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Civil rights groups take a ‘talk to the hand’ approach with Trump

Rev. Jesse Jackson met with the Sun-Times Editorial Board

The Rev. Jesse Jackson is preparing for the Rainbow Push Coalition’s 46th International Convention July 12-15. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Push Coalition’s 46th International Convention begins July 12 and runs through July 15.

While there will be some big-name speakers and sponsors participating, there won’t be anyone from the Trump administration.

Nope. Ben Carson, the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, didn’t get an invite.

While that’s not unusual for a Republican White House, this year’s exclusion of African-Americans in the Trump administration shows just how estranged the major civil rights organizations are from the White House.

In fact, Jackson, the preeminent civil rights leader and two-time presidential candidate, hasn’t even gotten a phone call from Omarosa Manigault, the African-American reality TV star who now works on public engagement for the Trump administration.


I asked Jackson if he had even been invited for a sit-down with Trump (after all Steve Harvey, who talked much trash about Trump before the election, got one) and his answer was a flat-out “No.”

“I’ve known him over the years, but we couldn’t meet with him at this point. To what end?” Jackson asked during a meeting Monday with the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board.

“The line has been drawn in the sand, and we’re doing a lot of external mobilization. We didn’t need to meet with George Wallace,” Jackson said, referring to one of America’s most controversial figures from the segregation era.

“We broke some barriers down where we could talk and there was a willingness to talk. Right now, it is premature because of [Trump’s] lack of interest in it,” Jackson said.

Two weeks ago, the Congressional Black Caucus turned down the president’s invitation for a follow-up meeting. The caucus first met with Trump in January.

In a letter dated June 21, Cedric L. Richmond, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said a meeting with the entire caucus “would not be entirely productive” because of actions taken by the Trump administration.

Besides the GOP’s takedown of the Affordable Care Act, the Congressional Black Caucus pointed out several initiatives it claims are detrimental to African-Americans, including the proposed $4 billion cut to Pell Grants and elimination of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

“Given the lack of response to any of the many concerns we have raised with you and your Administration, we decline your invitation for all 49 members of the Congressional Black Caucus to meet with you,” Richmond wrote.

Is this the right strategy for dealing with Trump?

As they say, if you are not at the table, you are on the menu.

Still, Jackson said he can’t spend his time analyzing what Trump is or is not doing.

“I think the Congress is focused on Trump and the media is focused on Trump. There is other work to be done,” he said.

Among other things, convention workshops will focus on voter suppression, access to public education, and workers’ rights.

Marc Morial, National Urban League president, has chosen a different route.

In February, he invited Ivanka Trump to participate in a roundtable discussion with minority business owners at the Raymond V. Haysbert Center for Entrepreneurship at the Greater Baltimore Urban League.

After her visit, the first daughter offered encouraging feedback. However, a mere four months later, the president’s proposal to eliminate the Economic Development Administration threatens to shutter the center.

Still Morial appears to remain hopeful.

“I don’t think this is the last word. It think this is the opening proposal for the White House,” he told the “The Hill.”

Unfortunately, elsewhere in the black community hope is in short supply. A lot of African-Americans are so frustrated with the Trump presidency they don’t even acknowledge him as a legitimate leader.

Nearly 50 years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, we are being tested again.

It might help to reflect on King’s enduring message:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”