Black Caucus chair: ‘Utter disgust’ with Trump’s handling of race

Black Caucus chair: ‘Utter disgust’ with Trump’s handling of race
© Greg Nash

The head of the Congressional Black Caucus lashed out at President Trump on Wednesday, accusing the president of both insensitivity and ignorance when it comes to issues of race.

In a letter to Trump, Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) said the president’s verbal attacks on NFL players protesting police brutality marked a “disgraceful response” to demonstrators — most of them African-American — fighting for social justice.

Richmond did not mince words.

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“I write today to express my utter disgust with your handling of race relations in America in general and, more specifically, your disgraceful response to nationwide demonstrations against police brutality and racial injustice by professional football players, owners, coaches, and countless other patriots,” he wrote. 

“African Americans are just as patriotic as any other American.”

The tone of Richmond’s letter is an indication of just how far relations have deteriorated between the president and minority lawmakers who have long criticized Trump’s harsh language toward immigrants, Muslims, women and other groups. Many members of the Black Caucus boycotted Trump’s inauguration after the incoming president attacked Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a civil rights hero almost killed by police during a 1965 protest, for being ineffective.

Those tensions escalated profoundly last month after Trump, responding to deadly marches at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., blamed “many sides” for the violence. And most recently, the Democrats are up in arms over Trump’s profane attack on former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who last year began protesting racial injustice by kneeling on the sidelines during the national anthem.

“Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say 'get that son of a bitch off the field right now,' ” Trump said last week, addressing a mostly white crowd in Alabama. 

“Out! He's fired!”

Trump has insisted those comments — and subsequent remarks doubling down — are merely a defense of the flag and the troops who defend it. 

“The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem,” Trump tweeted Monday. “NFL must respect this!”

But Richmond and most other Democrats have a very different interpretation, accusing the billionaire president of being clueless when it comes to problems facing minorities in the United States. 

“Your complete lack of understanding of or empathy for the very painful history and substantive policy concerns that move people like Colin Kaepernick to take a stand, or a knee, in the first place is a reminder of all the African American community has to lose under your Administration,” Richmond wrote in his letter. 

“You personally add insult to injury with the racist dog whistles you employ, such as calling for ‘law and order’ in underserved, neglected communities across America while encouraging police brutality.”

Trump had met with Richmond and Black Caucus members at the White House in March to discuss issues facing the black community. During that meeting, Richmond presented the president with a 130-page document outlining those problems and proposing specific policy changes designed to tackle them. 

Richmond this week presented that document to the White House for a second time. 

“Since our meeting, you have done nothing to help our communities and have taken affirmative actions that have harmed our communities,” he wrote.

“I urge you to read these documents, since it is evident that you have not, and give serious thought to addressing the underlying concerns that give rise to the demonstrations you find so very disgraceful,” he said.