It was hard to tell the difference between the first presidential debate and a UFC match.
The Monday night event, held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., was political theater at its best, or maybe simply theatrics. However you might look at it the first presidential debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and her Republican Donald Trump, both of them seemed as though they were trying to take the other off balance, body slam the opponent and start a barrage of face punching.
NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt tried to hold the two at bay from each other, but they seemed more than eager to come out fighting. Both sides claimed a win and felt they had made their point in this first of four rounds.
There were some places where the two agreed, not many but there were a few. But when it came to issues of race, the two candidates couldn’t have been more far apart, particularly when addressing police violence.
But as convoluted as it became, there were five things we learned from watching the debate:
1. Donald Trump has been “outreaching” to the wrong African-Americans. A few weeks ago, Trump visited Great Faith Ministries in Detroit and said that he was there “to listen.” But anyone listening to places that have high violent crime rates like the Motor City, Chicago, or other wouldn’t come to the debate with a quip like Black communities need “law and order.”Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has been a supporter of Hillary Clinton said Trump’s “law and order” remark was skirting the real issue. “He was trying to use Nixon’s dog whistle,” Jackson told EBONY.com. “We need investment and development, not ‘law and order.’ We need to invest $100 billion in infrastructure, that’s the way to go.”
2. Hillary Clinton will probably never live down her “super-predator” comment from 20 years ago. In 1996, Hillary Clinton used the term to describe inner-city kids involved in crime in support of the 1994 Violent Crime Control Act, although she did not specify Black kids, that’s how it was read. She has since said she regretted using it, but it has been consistently brought up through the course of her presidential campaign. On Monday night, Trump took a swing at Clinton, bringing it out of the woodwork. “You were the one that brought up the word “super-predator” about young Black youth…I think it was a terrible thing to say.” It won’t likely score Trump more points with Blacks, but he’s proven that the term will remain a thorn in Clinton’s side.
3. Confusion over New York’s “Stop and Frisk” policy has crept into the campaign. Trump claimed that that the policy brought down NYC murders from 2,200 to about 500 and had a “very, very big impact.” He also denies that it was declared unconstitutional and said they case went before “a very against police judge” and that New York’s current mayor, Bill de Blasio would not move ahead with it. His surrogate Omarosa Manigault backed him up after the debate: ” ‘Stop and Frisk’ was not found to be unconstitutional, you need to check Google on that,” she told reporters.
So we did. Turns out the policy had a discriminatory effect on Blacks and Latinos and was in fact unconstitutional, according to a ruling by Judge Shira Scheindlin in the case. “The City is liable for the violation of plaintiffs’ Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights,” she wrote. The city tried unsuccessfully to get the ruling vacated. However, Trump was correct that Scheindlin was later removed from the case by an appeals court. Still, her ruling was used in a settlement between the plaintiffs in the case and the city.
4. The “Birther” issue is tired and we need to move on. The very concept that President Obama was born anywhere but Hawaii in 1961 is as thoughtless and stupid as it is racist and everyone who has brought it up from Trump to Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona knows it. Trump bragged that he’s the one who got Obama to produce the document, but he’s among the main people who made it an issue in the first place. So now, in the campaign, so that he doesn’t get criticized for his role in “birtherism,” Trump paints himself as the hero. People who believe that Trump was the problem solver in that issue must have gone to Trump University.
5. Somehow, the topic of prosecuting cops who kill unarmed people has remained elusive. Both candidates have expressed sympathies for Black families and communities that have been affected by police violence, most recently over what happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Charlotte, N.C. But going back to the beginning of the election, little if anything has been said by anyone about how those families and communities get justice when they have been wronged by law enforcement. It’s an important issue to Black voters and it lets them know that there are checks and balances with one of the governmental agencies that are most prevalent in Black communities. In Baltimore, none of the cops were convicted in the death of Freddie Gray. In Cleveland, there were no charges against the cop who killed Tamir Rice. Until the candidates choose to address this particular issue, it will remain the elephant in the room.
Madison J. Gray is Digital Managing Editor of EBONY.com and JETMag.com. Follow him on Twitter @madisonjgray.