Of all the things the Trump administration has said about Black Americans, this remark is one of the more damning ones, tapping into the cruel “welfare queen” rhetoric of the late 1970s and ’80s.
Nearly half a century ago, Ronald Reagan became an exponent of the distorted belief that Black Americans are lazy, that they’re con artists who secure wealth only through deceit.
Through his storytelling, Reagan helped to popularize the idea that evildoers are scamming the country and enjoying unearned money. He rode the idea all the way to the White House and energized support for policies — such as slashing spending on public assistance — that would harm poor Black Americans for generations to come.
Yet Kushner’s comment did something else, too: It arguably sketched a more honest portrait of the White House’s views toward the country’s Black citizenry.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany claimed Kushner was being taken out of context.
“From criminal justice reform and record HBCU funding to record low black unemployment and record high income increases, there is simply no disputing that President Trump accomplished what Democrats merely talked about,” she said in a statement.
Remarks like Kushner’s only intensify these feelings. They deepen the very real fears of many Black Americans: that if the aforementioned archaic thinking is what guides the administration, then there will never be policy crafted specifically to support Black Americans, because the administration won’t help them unless they help themselves.
(Which, notably, is ironic, considering that Kushner, who inherited wealth, is saying all this in support of a man who, too, inherited wealth.)
On Monday, Democratic National Committee National press secretary Brandon Gassaway issued a sharp rebuke of Kushner and his ilk.
“This dismissive approach to the issues that Black voters care about is indicative of Trump’s callousness and disregard for the lives of Black people,” Gassaway said in a statement. “We cannot afford another four years of a White House that does not take our voices seriously and tells us to be grateful for whatever scraps are left over from the bargaining table.”