When Tunette Powell, a black Ph.D. student in Los Angeles, hears Donald J. Trump speaking about African-Americans living in “war zones,” she thinks back to a high school math teacher who used to tell her to “go back to the ghetto.”
Mr. Trump has called for the return of stop-and-frisk, the police practice that critics and a New York federal judge likened to racial profiling. Ms. Powell remembered how police officers once searched a car she and her cousin were riding in, joking that the vehicle resembled one used in a robbery.
Mr. Trump has frequently retweeted messages from white supremacists. Ms. Powell recalled how a white college classmate informed her that his family got together at barbecues to ridicule black people.
With his years of questioning President Obama’s birthplace, his insinuation of voting fraud in black neighborhoods and his refusal to absolve the Central Park Five, Mr. Trump has riled up and shocked voters not used to hearing black Americans’ sensibilities handled so dismissively on a public stage.
But when Ms. Powell and other black Americans were interviewed recently about Mr. Trump’s candidacy, shock was rarely a word that came to mind.
More often, they said, what they felt was a numbing familiarity: What the rest of America was now being exposed to are words and thoughts they have heard their whole lives.
“We talk a lot about Donald Trump because he is the person in front of us, but start looking at all the people who believe in these ideas and they are sitting in our classrooms, they are in our courtrooms, and they are pastors of our churches,” Ms. Powell, 30, said. “I feel like Donald Trump is not a big bad wolf. He’s existed for a long time.”
For Quiteka Moten, 29, a graduate student at Tennessee State University, the 2016 campaign has conjured memories of Barack Obama’s election in 2008, when as an undergraduate at the University of Tennessee she saw people driving around with Confederate flags and someone spread cotton balls across the lawn of the school’s black cultural center.
When Jeff Jackson, a 43-year-old Atlanta resident who works in finance, relates to the presidential race, he reaches back further still, to the early 1990s, when he and friends took a trip in high school and were told by a gas station clerk, “Your kind is not wanted.”
Whether stunned or simply deflated, black voters, not surprisingly, are keeping a great distance from Mr. Trump. His support among African-Americans is low even compared with other Republican presidential candidates of the recent past, which could damage his efforts to win swing states like North Carolina.
A CBS News poll released last week found that Mr. Trump has just 4 percent support of black likely voters in the four-way race with Hillary Clinton, the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee. (Mrs. Clinton had the support of 85 percent.) Exit polls for the previous four elections showed Republican candidates receiving 4 to 11 percent support from black voters.
Ben Carson, the onetime presidential candidate who is now one of Mr. Trump’s most visible black supporters, said that people who view the Republican nominee in a racial context did not understand his message.
“I don’t see anything about him that is racist,” Mr. Carson said. “I realize that there is a long tradition of supporting the Democratic Party and thinking that the Republicans are racist. I understand that. I think if Donald Trump is elected, when people see the results of his policies, school choice and voucher programs and prison reform, welfare reform, and job creation, you’re going to see a markedly different picture when it comes time to re-elect him.”
Not every black voter interviewed found Mrs. Clinton to be a safe harbor. Some echoed the ambivalence expressed by Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback who has been kneeling during the national anthem, and who said Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump seemed to be arguing over “who’s less racist.”
Derix Dugan, 33, of Baton Rouge, La., who works at a warehouse painting cylinders, said he was leaning toward voting for Mr. Trump because he thought he was a good businessman. “I would definitely say he is a racist, but that wouldn’t stop my vote because I don’t see us black people going back to slavery or some ridiculousness,” Mr. Dugan said.
Symone D. Sanders, a former national press secretary for Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont who is trying to galvanize millennials to vote, said young black voters were not necessarily frightened by Mr. Trump’s talk.
“There are young people who will tell you we know people like Donald Trump, we go to work with people like Donald Trump, we go to school with people like Donald Trump every day, so we are not scared of Donald Trump,” Ms. Sanders said.
Indeed, regardless of whom they are supporting, black voters said they saw Mr. Trump’s comments as fitting on a spectrum with their own life experiences, and Mr. Trump as just one more unenlightened authority figure they might have to deal with.
“There were things I let people say to me. They’d say, ‘Dominique, you’re one of the good black folks.’” said Dominique Morgan, 34, of Omaha, who supports Mrs. Clinton and leads a gay rights group in Nebraska.
He would stay quiet, he said, when former colleagues would tease him, for fear of losing his position. “They would set out watermelon and say, ‘You know you want some of that watermelon,’” he said. “Just things that they would say that I would have to accept because I knew if I corrected them, pointed out the things that were said, I would be vilified.”
Mysonne Linen, a rapper who lives in the Bronx, said he recalled his white third-grade teacher telling him he was going to die before he turned 18. Mr. Linen said he was a talkative student with some behavior problems — and, he volunteered without prompting, he later went to prison for holding up two cabdrivers — but that his teacher went far beyond reasonably disciplining him.
“Everything was, ‘You little black this, you little black that,’” Mr. Linen, 39, said. “He would grab me and pull me out by the arm really tight and just say the worst things he could say to me.”
“He reminds me so much of Donald Trump,” Mr. Linen said.
And he said he saw another parallel in the way his teacher and the candidate spoke. “As much as he’s not worthy to be president,” Mr. Linen said, “he is 100 percent honest, even to a fault.”
Ms. Powell, who is studying urban schooling, also said Mr. Trump was not so jarring.
“There is a part of America that is like this,” she said. “It might be scary to some liberal whites, it might be scary to some blacks who always feel like we knew it was happening but we didn’t really want it. But it’s not scary to me. I see it all the time.”
Date Posted: Tuesday, October 25th, 2016 , Total Page Views: 1588
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