Column: Trump, not Clinton, displays bigotry and blatantly panders to minorities

If Donald Trump actually saw people of color as “human beings worthy of a better future,” he would reach out to and interact with them.

It’s fairly normal for presidential candidates to trade criticisms and even insults on the campaign trail. But a recent exchange between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, in which they accused each other of bigotry, is worth a closer look.

Clinton, the Democratic nominee, has been criticizing her Republican opponent’s discriminatory words and actions for some time now. After she said last week that he is “peddling bigotry and prejudice,” Trump decided to throw accusations of racism back in her direction. At a rally in Mississippi on Aug. 23, he accused her of pandering to racial minorities, calling her “a bigot who sees people of color only as votes, not as human beings worthy of a better future.”

Yet less than a week before in a mostly white suburb of Lansing, Michigan, Trump aimed a speech at black voters that cast the demographic in a deeply negative light.

"You're living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed,” he said. “What the hell do you have to lose?"

On Saturday, after basketball star Dwyane Wade’s cousin was shot and killed in Chicago, Trump tweeted that the incident was proof that African-Americans would vote for him. Not only did he misspell Wade’s first name in the tweet, but he also made the tragedy about himself, just like he did in June after a terrorist attacked a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Trump’s history of disrespecting African-Americans goes back decades. In 1973, the Justice Department sued him and his father, Fred Trump, for discriminating against African-Americans in their New York real estate business. The New York Times reported that while the Trumps did not admit guilt in the settlement, they were required to stop rejecting black customers. They did, but government research showed the apartments the Trumps sold to black tenants were a limited selection and in bad condition. Given that in just the past fourteen months Trump has said offensive things about Hispanics and Muslims and even sent out a tweet laced with anti-Semitism, it’s not surprising that his treatment of black Americans has been hurtful as well.

Trump’s support among black voters is incredibly low, around 5 percent, and his behavior indicates that he is not concerned about how they feel but rather is desperate to gain their favor and votes. Despite what he says about Clinton, he is the one trying to pander to them. If he actually saw them as “human beings worthy of a better future,” he would reach out to and interact with black communities instead of giving speeches in largely white areas, and then he might know that not all black Americans lead the lives he described.

The claim that Clinton panders to certain groups isn’t unfounded. In December, Clinton made a mildly controversial attempt to compare herself to Hispanic voters’ grandmothers. Regarding the allegation of bigotry, Clinton’s 1996 labeling of young gang members, many of whom were black, as “superpredators” still haunts her. Trump and GOP chairman Reince Priebus both cited that statement as justification for Trump’s accusation, even though she apologized for it in February.

However, Clinton has reached out to racial minorities, forming positive relationships with undocumented immigrants and the mothers of young black men who were killed by police. Her efforts to learn about the experiences of marginalized groups make her far more prepared to lead our diverse nation than Trump, who tried to attract Hispanic voters in May by tweeting a photo of himself eating a taco bowl made at his own Trump Tower. Clinton has sometimes stumbled regarding minorities, but she has overall been respectful toward them while Trump has used insults and stereotypes to get their attention. He, not she, is the bigoted one, and people of color have a lot to lose if he is elected.

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