Friday July 20th, 2018 4:26PM

Black lawmakers ponder Trump agenda at annual gathering

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — On the campaign trail last year, then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump sought the support of black voters by asking them, "What the hell do you have to lose?"

An answer came during the Congressional Black Caucus' annual legislative conference this past week: Everything.

"We are losing essential freedoms," said Brittany Packnett, who became an advocate for criminal justice reform after the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown and subsequent protests in Ferguson, Missouri. "The mood is resolute. No one is confused about the amount of work that lies ahead of us."

Those who flocked to the nation's capital for the gathering of black lawmakers, leaders and policy experts identified multiple ways that black Americans are losing ground under President Trump's watch.

The conference, which ended Sunday, took place against the backdrop of yet another attempt by the GOP-controlled Congress to undo a signature domestic achievement of the country's first black president, the Affordable Care Act. Over the past eight months, black Americans have also been alarmed by the administration's attempt to undo federal housing programs, a lack of funding for historically black colleges, and a retreat from discussion of disparities in policing of minority communities.

The conference also happened as Trump attacked NFL players who kneel in protest during the national anthem. Since last season, several players have knelt or raise fists when the anthem is played to protest police treatment of blacks and social injustice.

This year's CBC conference was the first since President Barack Obama left office, shifting the national black political leadership mantle from the White House back to Capitol Hill. The heavily Democratic caucus — currently boasting its largest-ever membership with 49 representatives and senators — so far has had a testy relationship with Trump, who got only 8 percent of the black vote when he was elected last November.

Trump met with CBC leadership in March. But in June, the caucus turned down an invitation to meet again, saying their concerns have fallen on "deaf ears" at the White House, and that Trump's policies are harmful to black Americans.

Trump's claim that "many sides" were responsible for racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, and that there were "very fine people" among the white nationalists in attendance protesting the possible removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, generated controversy.

Trump has rejected the persistent condemnation of his words and actions on matters involving race. Speaking from the White House amid overwhelming criticism of his statements, he declared, "Racism is evil," and said he condemned white supremacists and other hate groups. He declared himself to be "the least racist person that you have ever met" in a December 2015 interview with CNN.

At a raucous town hall meeting on Thursday, Reps. John Lewis of Georgia and Maxine Waters of California urged attendees to push back against Trump's agenda and the newly emboldened neo-Nazis and white supremacists who have wholeheartedly embraced it.

"Racism is still deeply embedded in American society," said Lewis, a veteran civil rights activist. "We have to call it what it is at all levels, whether it's at the White House or the poor house. Don't try to sweep it under the rug like it doesn't still exist."

Waters, who has been a staunch and vocal critic of Trump, was cheered when she called Attorney General Jeff Sessions "a racist."

"He's a throwback," Waters said. She noted Sessions' reversal of ex-Attorney General Eric Holder's stance on mandatory minimums for crack-cocaine prison sentences, which have disproportionately affected African-Americans, and his review of federal consent decrees for local law enforcement agencies.

Sessions saw his nomination to be a federal judge turned away in 1986 because of allegations he had made racially charged comments. He said then, "I am not a racist," and during his confirmation this year rejected "the caricature that was created of me," saying, "It wasn't accurate then, and it's not accurate now."

During the campaign, many black voters were put off by Trump's references to blacks "living in hell" and his promises to restore "law and order" to cities like Philadelphia, Chicago and Baltimore. This summer, Trump suggested that police officers be more rough with suspects when taking them into custody.

Philadelphia city councilman Derrick Green said Trump's budget proposals are harmful to cities because they eliminate programs like the community development block grant.

"It is really questionable how he can really say that he wants to help cities like Philadelphia," said Green, noting that Philadelphia remains the poorest big city in America, with a poverty rate double that of the national average at more than 25 percent.

Economist Julianne Malveaux, who attended the conference, called Trump's characterization of urban centers "stereotypical and stupid." Malveaux, former president of the all-black women's Bennett College in North Carolina, cited Trump's lack of support for historically black colleges in the budget, as among the examples of his lack of urgency to address concerns in the black community.

"What he seems to have done is reverse the entirety of the Obama legacy, literally department by department," said Malveaux. "What do we have to lose? Everything. The message is, 'You don't count.'"

Princeton African-American Studies professor Eddie Glaude said those who caution that Trump's tenure is young are "naive."

"What are we waiting to see?" Glaude asked. "The economic philosophy is not going to benefit us."


Whack is a member of The Associated Press' Race and Ethnicity Team. Follow her work at .

