President Donald Trump is a father of five children. He has presumably felt the joys that fathers feel: holding your swaddled infant for the first time, their first step, and their many graduations and milestones. I assume he has cleaned scrapes and bruises and hugged tears away. To this very day, he has kept his children close to him, even providing his daughter an office of her own inside the White House despite ethical concerns about nepotism.
One would think that President Trump cares about children. However, he has failed to advocate for black and brown children, often choosing silence or actively working against their interests.
In the 1980s, Donald Trump was a young real estate developer and wealthy New York City socialite. Other than lobbying city government officials for his real estate projects, he was not known for making political statements. That changed in 1989 when he weighed in publicly on the fate of five young African-American and Latino teens who were accused of a brutal attack on female jogger in Central Park. The media labeled the youths “the Central Park Five.” Trump spent $85,000 to place full page ads in the four largest papers in the city. In those ads he claimed that the alleged teen assailants “should be forced to suffer” and be “executed.” Three of the suspects, Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson and Antron McCray, were 15 at the time. Korey Wise was 16. Raymond Santana was 14. All five of these men have since been exonerated by DNA evidence and had their convictions vacated. The age of these young boys didn’t factor into how Trump felt they should be dealt with.
Currently, our nation still has issues with institutionalizing a disproportionate number of African-American and Latino youth — like the Central Park Five. Trump’s Department of Justice has been instructed not to use the words “overrepresentation of minorities,” preferring instead the term “minority contact” when referring to justice system involved youth. The latter term puts the onus upon alleged offenders rather than a system that is stacked against them. The fact is that white youth are more likely to carry weapons and “do hard drugs” than black youth, while black youth are more likely to smoke marijuana and get into fist fights. Still, blacks make up 44 percent of incarcerated youth, though they only comprise 14 percent of our nation’s youth population. Black youth are five times more likely to be incarcerated than white youth. Innocent blacks are far more likely to be convicted of a crime than innocent whites.
While Trump’s position on criminal justice seems unclear, he and his son-in-law Jared Kushner have pushed for the Prison Reform and Redemption Act, which provides mental health counseling and drug treatment to ex-offenders to lower recidivism. However, Attorney General Jefferson Sessions has instructed prosecutors to charge even low -level drug offenders with stiff penalties, reversing an Obama-era policy. This policy will indeed lead to the separation of black and brown families. African Americans are 12.5 percent of illicit drug users but 29 percent of those arrested for drug crimes.
Mr. Trump has had empathy for children and parents of opioid users. Unsurprisingly, the communities most affected by this current crisis are white. Whites made up 90 perct of new users of opioids between 2000 and 2010.
If Mr. Trump wants to lower “minority contact” with the justice system and keep youth away from drugs, he should support after school programs. However, Trump is proposing cutting funding for after-school programs that keep young, impressionable kids, largely of color, off of the streets. Research shows that the most dangerous time for youth is between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Evidence also suggests that participation in afterschool programs raises test scores and academic performance. Black children are more likely than any other youth demographic to attend an after-school program.
Antwon Rose, a 17-year-old boy, was shot in the back by police. Antwan’s family mourns their son’s untimely death. Yet the call for reforms to policing have fallen on deaf ears at the Trump administration. They have reversed the consent decrees which were restoring faith in policing and keeping Black and brown children safer.
Trump’s lack of regard for children of color isn’t limited to African-American youth and families. The Trump administration’s stood firmly behind the callous zero-tolerance policy that led to the separation of families at the U.S. border with Mexico, until widespread outcry caused a rare reversal from the president. According to U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw, the administration had no plan on how to keep track of children, enable communication between kids and parents or reunite families.
Trump has put Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in jeopardy, which has put tens of thousands of youth in a panic about their futures in the only country they’ve ever known. In the midst of professing his love for kids, the president suggested that a significant portion of DACA recipients are “gang members” and “drug dealers,” without providing any evidence for those assertions. In reality, 76 percent of DACA recipients are employed while another 20 percent are enrolled in school.
Gangs are an issue for youth of all ethnicities. According to a study from Sam Houston State University, 40 percent of adolescent gang members are non-hispanic whites.
White youth are also more likely to deal drugs than African-American youth.
The president has shown empathy for some youth born outside of our borders. President Trump spoke of how awful it was to watch Syrian children suffer from a chemical weapons attack that could leave them debilitated for years to come. However, his empathy was not strong enough to allow them to come to the US where they would be safe. The president cites concerns about terrorism, but they are not grounded in any evidence or fact. No refugee from Syria, or any other country for that matter, has committed a fatal act of terror on American soil since the establishment of the Refugee Act in 1980. He says they and children from Latin America make us less safe, despite the fact that immigrants commit less crime than native born Americans. Undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than native born citizen and legal immigrants, presumably because they endeavor to stay below the radar.
The president referred to his 39-year-old son as a “good boy” but seemingly has little empathy for black and brown young people. Trump cares about kids but apparently only ones that look like him. He seems willing to cut the funding for programs that serve black and brown children, and more than happy to put them behind bars, separate them from their families or — in some cases — even “execute” them.
Jason Nichols is a lecturer in African American Studies at the University of Maryland and a prolific progressive commentator.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.