It’s a tall order for a Republican presidential candidate — especially a white man born into privilege — to expect to connect with black citizens. Yet that’s what Donald Trump tried to do yesterday when he addressed the black congregants of the Great Faith Ministries in Detroit.
The event was ticketed, so as to keep protestors out. There were many empty seats. But he used his scripted 12-minute speech to reach out and even show a rare touch of humility to the attendees. He also said it was a chance “to learn.” “I fully understand that the African-American community has suffered from discrimination and there are many wrongs that must still be made right,” he told the parishioners.
That is not to say that Trump was well-received by other Detroit residents. Protestors, including a group led by a black minister who attempted to enter without tickets, denounced Trump’s visit. Some of the protestors claimed that Trump was just using the black community as pawns: “I believe somebody within his campaign finally got through to him and said, ‘Hey, look, man. You cannot be elected with zero percent of the black vote. It just won’t happen.’ So now he’s reaching out.”
The mayor of Detroit, Mike Duggan, a Democrat, slammed Trump’s visit. At a press conference organized by Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Duggan scoffed, “I feel like I’m watching the next season of ‘The Apprentice. This is the most phony major party nominee that I’ve seen in my lifetime, and that’s why we’re skeptical.”
Yes, the mayor of Detroit has room to be skeptical of Trump’s outreach to Detroit. Because Detroit under Duggan — and a long line of previous Democratic mayors — has become such a thriving, prosperous city. Why, it’s become the “garden spot of Ceti Alpha VI,” to borrow a line from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.
And then there was the dancing. Oh, it was awkward, proving the hard truth that older white men just can’t dance.
But then again, what was Trump to do? Yes, his movements were wooden, and he looked very uncomfortable. But when you’re a white candidate participating in a black church service, it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t.