As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump routinely told largely white audiences, “Look at how much African-American communities are suffering from Democratic control. To those I say the following: what do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump? What do you have to lose?”
The answer, we now know, is quite a bit. The Republican president’s willingness to ignite ugly racial controversies is well documented, but as the New York Times reminds us today, there are also a variety of administrative policy shifts to consider.
The Trump administration is attempting to scale back federal efforts to enforce fair housing laws, freezing enforcement actions against local governments and businesses, including Facebook, while sidelining officials who have aggressively pursued civil rights cases.
The policy shift, detailed in interviews with 20 current and former Department of Housing and Urban Development officials and in internal agency emails, is meant to roll back the Obama administration’s attempts to reverse decades of racial, ethnic and income segregation in federally subsidized housing and development projects. The move coincides with the decision this month by Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development, to strike the words “inclusive” and “free from discrimination” from HUD’s mission statement.
This comes two months after Ben Carson’s cabinet agency also announced plans to “delay enforcement of a federal housing rule that requires communities to address patterns of racial residential segregation.”
What’s more, the larger problem extends beyond the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The Trump administration’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has stripped enforcement powers from the CFPB’s office responsible for pursuing discrimination cases. As the Washington Post reported in February, the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity “previously used its powers to force payouts in several prominent cases, including settlements from lenders it alleged had systematically charged minorities higher interest rates than they had for whites.”
The unit will apparently still exist, but it’ll focus on “advocacy, coordination and education,” instead of enforcement and oversight.
Earlier this year, we also learned that Trump’s Justice Department has “effectively shuttered an Obama-era office dedicated to making legal aid accessible to all citizens,” which also appears likely to adversely affect minority communities.
What do African-American communities “have to lose by trying something new like Trump?” That may have been a rhetorical question, but the answer continues to come into sharper focus.