Trump eyes racial equality debate through economic lens

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FILE - In this June 1, 2020, file photo President Donald Trump arrives to speak in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

WASHINGTON – In his comments since George Floyd died, President Donald Trump has shared lots of opinions about the need for “law and order,” about fighting crime and the dangerous ideas of the “liberal left.” When it comes to addressing racism, not so much.

Trump has remained largely silent on that, except to argue that a strong economy is the best antidote. He insists he’s “done more for the black community than any president since Abraham Lincoln.”

But the lack of substantive discussion of racism by the White House has opened the president to criticism that he has failed to show leadership during the unrest following Floyd's death and has inflamed the situation with his “law and order” mantra and tweets about looting and shooting, vicious dogs and ominous weapons.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Democrat, says Trump’s relative silence on racism and harsh rhetoric toward protesters have created a confounding dynamic for a consequential national conversation.

“I think we have to have the conversation with him being absent,” Bottoms said. “Having a conversation with him would be like having a conversation with a madman. It would mean nothing."

Trump, for his part, has been quick to cite an economy that hummed before the outbreak of coronavirus and benefited all racial groups, along with his work to secure permanent funding for historically black colleges and universities, opportunity zones in cities and an overhaul of criminal sentencing procedures.

But those who flooded the streets after Floyd’s death want to know how he plans to address the systemic racism they believe is at fault — and what Trump himself believes.

At a recent event highlighting job growth during May, Trump was asked about his plan to address racial inequality and framed his answer through an economic prism: