President of Pennsylvania NAACP Says Trump Is 'Totally Off The Mark' When It Comes To Race and Police Reform

Lynne Hayes-Freeland & Robert Mangino
June 16, 2020 - 4:13 pm

    On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on police reform in the United States.

    Ken Huston, President of the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference, spoke with KDKA Radio's Lynne Hayes-Freeland and Robert Mangino, giving his reaction to the president's comments and executive orders.

    "It's a joke. President Trump is totally off the mark here. The biggest concern is when I listened to President Trump speak about this particular issue, the biggest issue for me, is that he has missed the opportunity so many times when it came to this issue," said Huston.

    "You can't say one thing for a photo or press opp and then tweet something else. You just can't have it both ways. I mean, it's extremely troubling to someone who works in civil rights to see a Commander in Chief and the President of these United States literally was entertaining holding a rally on Juneteenth. And then say 'well, I had nothing to do with it.' It's just a joke. It's really a joke. He's lost credibility as president when it comes to the issues of race since the day he came down the elevator and called Mexicans rapists and all the other things that he said. Donald Trump's history with the African-American and people of color does not bode well. It just doesn't."

    Lynne asked Huston about the reforms, saying that some would argue that these are reforms that could certainly benefit some or be advantageous to some of the calls for change within Black America.

    Huston said, "I mean, Lynne, yeah they could be, but let's just look at the history here. It's 2020 and don't get me wrong, I think that some of response would be excellent, but is the Department of Justice gonna enforce them? It's smoke and mirrors to me. I don't see this White House and this administration really enforcing these reforms. We've been down this road before. We've seen this movie play out and we know that there has been issues brought to this White House relevant to the brutality of people of color, particularly black men. I mean, just the other day, guys, he tried to justify why a choke hold should be enforced, why it should be done.

    "Again, I appreciate the fact that he even gave it some kind of entertainment, but I just don't see it."

    Mangino told Huston that he understands his skepticism based upon the history of what's happened in the country, but asked that if at the same time he runs the risk of alienating and having them say, 'you know what, if I'm going to be damned if I do and damned if I don't, I might as well be damned because I don't.'

    Huston said, "Well that's just what he's been saying all the time. He basically... Donald Trump gave up on the people of color community a long time ago. I mean, you just had Ben Carson make one of the most craziest statements that I ever heard come from an official in my life. Yah, I get what you're saying - that we should give them the benefit of the doubt with these proposed reforms, but the reality of it is the proof is in the pudding. If the reforms are going to be enforced, then let's give him the grade on that report card. But if this is just a photo opp and an opportunity... or you potentially believe that people of color are not going to give you the vote, then no.

    "Look, I'm the State President of the NAACP here in Pennsylvania. I've watched Donald Trump for the last three and half years, berate my people. Literally berate the first African-American President of these United States, imply the man wasn't born in this country. I mean his history, his pattern doesn't speak to the rhetoric that he's proposing today. It just doesn't. And I don't believe that these reforms are going to be enforced. Not with this Justice Department. Not with Bill Barr. It's just not. He's saying, 'okay, we're putting these reforms in place,' but there has to be teeth behind these reforms and he did not speak to the teeth behind these reforms. And just the other day, we had two black men that was hung within miles apart. Donald Trump has stoked and gave the dog whistle to these hate groups and it's just the reality of what we're dealing with. This president has no credibility. None. And again, it has nothing to do with being a Republican, being a Democrat or being anything in a political affiliation. Donald Trump does not have the credibility. Period."

    Lynne asked if Huston he thinks that the president's actions on the executive order then gives people the opportunity to say, 'he offered an olive branch and now that's not good enough'.

    Huston replied, "Well, no, Lynne. I don't think that's the issue at all. I think that, and again - even what I'm saying here is that we appreciate the president now coming to the realization that he needs to take a position on this. My concern is whether or not the reforms that he has proposed through executive order are going to be enforced."

    Mangino clarified that he's not suggesting that because Trump issued the executive order, that protests can end and the fight for social justice can end, but at the same time he asked Huston if there's anything wrong with acknowledging steps, like the executive order, as a step forward.

    "No, there's nothing wrong with acknowledging steps at all. The reality of it is that the steps don't go far enough. The poison pill that Mr. Scott referred to on the Republican side where police officers that commit these heinous crimes often times are immune from prosecution. That has to change. There are a number of issues relevant to Unnecessary police brutality that have to change. So, though I do believe that he is making an effort, we would like to see that effort be broader and we want to see that what you've proposed as the president be executed when it comes to that executive order.

    "I don't think anyone in their right mind believes that police should be defunded. That is absolutely ridiculous. We need law enforcement to have a civilized society. I have members in my family that are police officers and I certainly don't want to see them get hurt either. But the pattern here is becoming common when it comes to black men being gunned down in the streets and black women that have died at the hands of police officers as well.

    "So, these are very challenging times for these United States of America when it comes to people of color and I think that... I just don't see Donald Trump being the one to bridge the peace and reforms that are needed when it comes to these issues. He said a lot in that speech and I get it. He's a politician - he has to say what he needs to say in his efforts to get re-elected. But understand - people are hurting and they're hurting big time. And we have to come to a place, whether you're black or white, that we have a serious discussion on race. America has never addressed the issue of race - not in the manner that it should - and that is absolutely tragic. We've been talking about this for a long, long time and it's time for us to really look internally as the most powerful nation in the world and say it is serious, serious time for reform."

    Lynne said to be very realistic, as a nation, we couldn't address the issue of race when Barack Obama was president and she asked Huston if he thinks we can have that conversation with Donald Trump as president.

    "Absolutely not and I'm glad you brought up that point," he replied. "It is this president, who actually did the dog whistle when President Obama was in office, Lynne. It was Donald Trump who was putting out that 'fake news' as he likes to call it, relevant to whether or not President Obama was really a United States citizen. He wanted to see his birth certificate. He wanted verification of whether or not this man was even a citizen. So we're going to trust Donald Trump when it comes to the issues of race? Come on. Come on.

    "Listen - I served the United States military for eight years. The last thing I want to do is bash my Commander in Chief, the president. But Donald Trump time and time again, has shown us what his true thoughts are around people of color and this whole notion that we can turn to Donald Trump to bring the bridge - to bring us all together when it comes to race - I don't think so," said Huston.

    "It's extremely disheartening to me as the State President of the NAACP in Pennsylvania, that my white brothers and sisters may feel uncomfortable even talking about the situation and that's very concerning to me. Because all of us as American citizens have to come to the table and say, 'you know what - we need to have this conversation'. Of course President Obama couldn't do everything when it came to the issues of race. He would have gotten attacked like nobody's business and he was the president of all people in this country, not just some.

    So, when it comes to the issue of race, Lynne, and when it comes to the fact that we've been here since 1419 - 400 years - people of color - and we're still talking about race. Slavery ended in 1865, right? The Emancipation Proclamation was signed by Abraham Lincoln. And yet, we're still talking about the disparity of African-Americans to their white counterparts of Americans."

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