We are Not Poor and Dumb: An Open Letter to Mr. Trump by an Educated Black Woman

August 23, 2016

Dear Mr. Trump,

I’m sorry but Black women didn’t get the memo on how poorly educated we are. I know this is what you believe because, according to you, our schools stink and we live in squalor!  It’s not that folks like you haven’t tried to convince us for decades that we’re an abject, downtrodden race of people. However, icons like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Fannie Lou Hammer, Maya Angelou, Rev. Cecil L. “Chip Murray”, and my godmother Ethel Thomas, taught us to never ever buy into the negative stereotypes that have been cynically foisted upon us in order to oppress and divide us. These civil rights giants taught us—and yes I count my godmother amongst them–that we have to be twice as good and work twice as hard as others to succeed. And guess what, we listened to our elders and followed their advice. As a result, Black women are quickly becoming among the most highly educated people in this country. Not bad, given your caricature and fantasized summation of our existence.

Like usual, you sadly and grossly misstated the facts, distorted the data and insulted hardworking and educated African Americans last week when you made your “pivot” and pitch to African American voters with the now famous lines: “You live 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?” The reality is Black voters have everything to lose by a Trump presidency, and we are way smarter than you, your tone-deaf speech writers and your GOP colleagues—colleagues who have neglected us, downplayed your blatantly racist statements, and have consistently fought to turn back the clock on our hard-earned civil rights.

But our progress continues nonetheless. According to the National Center of Education Statistics/U.S. Census, more than half of all black women, specifically between the ages of 18 and 24, are enrolled in college, and black women overall outpace other race and gender groups in terms of college enrollment. Black women also earned the highest number of degrees amongst all racial/ethnic groups during the study’s period of 2009-2010. Black women earned 68% of associate’s degrees; 66% of bachelor’s degrees; 71% of master’s degrees; and 65% of doctor’s degrees earned by black students.


I’m proud that my daughters and I are included in those statistics. Without a wealthy daddy like you, I graduated with honors from the University of Chicago and Harvard Law school. Not bad given that our community’s schools were “no good.” And although I lived with my godmother and grandmother in a housing project in North St. Louis–living arrangements you would characterize as abject poverty–we were, in the ways that truly count, some of the richest people in the country. Our community was steeped in the American values of inclusivity, hard work, humility and “I can” attitude that propelled me and many of my friends to attend some of the most prestigious universities in the country and obtain advanced degrees. And though my daughters start from a very different point in life, one has already graduated summa cum laude from a top US college, and the other is on the Dean’s List as she enters her second year.

With all of our smarts, my daughters and I, along with millions of other black people, categorically reject your assertion that our lives are, and have been, a living hell under Obama and the Democratic Party. Undoubtedly, we have work to do to address high poverty rates amongst black children, gun and gang violence in some pockets of our communities and youth unemployment rates (which are nowhere near the 58% that you erroneously cite) that are persistently above the national average. But we also know that many of these problems are rooted in deeply embedded race-based policies that Democrats have been fighting for decades to change, with herculean resistance from your party.

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We are independent thinking people who are fully aware of our history, and are fully capable of analyzing and measuring our own progress. We can’t be duped and we won’t allow you, Mr. Trump, to gloss over our successes and minimize our gains. We are fully aware of the fact that under Obama’s administration the black unemployment rate has been cut in half from its all-time high; draconian sentencing rules for nonviolent crimes have been slashed; more people have health insurance than ever before; national crime rates are at an all-time low; more civil rights investigations of police departments have been initiated; and more African-Americans, Latinos and women have been appointed to high-level cabinet positions than under both Bush regimes.

In closing, I wish that you and your team would research the statistics and at least make an attempt to learn and better understand the African-American community and its many layers. We are not the “thugs” that your advisor, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, constantly depicts nor are we the downtrodden people that you characterized us as in your Detroit speech.

As the study reflects, black women and men are highly educated, motivated and engaged. We are not naïvely voting Democratic because we are uninformed or unaware. And we cannot vote for you because you refuse to even acknowledge or accept that we are smart enough to know the difference between those who really seek to serve our interests and those, like you, who seek to yet again exploit us. This time it’s not cotton, but it’s pretty damn close.


A Black Educated Woman

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