The wanton attempted murder of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin was further clear and compelling evidence of the systemic racism that continues to infest police departments throughout America. The responses of the two presidential candidates spoke volumes.
From Joe Biden:
Yesterday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back as police attempted to restrain him from getting into his car. His children watched from inside the car and bystanders watched in disbelief. And this morning, the nation wakes up yet again with grief and outrage that yet another Black American is a victim of excessive force. This calls for an immediate, full and transparent investigation and the officers must be held accountable.
These shots pierce the soul of our nation. Jill and I pray for Jacob’s recovery and for his children.
Equal justice has not been real for Black Americans and so many others. We are at an inflection point. We must dismantle systemic racism. It is the urgent task before us. We must fight to honor the ideals laid in the original American promise, which we are yet to attain: That all men and women are created equal, but more importantly that they must be treated equally.
From Donald Trump:
Governor should call in the National Guard in Wisconsin. It is ready, willing, and more than able. End problem FAST!
No statement of outrage by Trump against the brutality of the Kenosha police who attempted to murder Jacob Blake. No expression of concern for the family of Jacob Blake or support for the pleas of his mother for nonviolence by protestors.
No surprise at all.
As I have written and documented on many platforms, Donald Trump is the most contemptible racist to serve in the presidency since Woodrow Wilson. The evidence is there, beyond any reasonable doubt, including, but not limited to, 1) his discrimination against African-Americans in the rental of his Brooklyn apartments in the early 1970s; 2) his continued defamation as rapists of the African-American Central Park Five in the late 1980s, even after they were exonerated by DNA evidence; 3) his support for the anti-Obama “ Birther” Movement; and 4) his continued attempts to bar African-Americans from movement to the suburbs.
Yet Trump’s continued racist actions and statements have significance well beyond the assessment of his character. White racism is at the core of the vaunted Trump base – and represents his only hope for overtaking Joe Biden and winning the election.
The main motivator of the Trump base, above all, has been white grievance: the blaming of people of color for white working class economic and social burdens. That base has been shrinking. Because of his catastrophic failure in responding (i.e. not responding) to the Coronavirus Pandemic, Trump trails Joe Biden by double-digit margins in most polls and continues to lag badly in the Battleground States.
Trump’s major decline since 2016 has been among white senior citizen voters. He and his most vociferous white grievance base voters literally pray that incidents of racist police brutality result in a violent response by African-Americans in America’s city streets. This is the Trump campaign’s only hope for frightening white senior citizen voters into supporting Trump once again, enabling the president to overtake Joe Biden.
Polls since the George Floyd, Jr. murder have shown a most welcome change in white attitudes towards white racist police brutality. Yet any increase in violence does have the potential for negative impact in the national struggle against systemic racism.
For Joe Biden, this is a twofold crisis. First is the aforesaid danger to his campaign if violence persists. Overwhelmingly, since the George Floyd, Jr. tragedy, protest marches against white racist police brutality have been both multi-racial and peaceful.
Yet if that changes, there is a danger to his lead over Trump, as well as to the cause of eliminating systemic racism, to which both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have dedicated their lives.
Joe and Kamala have already communicated by telephone their heartfelt concerns to Julia Jackson, the mother of Jacob Blake. I have one further recommendation, both in the cause of the campaign and the ongoing battle against systemic racism.
In making this recommendation, I am most mindful of Bobby Kennedy’s trip to Indianapolis on the night of April 4, 1968, the day of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His staff had recommended against him making the trip. But in disregarding the recommendation of his staff and going to Indianapolis, Kennedy calmed an African-American crowd that had the potential of a riot in view of this horrific news. Watch this video of RFK’s speech -it was a triumphant moment in American history.
Bobby Kennedy was the most beloved white man in history in the African-American community. Joe Biden is not so beloved. Yet he is the most trusted white political figure today in the African-American community.
So my recommendation, for what it’s worth, is this:
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, along with Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, Joe’s close friend and the leading African-American in either house of Congress should travel to Kenosha, Wisconsin to lead a non- violent demonstration against the vile racist police brutality that has left Jacob Blake likely disabled for life.
This will propound a most powerful message of nonviolence and opposition to systemic racism. It will end for good Donald Trump’s hopes for fomenting urban violence in an attempt to win an election.
And most of all, it will make it clear that in January, there will be an administration working to unite Americans, rather than divide them and appealing to America’s hopes rather than its fears.
Alan Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.