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|From 2008 in Philadelphia... what will election day in 2016 bring to the USA?|
The Rev. Alyn E. Waller was appalled when he learned that Donald Trump was dispatching supporters to Philadelphia to watch for vote fraud on election day.
Most Trump supporters are white. Nearly half of Philadelphia’s population is black.
The racial dimension was obvious.
“It is absolutely racist,” said Waller, the pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, Philadelphia’s largest black congregation. “He fundamentally believes that we are less than who he is, and therefore capable of robbing and stealing and being dangerous.”
Trump’s slew of inflammatory remarks have led many Americans to see him as a bigot. Since 1968, when segregationist George Wallace of Alabama won five states in the South, no major presidential contender has used such raw rhetoric on race or ethnicity.
That’s why it’s hard for Waller and other leaders of Philadelphia’s black churches and mosques to view Trump’s poll-monitoring plan as anything but an attempt to suppress the black vote. Waller recently convened a group of them, and they agreed to station patrols of up to seven black men at polling stations across the city.
“If it’s an older woman who’s on a cane, if it’s somebody who’s thirsty, if it’s someone who just needs some encouragement — we’re there to do that,” said Waller, 52. “And if anyone comes around to do anything that would deter from the free, fair opportunity to vote, we will shut that down.”
For Michael Rashid, a leader of Masjidullah, one of the mosques forming the patrols, Trump’s aggressive racial politics have stirred painful memories of his upbringing in Birmingham, Ala.
Obstacles to black voting rights were part of the city’s strict regimen of segregation.
The white sections of movie theaters, buses and swimming pools were off-limits to Rashid.
“It was apartheid down there,” he said.
Rashid, 69, a retired healthcare executive, was one of hundreds of black children jailed in 1963 for kneeling in the streets of Birmingham to protest segregation in a landmark rebellion led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. His voice cracked as he recalled the relentless trampling of civil rights in the era of Bull Connor, the police chief who turned attack dogs and fire hoses on the children.
“These poor black people who made maybe $10 a week — and I’m not exaggerating — they had to pay a $2 poll tax to be able to vote,” he said. “So that was a great way of holding down the black vote.”
Now, Rashid fears that Trump supporters will deter black voters, especially the elderly, from going to the polls.
“You hear all this rhetoric about these white people going to come down here, and you see on television, Trump people — they carry guns, and they rough people up,” he said.
Trump denies appealing to racism. “I am the least racist person you’ve ever met,” he has repeatedly told journalists who raised the topic.
But Trump’s suggestion that urban voters might steal the election comes after months of denigrating Latinos, Muslims, women and the nation’s first black president.
His stump speech includes widely offensive racial stereotypes about African Americans. He often characterizes all blacks as living in violent ghettos with no education and no jobs. He tells the overwhelmingly white crowds at his rallies that blacks have nothing to lose by gambling on his promise of a brighter future.
Waller, who once ministered in western Pennsylvania steel country, said he believes Trump is exploiting the fears of Rust Belt whites reeling from decades of factory shutdowns.
“Yes, this country has let them down, but they’ve been tricked into thinking it’s my fault,” Waller said after a Sunday sermon enlivened by a gospel choir. “The race-baiting language has poor, white, uneducated people thinking that their enemy is black and brown people — that we’re the reason that they’re poor and without jobs.”It's hard to understand what black leaders/black clergy are thinking in deploying armies of black male to patrol polling stations in Philadelphia, when this represents the exact type of voter intimidation we saw in 2008 and will only work to increase tensions.
Do you understand what's happening across the country yet?