PITTSBURGH – President-elect Donald Trump, on the eve of his inauguration, faces a steep challenge in overcoming skepticism in this city’s Hill district, the historic African-American neighborhood near downtown.
Doubts about his ability to follow through on campaign pledges to improve day-to-day life in America’s urban core run high here.
And while some are willing to give him a chance, many others are dismissing his pending presidency as a failure for blacks.
At the bustling Grandma B’s café, a small restaurant teeming with activity and vocal conversations, Mr. Trump approval rating would barely register.
“At this point you have to give him a chance,” said 28-year-old Raemar Perry, whose father owns and operates the restaurant. “He’s already the president, so now we have no choice but to accept him, or to basically give him a fair chance.”
Despite the cynicism, Mr. Trump managed to overcome the Democratic machines here and in Philadelphia and became the first Republican presidential candidate to win the Keystone state since George H.W. Bush carried Pennsylvania in 1988.
He garnered just one of every 12 black votes in the election – 8 percent.
The lack of enthusiasm about him in Pittsburgh stands in stark contrast to the celebratory atmosphere that exists in vast swaths of rural counties elsewhere – a wide divide the incoming president hopes to bridge.
“It’s going to continue,” said Tamica Mickle, a black mother of two teenagers. “I don’t think it’s going to change. I mean, you're talking about building a wall.”
Many African-Americans are expressing low expectations about Mr. Trump’s promises to invigorate city centers nationwide, improving the crime rate, upgrading housing and restoring jobs, especially for young blacks, whose unemployment rates are consistently higher than their white and Hispanic counterparts.
At a shining, new YMCA, where people lifted weights, played hoops and burned calories on treadmills, youth basketball coach David Wicks said, wistfully, that Mr. Trump would “melt” under the tremendous demands and stress of the job.
“Art of the Deal” may have been a bestseller but Mr. Trump still has a formidable deal to close in the African-American community.