The other week, President Trump lied throughout his RNC speech.
The lies ranged from small – he said Joe Biden flew back to Washington as a senator when Joe almost always took the train between Wilmington and Union Station – to huge – CNN rated his claims on the coronavirus as “exaggerated and misleading.”
For the most part, that’s not news. We know Trump lies. He’s lied about everything from the coronavirus to national security. Lies are baked into his character, his presidency, and even many of the testimonials given about the man.
However, the President told a massive, insidious, White supremacist lie at the Republican National Convention that demands an answer from People of Color and all people of conscience. He said that he has done more for Black America than any President since Abraham Lincoln.
As a Black woman who has always fought for Black America, I can tell you that’s the biggest lie he’s ever told.
Let’s start with the obvious: COVID-19 disproportionately affects Black, Brown, and Indigenous Americans. The President’s inept response to the pandemic resulted in unnecessary loss of life.
The Trump Administration’s response to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic has failed to provide Black America with the resources they need to survive the pandemic. A large number of the essential workers we depend on right now are Black, but they aren’t getting essential wages.
That’s the record for Black America: Donald Trump failed, tens of thousands of our family members died, and COVID-19 has expanded the wealth gap, leaving millions of Black Americans behind.
Of course, Trump’s speech did its damndest to turn the focus away from coronavirus and back on the first three years of his presidency. He claimed credit for the biggest victory for Historically Black Colleges and Universities in history.
The problem, Mr. President, is that’s my bill, the FUTURE Act. And while some Republicans were involved with the bill, notably Senator Lamar Alexander and Rep. Mark Walker, and 93 House Republicans voted for the final version, Donald Trump was nowhere to be found until it was time to sign the bill.
The only words he contributed were “Donald J. Trump,” his signature. If Trump had decided to veto the bill, we still could have passed it as it passed on a voice vote in the Senate and with a supermajority in the House.
Notably, Donald Trump’s future chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and many of his most vocal supporters voted against securing a future for our HBCUs. Additionally, prior to the FUTURE Act, Trump’s proposed budgets would have adversely affected HBCUs. As my friend Maya Angelou used to say, in what has become my measure for evaluating Donald Trump, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
Look, I’ve been a Black woman in America for 74 years. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen someone else take credit for the fruits of my labor.
What is much more insulting about Trump’s claims is that they are blatant lies that take away agency from Black Americans.
President Lyndon Johnson did far more for Black America than President Trump – he worked in the Senate to pass the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act – but those victories wouldn’t have been possible without the March on Washington, the Freedom Riders, the Greensboro Four, Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, and countless others bending public opinion towards freedom.
President Barack Obama did far more for Black American than President Trump – including a more impressive economic recovery, and the Affordable Care Act, which allowed many Black Americans to be insured for the first time. President Obama was able to accomplish that with a historic turnout from Black voters, especially Black women.
And yes, Joe Biden has done and will do more for Black America than President Trump. Over the past five years, Black America has stood up to the systems of injustice that continue to perpetuate a legacy of oppression and subjugation. Donald Trump has opposed these movements at every turn; Joe Biden will work for a more equal and more equitable America.
Donald Trump is exaggerating his record for Black Americans to messianic levels not to convince us of who he is, but to convince white Americans disturbed by his casual racism that he is something else. People of color and people of conscience can’t let him get away with the biggest lie he’s ever told.
That Maya Angelou quote concludes, “People know themselves much better than you do. That’s why it’s important to stop expecting them to be something other than who they are.”
We knew who Donald Trump was the first time. Let’s make sure the rest of the country does as well.
Alma Adams represents North Carolina’s 12th Congressional District (Charlotte) in the US House of Representatives. She is the co-chair and co-founder of the Congressional HBCU Caucus.