Four Ways Trump Is Wrong About Black Americans

Trump’s view of black communities: “You get shot walking down the street.” Reality: No.

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Donald Trump appears convinced that black Americans live terrible lives. “We’re going to rebuild our inner cities because our African American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they’ve ever been in before,” he said at a rally Tuesday. “Ever, ever, ever.”

You take a look at the inner cities, you get no education, you get no jobs, you get shot walking down the street. They’re worse, I mean honestly, places like Afghanistan are safer than some of our inner cities. And I say to the African American communities and I think it's resonating, because you see what's happening with my poll numbers with African Americans. They're going, like, high.

By Trump’s estimation, there has never been a worse time to be black in America. Pretty bleak—and untrue, by most objective standards. Let’s break it down.

“You get no education”

Trump says students in predominantly black schools are not receiving the instruction they need. Yes, many troubled city schools need help, and there’s little doubt the American education system still struggles with a persistent achievement gap between white and black students. But the position of black teenagers has improved greatly over the past two decades.

First, fewer are dropping out of high school than ever before, meaning they’re graduating with degrees that open the door to college or the workforce.

Secondly, fewer black teenagers are getting pregnant. Pregnancy alone doesn’t cause poverty. But studies show the rate of teen pregnancy in a community is a relatively reliable indicator of that area’s income mobility, with poorer neighborhoods seeing much higher rates.

So more black students are graduating, and they’re sharply less likely to leave high school with a child. On to the next.

“You get no jobs”

Trump’s view of black communities apparently doesn’t include any economic activity. And yet here’s the unemployment rate for black Americans over the past 30 years:

This rate has risen and fallen with the economic tides, and while it hasn’t yet reached the desirable low point set in 2000, it’s headed in the right direction. And more blacks are starting their own businesses, with the number of black-owned firms jumping 35 percent between 2007 and 2012.

“You get shot walking down the street”

Trump subscribes to the myth that America, as a whole, is sliding into violent anarchy. He’s wrong. And he’s particularly wrong about black communities, which have seen a slow-but-steady improvement in the homicide rate.

This year has seen some notable exceptions in the nation’s general trend toward peacefulness. And the curve above, supplied by the CDC, doesn’t yet reach the current day. But in order for Trump’s statement to be true, the black community would have had to have seen a massive uptick in crime and violence in the past two years. And there’s no indication that’s happened.

“… you see what’s happening with my poll numbers with African Americans. They’re going, like, high.”

No, they’re not.