“I did more for the Black community in 47 months than Joe Biden did in 47 years,” Trump said, promising to create 3 million jobs for Black people, open 500,000 Black-owned businesses and start a “national clemency project” for people serving unduly long prison sentences.
Before his remarks, Trump’s campaign played an audio clip of Biden’s remarks from May when he said on a radio show that if Black Americans don’t vote for him, “you ain’t black.” Trump mentioned the incident in his speech.
The White House chose Atlanta as the setting for Trump’s speech because it’s a symbol of Black prosperity and home to many African American-owned businesses and entrepreneurs.
Trump trails Biden by wide margins among Black people, with polls showing the former vice president attracting more than 80% of their votes. However, polls also show that Trump is performing better with Blacks this year than in 2016, when he won only about 6% of their votes, according to the Pew Research Center.
Any improvement among minorities could help Trump make up for losing the support of some White voters. Even modest gains in key battleground states with large Black populations could be enough to tip the election in his favor.
Earlier Friday, Trump held a roundtable event in Miami with Latino supporters.
“This event is a distraction from the fact Trump entered the political scene by denigrating our nation’s first African American president and has spent the last four years advancing anti-Black policies while fanning the flames of racism,” Jamal Brown, a national press secretary for Biden’s campaign, said in a statement.
Before he was elected president, promoted the false allegation that President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.
Trump calls his agenda for Black Americans the “Platinum Plan.” The document, which Trump called “a contract with Black Americans,” also calls for the government to encourage greater “activity” in Opportunity Zones, a program created by the 2017 tax overhaul Trump signed.
Under the law, investors can reap tax benefits by investing in areas states designate as low-income. But the program has drawn criticism for luring investment to neighborhoods that were already improving and for encouraging gentrification, displacing some Black residents who were supposed to benefit.
The president made his pitch to Black voters with the nation still shaken by unrest over police shootings of Black people. Fresh protests erupted this week after a Kentucky grand jury chose not to file murder charges against any of the police officers involved in the fatal shooting of a Louisville woman, Breonna Taylor.
Two police officers were shot Wednesday night during protests in Louisville after the grand jury’s conclusions were announced.
Trump has made denunciatons of the demonstrations and rallies that have unfolded across the country part of his re-election campaign, castigating protesters as rioters and looters. He has championed the police, threatened to turn the military on people protesting police brutality and over the summer sent federal agents to break up demonstrations in Portland, Oregon, against the wishes of local and state leaders.
“Racial justice begins with Joe Biden’s retirement from public life,” Trump said Friday.
The president has also often boasted of what he has accomplished for Black people, comparing himself to President Abraham Lincoln, who issued the Emancipation Proclamation and defeated the Confederacy in America’s bloodiest war.
In a poll in January, the Washington Post found that about 83% of Black Americans consider Trump racist and think he’s exacerbated U.S. racial tensions. A Quinnipiac University poll this week found that the same percentage of likely Black voters support Biden for president, but 10% support Trump.
Both Trump and Biden have been vying for Black votes. Trump’s campaign has opened up storefronts in some Black neighborhoods. It has also run ads on urban radio stations. Last month’s Republican National Convention featured several Black speakers, mostly men, who argued that Trump’s policies have benefited the Black community and in some cases defended him against accusations of being racist.
A number of prominent Black men, including National Football League star Herschel Walker, endorsed Trump before his remarks in Atlanta.
Biden has also been running commercials targeting the Black community. One such ad features Black men in a barbershop criticizing Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately sickened minorities.
When asked about how to unify the country, Trump has pointed to the economy. Black-owned businesses have shut down during the pandemic at nearly twice the rate of White-owned business.
While Black Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population, they own fewer than 2% of small businesses with employees. By contrast, White Americans make up 60% of the U.S. population but own 82% of small employer firms.
In the coming weeks, Trump’s administration plans to follow up on the June executive order he signed that promotes police reform in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, people familiar with the matter said. The order encourages police departments to seek accreditation that would make them more competitive for federal funding.
To qualify, local law enforcement agencies would have to meet standards, including restrictions on the use of force, like chokeholds, de-escalation training and partnerships with communities. Departments will also be encouraged to deploy other experts, like mental health professionals, when answering emergencies involving disturbed people.
As the pandemic has unfolded, Trump’s administration has been pushing for moving more pharmaceutical manufacturing jobs to the U.S. His plan would single out minorities for those jobs, the people said.
Under the plan, Trump would also pursue making Juneteenth, a commemoration of the end of slavery, a national holiday.
(Updates with Biden spokesman comment in ninth paragraph)