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Online Supreme Court News, AP Elections, AP Elections - Campaigns
© Copyright 2018
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Sticks and slashes break bones, so NHL aims for less pain
Sticks and slashes break bones, so the NHL aims to get fewer players hurt this season
4:06PM ( 17 minutes ago )
The Latest: Giants' Beckham penalized for celebrating TD
Odell Beckham Jr. caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning early in the fourth quarter and drew an unsportsmanlike penalty for his odd celebration.
3:58PM ( 25 minutes ago )
The Latest: Seahawks and Titans won't come out for anthem
The Latest: Seahawks and Titans won't come out for anthem
3:57PM ( 26 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
California lawmakers look to free older and younger inmates
California lawmakers want to free more of the state's oldest inmates and more of those who were young when they committed their crimes
3:32PM ( 51 minutes ago )
President's criticisms spark more protests at NFL games
President Donald Trump's comments spark huge increase in protests around the National Football League
3:14PM ( 1 hour ago )
Official: Hurricane Maria set Puerto Rico back decades
Puerto Rico's nonvoting representative in the U.S. Congress says Hurricane Maria's destruction has set the island back decades, even as authorities are still working to assess the extent of the damage
3:06PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
The Latest: French conservatives keep majority in Senate
Partial official results show France's conservatives on track to keep their majority in the Senate, with President Emmanuel Macron's party trailing as his popularity suffers
1:43PM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest: Le Pen congratulates Germany's AfD on result
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has congratulated the nationalist Alternative for Germany party on entering the German parliament
1:28PM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest: Sen. Cruz says he's against GOP health bill
Sen. Ted Cruz says he's against the Republican bill that would erase much of President Barack Obama's health law
1:14PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Edith Windsor, who helped end gay marriage ban, dies at 88
Edith Windsor, who successfully challenged a federal law banning same-sex marriage, has died
7:40PM ( 1 week ago )
Catholic leaders decry Dems' questioning of judicial pick
Roman Catholic leaders are objecting to Democratic senators' line of questioning for one of President Donald Trump's judicial nominees, saying the focus on her faith is misplaced
7:02PM ( 1 week ago )
Trump nominates White House lawyer to important court seat
President Donald Trump has tapped one of his own White House attorneys for a judgeship on one of the nation's most important federal appeals courts.
4:40PM ( 2 weeks ago )
AP Online Supreme Court News
White House: No defeat for Trump if Strange loses in Alabama
The White House suggests it won't be a defeat if a Republican incumbent endorsed by President Donald Trump ends up losing in Alabama's Senate primary race
11:21AM ( 5 hours ago )
Weiner faces sentencing in latest chapter of sexting drama
Anthony Weiner faces sentencing in latest, most devastating, chapter of his sexting saga
9:53AM ( 6 hours ago )
France: Macron's party faces likely blow in Senate elections
French President Emmanuel Macron's unconventional political party is fighting to make its mark on the Senate in elections for half the seats in the upper house
3:07AM ( 13 hours ago )
AP Elections
GOP's 'Obamacare' repeal all but dead; McCain deals the blow
Sen. John McCain has dealt a likely death blow to GOP efforts to repeal "Obamacare"
10:03PM ( 1 day ago )
The Latest: Carson praises Ala. Senate candidate Roy Moore
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is praising Alabama senate candidate Roy Moore just hours before President Donald Trump is set to headline a campaign rally for Moore's rival
6:02PM ( 1 day ago )
Trump: Russia probe a 'hoax,' media was 'greatest influence'
President Donald Trump is calling allegations of Russian election meddling a "hoax," insisting the media was the 'greatest influence' on the 2016 campaign.
9:52AM ( 2 days ago )
AP Elections - Campaigns
Sticks and slashes break bones, so NHL aims for less pain
Sticks and slashes break bones, so the NHL aims to get fewer players hurt this season
4:06PM ( 18 minutes ago )
The Latest: Giants' Beckham penalized for celebrating TD
Odell Beckham Jr. caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning early in the fourth quarter and drew an unsportsmanlike penalty for his odd celebration.
3:58PM ( 26 minutes ago )
The Latest: Seahawks and Titans won't come out for anthem
The Latest: Seahawks and Titans won't come out for anthem
3:57PM ( 27 minutes ago )
Merkel wins 4th term but nationalists surge in German vote
Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc has won a lackluster victory in Germany's national election while the anti-migrant nationalists from the Alternative for Germany party have managed a triumphant entry into parliament
3:56PM ( 28 minutes ago )
7 charged with rioting after protest in St. Louis County
Seven people are facing rioting and resisting arrest charges for their role in a protest that turned unruly at an upscale St. Louis County shopping mall
3:56PM ( 28 minutes ago )