In a series of controversial statements, one of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's campaign chairs coordinating a key Ohio county has asserted that racism was not prevalent until the election of President Barack Obama, that African-Americans only have themselves to blame for any societal disadvantages, and that they are raised not to vote. Shortly after the comments broke, the campaign chair resigned.
The comments could damage the Trump campaign in a strategically important county that has a sizeable African-American population. Trump has himself been facing accusations of bigotry while he makes overtures to African-American voters.
“If you’re black and you haven’t been successful in the last 50 years, it’s your own fault,” Kathy Miller, the Trump campaign chair in Mahoning County, Ohio, told The Guardian.
“You’ve had every opportunity, it was given to you,” Miller continued. “You’ve had the same schools everybody else went to. You have benefits to go to college that white kids didn’t have. You had all the advantages and didn’t take advantage of it. It’s not our fault, certainly.”
Miller’s assertion comes during a time of great racial tension in the U.S., with activist groups such as Black Lives Matter protesting against law enforcement shootings of African Americans. Activists have also railed against housing discrimination, gentrification, and lack of pathways to the middle class.
Miller flatly said that she viewed the Black Lives Matter movement as “a stupid waste of time.”
The Trump campaign chair also stated that racism was not prevalent during the 1960s, stating, “Growing up as a kid, there was no racism, believe me.”
When it was pointed out to her that the U.S. still had segregation in the 1960s and that there was a civil rights movement, Miller responded, “I never experienced it.”
“I don’t think there was any racism until Obama got elected,” Miller added. “We never had problems like this … Now, with the people with the guns, and shooting up neighborhoods, and not being responsible citizens, that’s a big change, and I think that’s the philosophy that Obama has perpetrated on America.”
Miller is coordinating the Trump campaign in Mahoning county, which has been deemed an important part of winning Ohio. The Trump campaign has been attempting to woo disaffected Democrats in the county.
Mahoning county is 12.7 percent African-American -- more than the average in Ohio. Miller said that she was not focusing on black voters, stating that they were unlikely to vote in high numbers because of “they way they’re raised.”
On Sept. 21, Trump himself had visited a black church in Cleveland, Ohio. During the campaign stop, former boxing promoter Don King managed to drop the N-word while introducing the business mogul.
Miller’s remarks arrive after Trump has drawn criticism for his campaign pitch to African-American communities.
“You’re living in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed -- what the hell do you have to lose?” Trump said to the African-American community in August, according to The New York Times.
Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, an icon of the Civil Rights movement, blasted Trump’s comments during a Sept. 21 interview with MSNBC.
“I don’t know what Mr. Trump is talking about to say that the situation for African-Americans is worse than it’s ever been,” Lewis said. “Is he talking about worse than slavery? Worse than the system of segregation and racial discrimination -- when we couldn’t take a seat at the lunch counter and be served?”
On Sept. 21, Trump also suggested that he would like to institute New York City’s former stop-and-frisk policy nationwide.
“One of the things I’d do is ... stop-and-frisk,” Trump said during a town hall hosted by Fox News. “I think you have to. We did it in New York, it worked incredibly well and you have to be proactive.”
Stop-and-frisk is a deeply controversial policy among minority communities. From 2004 to 2012, 83 percent of New Yorkers randomly stopped by law enforcement were either black or Hispanic, even though the two groups only account for roughly 50 percent of city residents.
“The idea of creating a national stop-and-frisk policy is the equivalent of advancing martial law and is beyond the constitutional power of the presidency,” said president Marc H. Morial of the National Urban League.
As for Miller, the Trump campaign chair concluded that she was indifferent to any controversy her remarks may generate.
“I don’t care, it’s the truth,” Miller said.
Hours after Miller's comments became public, the Trump campaign announced that she would be resigning from her post, CBS News reporter Jacqueline Alemany broke on Twitter.
“My personal comments were inappropriate, and I apologize,” Miller said in an official statement. “I am not a spokesperson for the campaign and was not speaking on its behalf.”