While accepting his party’s nomination at the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump branded himself as the “law and order” candidate in this year’s race for the White House.
During one of the longest acceptance speeches in decades, Trump used the phrase “law and order” at least four times while driving his message that security issues undermine the nation’s prosperity. “The attacks on our police, and the terrorism of our cities threaten our very way of life,” Trump said, going on to reference the “recent images of violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities. He directly referenced the recent killings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, and said that an attack on law enforcement is an attack on all Americans.
Yet for all his concern about recent attacks on police officers, Trump never once made mention of the police-involved shooting deaths of Black people such as Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and many others. He made no mention of holding law enforcement officials accountable for uses of excessive force, racial profiling, and other abuses that have routinely targeted Black communities.
Without addressing these key issues, it’s clear that Trump’s idea of “law and order” wasn’t created for Black people. Rather, he made crafty attempts to win Black votes with the nativist assertion that immigrants and foreigners are the problem.
The only time Trump explicitly referenced African Americans was during his remarks about unemployment and poverty. But he framed the issue within his racist and Islamophobic appeals to curb immigration—including building a wall along the Mexican border, a ban on Muslims entering the country, and suspending the entry of Syrian refugees.
“Decades of record immigration have produced lower wages and higher unemployment for our citizens, especially for African-American and Latino workers,” Trump said, having previously claimed that “illegal immigrant families” are released by the “tens of thousands into our communities with no regard for the impact on public safety or resources.” He promised to create an immigration system that works, with one key caveat that it would only be “one that works for the American people.”
Trump also promised, however briefly, to address issues affecting America’s “inner cities,” an implicit nod to racial minorities living in impoverished urban areas. After blaming President Obama for causing racial divisions—without offering any explanation or evidence—Trump claimed the Obama administration failed inner cities on jobs, crime, and education, and promised to ensure that young people in these areas were “treated equally” and “protected equally.”
He could have made proposals that would address racial disparities in employment, the criminal justice system, and how public schools are funded. But Trump offered nothing specific. Instead, he only mentioned taking care of and protecting African Americans as part of his plan to “make life safe for all of our citizens” by addressing foreign threats—namely, ISIS.
Trump never spoke directly to Black people during his remarks. He attempted to co-opt the community’s struggles and signal that his “law and order” message includes them. Yet Trump’s desire to invest in increased policing, militarization, and deportation will undoubtedly affect Black people who are routinely targeted by these systemic ills.
By failing to address police accountability and racial disparities within law enforcement, Trump’s rhetoric underscores that his dangerous appeal for “law and order” was only crafted with his white base in mind.
And even so, there should be no desire for Black inclusion within a campaign that constructs immigrants, Muslims, and pro-Black protesters and advocates as threats to American society.