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Trump rallies: Why Black voters back the president

Lee Eric Smith Special from NNPA | 11/1/2018, midnight

By now, no one should be surprised that Kanye West is a fan of President Donald Trump. It’s been months since he first posted a selfie wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap, so the surprise should be gone. West has since ended his relationship with Trump.

And yet, there we were again Monday morning, talking about West and his red baseball cap after his appearance on Saturday Night Live and his most recent remarks about repealing the 13th Amendment.

But for many African Americans, the deeper question for West – or for anyone with melanin in their skin – is why?

Why do you support Trump, given his offensive remarks, his silence on White nationalism, his rollbacks of Obama-era policies? What makes an African American put on a MAGA hat?

When I found out Trump would be at the Landers Center campaigning for Mississippi Senate hopeful Cindy Hyde-Smith, I decided to go find some African American Trump supporters and ask.

And that’s how, in an election season punctuated by a bitter Senate battle for the Supreme Court, I found myself strolling into a “Make America Great Again” rally on Oct. 23.

Here’s what I learned. Whether it’s Trump 2020 or MLK50, the process is the same: Put the design on the shirt, make the shirt, sell the shirt. Repeat. It’s just business. It was obvious that Trump represented a business opportunity for these entrepreneurs – and the “hustle” doesn’t stop for anyone.

Here’s what you should understand about Donald Trump and his popularity in Red State America: Remember how America (or the world, for that matter) was captivated by Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama? Remember Rev. Jesse Jackson crying when Obama was elected and how you felt Obama was going to get America back on the right track after eight years of George W. Bush?

Well, that’s how Trump supporters feel about him. And it was palpable from the moment I walked into the Landers Center.

I didn’t feel threatened though – not as an African American or as a member of the “fake news media.”

If you’re carrying around an image of angry Trump voters, well there was no anger in the building. They were too happy to welcome their conquering hero.

One of those people was Colin Richmond, a Memphis, Tenn. native and staunch Republican since 2000.

“I’m here to let the president know that we love him. We support him. We’re praying for him,” said Richmond, 49. “And that he is delivering on the promises he made during the campaign. And we just want to let them know we’re here for him.”

Like many Republicans, Richmond likes Trump’s pro-business policies.

“I think a rising tide lifts all boats,” Richmond said. “And the President is for-all Americans –for African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Latino Americans, he’s for all Americans.

“I’m a business developer and employees, when they look at their paychecks, they’re looking at more money on the bottom lines,” he continued, referring to Trump’s tax cuts. “And I don’t care who you are, that has to that has to resonate with you.”