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What do Trump’s policies mean for communities of color?

Several black pastors said at the White House on Wednesday that President Trump had helped improve life in inner cities. Yet HUD Secretary Ben Carson has looked into tripling rents for poor tenants on federal assistance, and slowed an anti-segregation initiative. Yamiche Alcindor talks with Bishop Harry Jackson, a member of Trump's evangelical advisory board.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's fair to say President Trump's history with race is complicated.

    Critics have long accused the president of racial insensitivity, from demanding President Obama produce his U.S. birth certificate, to blaming both sides after last year's white nationalist rally in Charlottesville turned violent.

    Yet today, in a meeting with a group of mostly African-American pastors, the president was praised by attendees as perhaps the most pro-black president in recent history.

    Yamiche Alcindor begins our look at the president's commitment to communities of color.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    It's one of President Trump's favorite subjects.

  • President Donald Trump:

    The African-American unemployment rate has achieved the lowest level in recorded history. African-American unemployment is the best it's ever been in the history of our country.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    And, as a candidate, President Trump made this pitch to African-American voters, a pitch that was seen as both controversial and blunt.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Look how much African-American communities have suffered under Democratic control. To those I say the following, what do you have to lose by trying something new, like Trump? I say it again. What do you have to lose? Look, what do you have to lose? You're living in poverty. Your schools are no good. You have no jobs.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Today at the White House, several black pastors said he had helped improve life in inner cities.

  • Man:

    So I believe we can break the generational curse of poverty and people who are isolated, and it's because of your boldness.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    As part of his plan for urban areas, President Trump put Ben Carson in charge of the department of Housing and Urban Development. It's a role Carson has used to look into tripling rents for poor tenants using federal assistance.

    He has also slowed an anti-segregation initiative and said poverty is a state of mind. Carson has also expressed mixed views on whether housing assistance program are worthwhile. Those moves have angered some who see his policies as hurting people of color.

    Critics of the administration have also pointed to the Department of Justice, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions has pushed for longer sentences for those convicted of federal crimes. And the department has discouraged the use of affirmative action by colleges and universities.

    Still, some say President Trump has been eager to embrace black leaders. He previously met with a group of presidents from historically black colleges and universities in the Oval Office. And today, he said he was eager to keep his door open.

    Bishop Harry Jackson was one of the pastors who met with President Trump at the White House today. He serves as the pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland.

    Bishop Jackson, thanks for joining me today.

    You were two seats away from the president. What was the most important thing you heard from the president about improving inner cities and urban areas?

  • Bishop Harry Jackson:

    Well, I heard that he had commitments for four million jobs.

    And with the unemployment rate already going down, he's got commitments for four million jobs, but also a commitment to returning citizens from prison. And the overcriminalization of the black and Hispanic communities are a part of a problem that is generational.

    So I heard good news. I believe that his legacy will be huge if he actually does something. But most politicians just talk.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, Secretary — Housing Secretary Ben Carson has said that poverty is a state of mind. He's also moved to raise the rent on poor tenants who are using federal assistance. He has also said that he wants to slow anti-segregation initiatives.

    What do you think about these policies, especially, as we know, yes, the unemployment rate is at historic lows, but wages are also very low? Does it help people to raise rent at a time like this?

  • Bishop Harry Jackson:

    Well, I think what's needed, to your point, is cash infusion.

    One of the things he talked about are opportunity zones or businesses coming to give higher wages. I'm trusting Mr. Trump, as opposed to Carson's approaches, though part of the administration, are going to take a long time to kind of work themselves out.

    I think that what Mr. Trump is going to do is going to be much more decisive, much more effective in the short term. And that's what I'm counting on.

    I trust that Ben Carson has thought the long game out from his perspective. But your point is, people are hurting right now.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, you say you trust in the president.

  • Bishop Harry Jackson:

    Yes.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Of course, Ben Carson works for the president, so a lot of the policies that you're — it sounds like you're in some ways concerned about are things that President Trump has supported.

    But I want to turn to the Department of Justice. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said that people should have longer federal sentences. He has also said that he doesn't want colleges and universities to be using affirmative action.

    When you look at this, how does this specifically help African-Americans, when he know African-Americans are disproportionately serving prison times and are convicted, as are other people of color?

  • Bishop Harry Jackson:

    Well, I can't defend Mr. Sessions at all. I don't agree with anything that you just said from his perspective.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    These are all, of course, things that President Trump supports.

  • Bishop Harry Jackson:

    I think there's a little dissonance between Trump's vision for America and maybe Sessions walking it out.

    I can't speak in much more detail, except that part of the urban plan has reentry jobs as a part of the thing. So, again, I'm thinking people who have philosophical direction in the administration, but maybe not the compassion and the heart that the president himself has.

    I'm hoping I can partner with bringing two returning citizens home every year. We're starting a program called Bring Dad Home for the Holidays.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    But I guess I want to get back to the idea of President Trump ran as a law and order president.

  • Bishop Harry Jackson:

    Yes.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    He is someone who has talked about the fact that he supports more policing. That's something that people think will hurt African-American.

    How do you — you're — it's like you're separating Attorney General Jeff Sessions from the president, but the president is the one that is supporting these policies.

  • Bishop Harry Jackson:

    Well, I think you can be for keeping the law, and still be pro-people.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    And that's how you see the president?

  • Bishop Harry Jackson:

    I see the president himself like that.

    Talking to him today, he had a bunch of Democrat — registered Democratic pastors in the room, few conservatives. But I think he won our hearts with, A, his sincerity, but also by his actions.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, I want to talk to you — the last thing I want to ask you about…

  • Bishop Harry Jackson:

    Sure.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    … the NAACP has said that the president is a racist.

    He also, after the — Charlottesville, there was a young woman who died protesting Nazis. He said that there was blame on both sides.

    Has this president done anything you see as racially discriminatory, both in words or in policy?

  • Bishop Harry Jackson:

    Well, I would say this. I believe that there's a spin some media has put on. Some of our African-American friends and others, we're hypersensitive. So, it's a tough area.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    But what do you think?

  • Bishop Harry Jackson:

    I…

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    For you specifically, have you ever seen the president do something that you thought was racially derogatory or racially discriminatory, both in policy or in practice?

  • Bishop Harry Jackson:

    No.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    You specifically, you have never seen anything that he's…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Bishop Harry Jackson:

    I haven't.

    But I have talked to him eyeball to eyeball about race in America. I have talked to him about the needs of America. And the guy whose eyes I have looked in is not a racist.

    And I do believe, though, if we're going to fix America's 400-year-old black-white problem starting with racism, you can't just blame 45 for the problem and think that makes you OK as a citizen or a legislator, when you're not doing anything to change the situation of African-Americans and others.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, thank you so much for joining me, Bishop Jackson. I really appreciate it.

  • Bishop Harry Jackson:

    You're very kind. Thank you for having me.

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