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US Presidential Contenders Focus on Race in America

  • Michael Bowman

Rhetoric on race in America continues at a fever pitch in the presidential contest between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, as both vie for the backing of minority voters eight years after the United States elected its first president of color.

“More than 6,000 African-Americans are the victims of murder, of murder, every single year,” Trump said at a recent campaign stop, adding that failed Democratic policies are to blame for high levels of crime and economic dislocation in minority communities.

Clinton pounced on the comments.

“Trump has stood up in front of largely white audiences and described black communities in such insulting and ignorant terms,” Clinton said in a speech late last week. “He certainly doesn’t have any solutions to take on the reality of systemic racism and create more equity and opportunity in communities of color and for every American.”

Demonstrators protest the shooting death of Alton Sterling near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, July 10, 2016.

Demonstrators protest the shooting death of Alton Sterling near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, July 10, 2016.

Trump is highlighting crime in the black community as part of a larger narrative about threats to public safety and his promise to be a law-and-order president.

A Trump television ad proclaims: “Donald Trump’s America is secure. Terrorists and dangerous criminals kept out. The border secure. Our families safe.”

Clinton, meanwhile, is painting a more sinister picture of her opponent and some of his backers. An internet ad strings together comments from white supremacists who are openly backing the Republican nominee.

“Trump is reinforcing harmful stereotypes and offering a dog-whistle to his most hateful supporters. It’s a disturbing preview of what kind of president he’d be,” Clinton said at a campaign stop.

Trump’s backers say the candidate is speaking cold, hard truths about issues that need to be addressed, from illegal immigration to inner-city crime.

“If people want safer streets, want their police supported, then they should vote for Donald Trump because that’s what he’ll do,” said New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on ABC’s This Week program. “He’ll appoint an attorney general who will send very clear messages about how law enforcement is to be pursued in this country.”

Trump drew headlines for a recent Twitter post proclaiming a high-profile gun slaying in Chicago as a reason for minorities to back him in the November election. He followed up with a tweet expressing condolences to the family of the murder victim.

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