Even as President Donald Trump uttered the words “Black History Month,” “civil rights” and “hate crimes” during his first speech before a joint gathering of Congress, it still wasn’t enough to alleviate the concerns of the Black political community.
Indeed, to many, the first moments of Trump’s joint address Feb. 28 seemed surreal to many observers. The president appeared disciplined and restrained as use of the teleprompter seemed apparent. But rhetorical flourishes of concern throughout what’s been described as, arguably, as Donald Trump’s most effective political speech since announcing his candidacy, did nothing to assuage or win over anxious Black politicians and thought leaders who watched in side-eye dismay inside the House chamber and on television.
If they even bothered to watch it.
And while the general observation of the zeitgeist was that Trump’s speech was a stroke of political genius and theater, the general mood of many in the Black political and civil rights community was of skepticism.
“Sure, if you like great political theater, it was a good speech,” quipped the National Action Network’s Rev. Al Sharpton. “But, here’s where we need to separate the tone from the substance. There wasn’t really any substance.”
“And, everyone is talking about how well behaved he was,” he added. “He’s like that bad kid in the classroom who’s always getting in trouble and then one day he miraculously stops misbehaving and everyone is like ‘wow, look at that, he’s being such a good boy.’ So, I’m not falling for that act.”
Still, others could not help but admit that the president’s performance was a clever departure from his normally erratic, off-script and firebrand style. Most in the Black political space stopped short of saying “he was presidential,” the response in the mainstream pundit space. But many did note that the president had displayed deft political trade craft in his speech.