On the same day Donald Trump finally detailed some of his rather curious ideas for renewing America’s inner cities, he escalated his rhetoric about African American communities, referring to them as “ghettos” during a rally in Toledo, Ohio.
Trump has previously referred to black neighborhoods as “inner cities,” but on Thursday, he let slip the word “ghetto” in Freudian fashion.
Help me out there. Did Trump just say "we're going to work on our ghettos" before mentioning inner cities, violence and African Americans? pic.twitter.com/v9KqZSLbh6
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) October 27, 2016
Trump has long been in the habit of talking about “African American communities” and “inner cities” as though they approximate hell on earth. Immediately after blurting out “ghetto” yesterday, Trump reverted to his talking points about “the violence, the death, the lack of education, [and] no jobs. We’re going to work with the African American community, and we’re going to solve the problem of the inner city… You buy a loaf of bread and you end up getting shot.”
In fact, most African Americans don’t even live in “inner cities.” According to an Atlantic report, 52 percent of African Americans in the nation’s 100 largest cities live in the suburbs — a shift from 2000, when 55 percent lived in the cities themselves.
Trump doesn’t understand that. During the second presidential debate, he turned an unrelated question from a black audience member into a riff about how bad life is for the “African Americans” who live in “the inner cities.”
An elderly black man asks if Trump can be a devoted president to all the people. Trump responds as if that man must live in the inner city.
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) October 10, 2016
More significantly, conditions in black communities aren’t nearly as dire as Trump would have you believe. While racial inequality persists when it comes to measures such as educational attainment, poverty rates and income levels, black households are faring much better than they were decades ago. According to the latest Census data, the share of black people living in poverty is 24.1 percent. That’s much higher than the white poverty rate of 9.1 percent, but significantly lower than the 35.7 percent poverty rate among blacks in 1983.
The same can be said for crime rates. Trump has made recent violent crime increases in cities like Chicago and Washington, D.C. a centerpiece of his campaign rhetoric, but drawing conclusions from small samples sizes is problematic. Longer-term trends show a steady decrease in urban violent crime over the past two decades.
As was the case with his “inner cities” answer during the second debate, Trump’s “ghetto” slip reveals something about how he views black communities and black voters. Rather than present a substantive agenda for addressing systemic racism, Trump merely lists the worst manifestations of the problem before asking, “Why not vote for a Republican for a change?” But the changes he’s proposing — including support for more unconstitutional “stop-and-frisk” policing and welfare reform that could take money out of poor families’ pockets — might roll back some of the quantifiable progress that has occurred in low-income black communities.