’ve got to demonstrate that we care, not just tell them that we care or that we share their values… we have got to reach out to them.” He suggested that conservatives should offer financial support for community initiatives, as liberal donors have done through programs like President Obama’s new “My Brother’s Keeper.” 

Woodson also noted that where there’s poverty and discontent, there’s opportunity. Degrading cities like Detroit “are ripe for outreach by the Republican Party and the conservative movement,” he explained. “They are anxious and available, but we need to be available to them, by going into their communities and finding them.”

He also urged his fellow Republicans to demonstrate the importance of overcoming barriers. Find former heroin users, prisoners, woeful women who have had abortions, and youth who have made it against all odds and make them “the symbols of conservative future,” Woodson suggested. “We need to be the movement of redemption. We need to do studies of people who have been redeemed from that bad start.”

The panel was as much about how the right can court minority voters as how minority Republicans can court the right. Sailor pandered to conservative values through statements like “abortion has been worse to the African-American community than the slave trade or Jim Crow” and “As people who love freedom and liberty, we don’t have to abandon our existing friends to make new friends…We’ve allowed the left to somehow to define diversity as their thing.”

For all the panel’s talk of being sympathetic to minority issues, the tone shifted dramatically just moments after its conclusion when Donald Trump took the stage to address the convention. Speaking on immigration, Trump embraced xenophobia, telling the loudly cheering crowd, “We’re either a country or we’re not. We either have borders or we don’t. With immigration, you’d better be smart, and you’d better be tough, and they’re taking your jobs. You’d better be careful.”

He also said he’d rather see schools built in America than Afghanistan because “they keep blowing the schools up.” Trump added, to more applause, “[Afghans] don’t want us, and I don’t want them!”

Both in rhetoric and in action, this waxen conference and the movement it represents clearly have a long way to go to court minority voters.

Photo: Pete Marovich/MCT