Trump's Racial Rhetoric on Crime Puts Him in a Political

Bind - NBCNews.com
On Tuesday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump declared that the African-American
community is in the "worst shape it's ever been in this country" in front of a predominately white
audience in Kenansville, N.C. At the same time, just about an hour and half away in Charlotte,
mostly black protesters were angrily clashing with law enforcement over the controversial police
shooting of yet another person of color, Keith Lamont Scott.
Both of the scenes addressed the phenomenon of the violence against black bodies -- but the voices
appear to be coming from diametrically opposed directions.
Trump has made "law and order" a centerpiece of his campaign, so much so that he hyped the
shootings of police officers in his Republican National Convention acceptance speech and he has
recently garnered the endorsement of the nation's largest police union, the National Fraternal Order
of Police.
Throughout the 2016 campaign, Trump has tried to walk a delicate balance -- praising police and
lamenting that they have been hamstrung by political correctness while frequently highlighting
violence in inner cities, suggesting that somehow the current administration's policies are an
indirect cause.
Still he has rarely spoken about a specific case of alleged police violence. Trump did tweet about the
tragic accidental shooting death of NBA star Dywane Wade's cousin by gang members last month,
but initially only to suggest that it would lead African-American voters to support him in November.
On Wednesday, Trump tweeted that the shooting in Charlotte, and a second controversial police
shooting of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man, in Tulsa (captured on video) were "tragic,"
but he didn't elaborate on why, or what steps he would take as president to address alleged
excessive police force.
That same day, Trump addressed a Pastors and Leadership Conference in Cleveland, Ohio, coheadlined by Dr. Darrell Scott, one of his most prominent African-American surrogates and a board
member on the National Diversity Coalition from Trump. NBC News reached out to Bruce LeVell,
the executive director of Trump's diversity coalition, for comment on his recent remarks, but has not
heard back at this time.
However, at the event in Cleveland, Trump did elaborate on his response to the shooting in Tulsa
specifically without mentioning the Crutcher by name. After making it clear that he is a "tremendous
believer in law enforcement," he conceded that sometimes there is an officer that makes a "mistake
... or that chokes."
"I must tell you, I watched the shooting in particular in Tulsa, and that man was hands up, that man
went to the car hands up, put his hand on the carI mean, to me, it looked like he did everything
you're supposed to do, and he looked like a really good man," Trump told the audience, while
admitted that he may have been swayed by a televised interview with Crutcher family.
"This young officer, I don't know what she was thinking but I am very, very troubled by that," he
added in reference to Betty Shelby, the officer who killed Crutcher and is currently on

administrative leave. "Did she get scared? Was she choking, what happened? People that choke, they
can't be doing what they're doing."
In those same remarks, Trump's touted his endorsements from police unions, which only highlighted
the awkward position he was in.
Related: Trump 'Diversity Coalition' Holds Hectic First Meeting
NAACP president and CEO Cornell Brooks was unimpressed with Trump's comments, which he
described as "sympathy without substance."
"Rather than Mr. Trump theorizing about whether an officer 'choked,' we call on him to talk about
de-escalation techniques, training, and what he would do in terms of setting standards of policy as
commander-in-chief," Brooks told NBC News. "When it comes to 21st Century policing we must
move towards a guardian model rather than a warrior model. This 'law and order' language is a a
warrior stance, without guidance."
"The list of what we don't know [of Trump's policies] exceeds the length and the degree of sympathy
of his tweets," he added.
Trump's campaign website doesn't feature a single detailed plan about how or if he would reform
policing. Instead voters can find a 43-second video from February under the banner "Law
Enforcement Respect" in which the candidate addresses the camera, and argues that police officers
treated with enough deference.
In the video, Trump alludes to "bad apples" on police forces, but does not offer any policy proposals.
"On one hand he is signaling to uncomfortable voters who may fear that he is racist, and on the
other hand he is trafficking in assumptions and stereotypes about how some white Americans react
to policy," said MSNBC contributor and Princeton University Prof. Eddie Glaude. "He doesn't make
the kind of specific claims that a Giuliani will make, but he will invoke 'I will bring law and order.""
Glaude believes that Trump could persuade some disaffected minority voters, who are feeling
vulnerable and desire more police protection, but the reality for many communities of color is that
law enforcement presence isn't the problem, their policies are.
And Trump has both implied that police don't go far enough (he's told Fox News' Bill O'Reilly that
he'd let "tough" cops loose on Chicago) and derided them for following fundamental principles of
due process in the recent arrest of the New York-New Jersey terrorist bombing suspect.
As far as Glaude is concerned, Clinton hasn't fared much better, offering police reform and
community investment proposals he feels are dated at best, and ineffectual at worst.
"We have to have a broader understanding of safety that goes beyond locking people up and putting
more cops on the street," he said "We need to speak to what's at the hear of the matter -- that white
people are more valued than others in this country and the extent to which we refuse to
acknowledge that."
"As long as we view race as a zero-sum game, we will never address this issue," he added.
Related: Trump Reacts To Police Shootings, Don King Uses N-word

Meanwhile, with his culturally insensitive descriptions of uneducated, crime-ridden black
communities, black surrogates who often go off script with less-than-stellar results, and
condescending "what do you have to lose?" riff pitched at black voters, Trump appears to be
dramatically disconnected from real-life concerns of African-Americans in ways that, someone like
biracial San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick -- who the GOP nominee has criticized
repeatedly -- is not.
Although Kaepernick is not without a vocal chorus of critics (and as of late, the subject of death
threats) his silent protest of the national anthem before NFL games, inspired by frustration he feels
with systematic racism in this country, has begun to catch on with his peers.
And in the aftermath of the Scott shooting in Charlotte -- where officers targeted the wrong man as a
suspect -- and Tulsa -- where video contradicts initial police claims of an uncooperative Crutcher -there is now further evidence that there is significance to his stance.
"American football is becoming a literal theater of protests, kind of a cinematic display of the
conscience of the country," said Brooks. "They are making a statement, not necessarily of disloyalty
or lack of patriotism, but rather on what the flag stands for."
Still, their efforts will be toothless, according to Brooks, unless voters go to polls and make their
positions on policing known, not just in the presidential race but in the elections of mayors.
governors and local sheriffs too.
Brooks, who once had a gun pulled on him by police just for reaching for his glasses, believes that
the Crutcher shooting could potentially be a game-changer but he has mixed emotions about the fact
that it took fairly incontrovertible video evidence to give his loss of life credence, and that with or
without the footage most adult black men in America feel they must comply or die when confronted
by law enforcement.
For white Americans, some of whom remain skeptical about allegations implicit bias and racial
profiling, Brooks believes they must ask themselves a fundamental question: "At what point is
human behavior punishable by fatal violence?"