Despite some push back, leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus sat down with President Donald Trump on Wednesday, March 22, urging him to focus more intently on issues affecting Black Americans.
The CBC’s six-member executive board sat opposite the newly elected president as they delivered a clear, succinct response to Trump’s infamous question asking Black Americans, “What the hell do you have to lose?”
“We have a lot to lose,” said CBC chairman Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) after the White House meeting, which VP Mike Pence and senior adviser Omorosa Manigault also attended. “In fact … we’re beginning to lose a lot already under his administration — the Republican repeal-and-replace bill, the proposed budget cuts and the actions Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions is taking at [the] DOJ are just a few of the many examples of that.”
With a policy memo appropriately titled ‘A Lot to Lose’ in hand, Richmond was joined by Reps. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), André Carson (D-Ind.) and Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.) at Wednesday’s meeting. The roughly hour-long discussion featured “serious” talks of improvements to voting rights protections, criminal justice reform and expanding education programs, among other things.
To that end, the CBC also handed Trump the 130-page document outlining their legislative priorities, which focused heavily on the aforementioned concerns.
“We never thought we’d agree on everything in this meeting, but the one thing we did ask is for both sides to be candid,” Richmond said. “He listened and we talked and we proposed a lot of solutions, many of which I think he had not heard before, and we’re going to keep advocating.
“If this administration is serious about creating a ‘New Deal for Black America,’ it has to support and strengthen programs that provide a pathway out of poverty, as well as programs that help Americans achieve the American Dream,” he continued.
The idea for the long-awaited meeting was the result of an awkward exchange between the president and African-American reporter April Ryan late last month. When asked if he would include the CBC in his talks to create solutions to various problems affecting Black people, Trump initially responded, “Who?” After Ryan clarified — “The Congressional Black Caucus” — Trump then asked her, “Do you wanna set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours?”
Ryan emphatically stated that she was a journalist and would have no part in facilitating the meeting.
In an effort to ensure that Wednesday’s meeting would be substantive and not just another photo op with “the African-Americans,” CBC members made sure to stay out of the TV camera’s shot as Trump lauded the contributions of Black people to American history, The Washington Post reported. The president also opened up the meeting by reiterating his commitment to serving the African-American community.
“African American citizens have given so much to this country,” Trump said. “They’ve fought in every war since the Revolution, and they’ve fought hard. They’ve lifted up the conscience of our nation in the march toward civil rights, enriched the soul of America — and their faith and courage.
“Throughout my campaign, I pledged to focus on improving conditions for African-American citizens,” he added. “This means more to me than anybody would understand or know.”
Some CBC members weren’t buying it, though.
“The Congressional Black Caucus is not going to be a potted plant or a photo opportunity,” said CBC member Rep. Donald A. McEachin (D-Va.), who did not attend the meeting. “He did a photo op with the presidents of historically Black colleges and they got nothing.”