Donald Trump, who has built his presidential campaign around demonizing different minority groups in America, on Saturday presented himself as a unifier ready to work on healing the country during his first appearance at a black church.
The GOP nominee’s polling among African Americans is abysmal. He has previously tried to appeal to black voters by arguing that things have gotten so bad in their communities, they had nothing to lose by voting for him. On Saturday, he took a different approach.
“Our nation is too divided. We talk past each other, not to each other, and those who seek office do not do enough to step into the community and learn what is going on. They don’t know, they have no clue,” Trump said at Great Faith Ministries in Detroit, reading from prepared remarks. “I’m here today to learn, so that we can together remedy injustice in any form.”
Trump launched his campaign last year by claiming that Mexico was sending rapists and drug dealers to the United States. He has called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States and ― even before his campaign ― stoked racist tensions by loudly pushing the notion that President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S.
Even so, Trump told the audience in Detroit, “I believe we need a civil rights agenda for our time.”
Trump also said he empathized with the history of discrimination African Americans have faced in the United States. “I fully understand that the African American community has suffered from discrimination and that there are many wrongs that still must be made right. They will be made right,” he said.
In fact, Trump’s own business has contributed to that suffering. In 1973, the Department of Justice sued Trump Management for discriminating against blacks in buildings they owned. A former Trump superintendent testified in the case that he was instructed to attach a piece of paper with the letter C, for “colored,” to applications from African Americans, The New York Times reported. Trump and his father wound up signing an agreement in 1975 that included plans to desegregate their properties.
With just over two months to go until the election, Trump trails Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.