Benjamin Evans III is a Miami community leader and Pastor of the Just Love Center whose aim is to spread love, hope, and justice while building communities that work for everyone.
“Our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they’ve ever been in before. Ever. Ever. Ever,” Donald Trump said at a rally in North Carolina.
He also said on another occasion, “African-Americans and Hispanics are living in hell…. You walk down the street and you get shot.”
Mr. Trump, I’m not sure what African-American community you’ve personally walked in lately, but I highly doubt you had to duck gunfire.
We acknowledge our reality is not Pleasantville, but we’re optimistic about where things are headed. It’s true that African-Americans still trail white Americans in many important quality-of-life measurements, among them education, economic, health and criminal justice metrics.
But despite the many major issues and discrimination we face — including some you’ve taken part in, including hiring, access to housing, equal pay, and underfunded schools — we continue to thrive.
So where did you get your line of reasoning? In what world are the conditions of the black community today much worse than the conditions of the past?
Clearly you must have forgotten about the more than two centuries of slavery, followed by another century of discrimination, disenfranchisement and lynchings. I’m wondering if the name Jim Crow rings a bell?
You warn of “gangs roaming the streets” and talk about how “African-American communities are being decimated by crime.” You say we’re living in poverty, our schools are no good, and we have no jobs. You even ask, “What the hell do you have to lose?”
Well Mr. Trump, with that type of negative perception of the African-American community, we have a lot to lose.
Just like so many others, you’ve fed and spread the negative narrative that paints the black community as poor, destructive, and desolate.
That could not be further from the truth.
So allow me to bring you up to speed on the fuller picture of the African-American community.
We have made significant strides in education, entrepreneurship, and service to our country. Black fathers take care of their children at a higher rate than any other racial group in the country. Our unemployment and poverty rates, while higher than the average, are near historical lows.
You say we’re uneducated. I’ll have you know that black women lead in being the most educated in this country. By both race and gender, a higher percentage of black women (9.7 percent) are enrolled in college than any other group, topping Asian women (8.7 percent), white women (7.1 percent) and white men (6.1 percent). Nine out of 10 young black adults have completed high school or its equivalent and six out of 10 young black adults have at least some college — the same ratio as the national average.
You say our communities are plagued with crime and gang members just roam the streets. Black-on-black crime has decreased over the decades. In the past 20 years, black-on-black homicides decreased by 67 percent, a sharper decline than white-on-white homicide. Moreover, among black youth, rates of robbery and serious property offenses are the lowest in more than 40 years. Lastly, nine out of 10 black people 12-years-old or older don’t use illicit drugs.
Mr. Trump, some of our communities might not be at their best right now. But together we can make them stronger. You asked us, “What do we have to lose?” With your rhetoric: everything.
This country thrives when we all work better together to make our country stronger together. Enough of the divisive rhetoric. Let’s build an America our future generations can be proud of.
Your View is a recurring series of opinion pieces from members of The New Tropic community. To share your ideas, goals, and work about Miami with the community in a Your View piece, please submit it to [email protected]