PHILADELPHIA — In reaching out to black voters, Donald Trump talks about bringing “law and order” to the “inner city.”
El Brown wants the Republican presidential nominee to know he isn’t talking to her. The 41-year-old black businesswoman lives in Fairfax, Virginia, in one of the richest counties in America.
“It’s hard out here on these inner city streets,” Brown wrote mockingly in an Oct. 10 Facebook post about Trump’s often-used phrase. “Pray for me as I walk to the market to get some ceviche and a smoothie.”
Trump’s election rhetoric — from references to the inner city to talk about how he could lose the election because of “cheating” in “other communities” like Philadelphia, where nearly half the residents are black — strikes some African-American voters as racially tinged, insulting and disingenuous.
Many black voters accuse Trump of reflexively viewing the entire black community as poor, urban and in need of rescue.
Some have gone even further and suggested that Trump, like other politicians before him, is making veiled appeals to white bigotry, or engaging in “dog-whistle politics.” They say he is adding to a decades-old lexicon that includes “welfare queens,” ”states’ rights” and other phrases often interpreted as coded references to blacks.
Brown said Trump’s language is “textbook stereotyping.”
“He just took this huge generalization and painted an entire population of people with it,” Brown said in a telephone interview. “You would think in 2016 you wouldn’t have an example of that.”
In Sunday’s presidential debate, James Carter, a black undecided voter, asked the candidates whether they could be devoted as president to all the people of the United States.
Trump answered “absolutely” before assuring Carter that he would be a president “who will turn our inner cities around.” The moment was criticized as tone-deaf by many black viewers commenting on social media.
The majority of African-Americans are not poor. The black poverty rate is 28 percent and black unemployment 8.3 percent. More than half of blacks in large metro areas actually live in the suburbs, according to the most recent census data. Also, many urban areas have seen crime drop, and some central neighborhoods have been revitalized and become more diverse.
Still, in his appeal to black voters at a rally in August, Trump told blacks they were living in poverty, attending bad schools, and were unemployed. His pitch: “What the hell do you have to lose?”
Trump’s support among African-American voters is vanishingly small. An Associated Press-GfK poll conducted in September found that among black likely voters, 90 percent said they planned to vote for Hillary Clinton or were leaning that way, versus 3 percent for Trump.
Most people at Trump rallies are white, and he has rarely publicly addressed majority-black audiences.
If Trump’s rhetoric is meant to sway the black vote, he’s failing — at least in Detroit, said Vanessa Allen, a 42-year-old Detroit mother of two young children.
Allen doesn’t dispute the realities of her neighborhood: There are abandoned houses and signs of blight. But Trump “talks down on us like we are dogs in the street,” she said. “He has no respect for black people.”
Jerry Thomas, 65, wants his street repaired and drug activity on his block to end, but he does not believe Trump is seriously interested in addressing the problems in his Cleveland neighborhood.
“We already know he can’t do anything and won’t do anything,” Thomas said.
After a summer of racial tension and protests over killings by police of black men, Trump vowed a return of “law and order” — a phrase older Americans may recall from the 1960s as being used by politicians in response to the race riots that erupted in cities across the country.
On Tuesday, Trump warned supporters at a campaign stop in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, to “make sure this election isn’t stolen from us.”
“We have to make sure the people of Philadelphia are protected,” he said, referring to the Democratic stronghold of primarily black voters.
Trump has encouraged supporters to show up at polling locations as monitors.
To some listeners, that smacks of intimidation.
Cherron Gardner, 36, of Atlanta, said that kind of talk is not meant to appeal to black voters but to signal his supporters.
“He’s telling people to go to certain polls, directing people to act in certain ways,” Gardner said. “The terminology he uses is very specific. He’s smart in that way.”
Associated Press writers Mark Gillispie in Cleveland and Corey R. Williams in Detroit contributed to this story.
Errin Haines Whack covers urban affairs for The Associated Press. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/emarvelous.