When President Donald Trump mentioned during the State of the Union on Tuesday that the black unemployment rate had dropped to an all-time low, the members of the Congressional Black Caucus didn’t budge.
While the rest of the House chamber stood and applauded, the camera panned to the CBC members sitting, stone-faced and unmoved. Except Rep. Al Lawson (D-Fla.), who clapped.
“And something I’m very proud of, African-American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded,” Trump said during the speech.
Why did they react that way?
The CBC does not give Trump credit for the low unemployment rate, as it made clear with a tweet before the speech Tuesday:
“The black unemployment rate fell from 16.5% to 7.8% from January 2011-January 2017. Now it’s 6.8%. Thank President Obama — Not @realDonaldTrump. #ThanksObama #AYearofTrump”
The black unemployment rate fell from 16.5% to 7.8% from January 2011 –January 2017. Now it’s 6.8%. Thank President… https://t.co/lJqctVDIsO— The Black Caucus (@The Black Caucus) 1517350104.0
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) explained to HuffPost why the CBC did not applaud the record low unemployment.
“I probably followed the mode somewhat of Jay-Z. I frankly believe there’s black unemployment, and black unemployment among young African-American men, who need more than praise about unemployment," Lee said. "They need job training, they need education, starting from primary and secondary schools of which neighborhoods they live in that the schools are not where they should be. They need support for their families."
“So I thought it was disingenuous, and it was placating, and insulting, to be very honest with you," she added. "Where’s the compassion and the passion for comprehensive issues dealing with our community? Gun violence? The need for housing?”
What did the CBC do?
CBC Chairman Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) attacked Trump at a news conference Tuesday, saying that CBC members would “stare racism in the face” when attending the State of the Union and that Trump has made the country “less safe for people of color.”
Richmond said some members of the CBC boycotted the event, and those in attendance wore African kente cloth to the speech in protest of Trump’s alleged remarks about immigrants from "s**thole countries."