Clarence Henderson made history when he and three other Black men sat at a “whites only” Woolworth’s lunch counter on the second day of a historic sit-in in Greensboro, N.C. 60 years ago. The action ignited a youth-led movement to outlaw racial segregation under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Now 78, Henderson, of North Carolina, surveys the current political landscape and says he supports President Donald J. Trump for another four-year-term, maintaining his stance of four years ago. He’s a member of the Black Voices for Trump advisory board.
Henderson said that, as a Black man, he’s not alone in his efforts to re-elect the Republican president.
Black Voices for Trump, one of the president’s several campaign coalitions, has staff anchored in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, two cities known to lean liberal. Staff and volunteers have attended Trump’s speeches, and rallies in the commonwealth during the 2020 campaign season. The group held a rally with Eric Trump on Saturday in Scranton.
They’ve upped their outreach efforts to inform Black people on what Trump has accomplished during his first term as president.
Despite critics who accuse Trump of not caring about people of color, Henderson said conservatives are just as focused as Democrats on reaching out to and registering African-Americans.
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In 1960 Civil Rights Leader Clarence Henderson sat down at a Whites Only lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. Today he stands with Robert M.Levy for Moore County Board of Education. Together they celebrate our great nation. pic.twitter.com/Wz8Lp3YGXq
— Robert M. Levy (@GOPChairman) October 9, 2020
Black voter turnout nationwide dropped for the first time in 20 years in a presidential election from 59.6 percent, down from a high of 66.6. percent in 2012, according to the Pew Research Center.
Old ways of thinking are changing for Black voters, said Henderson. But, maybe not the way that most people assume.
Black voters have historically aligned with conservative values, Henderson said.
“We have to tell the Black people across America, get them to understand: We have an opportunity to vote and to be proactive to make sure there is equal opportunity in America,” he said. “The Republican Party has done so much for the Black community.”
Henderson said among the reasons voters should elect Trump are his support of historically Black colleges and universities, in addition to creating economic opportunity zones.
Before the pandemic, he noted that the Black unemployment rate under Trump’s administration was at an all-time low, hovering between 6 to 7 percent. Unemployment for Black people is back to double digits because of the pandemic, and it’s going to take an experienced businessman to get back to where the economy was prior to the novel coronavirus hitting the United States, he said.
“The pandemic, who did it hurt most?” he asked. “The Black community, again. We have to put ourselves in a position to allow for a free market capitalist system to work. I speak from a place of experience. I was in business for 30 years. Democrats are not keeping their promises. But we’ve seen 90 plus percent of Black voters voting for them.”
Being an outspoken Trump supporter doesn’t faze Henderson. Black people have been taught to think that Republicans don’t care about them, he said. Democrats have outdone Republicans when it comes to messaging, as well as executing outreach strategies to register Black voters in recent years, which has influenced voting patterns, Henderson said.
Before Henderson became a Republican, he said he was a registered Democrat.
Clarence Henderson blasts Black Lives Matter as 'Marxists' who want to ‘tear down fabric of America’https://t.co/bwcnu0t4zz
— ONEWAY Jhn.14:6 (@Jhn146_OneWay) August 28, 2020
“Somebody told me that I was supposed to be a Democrat,” he said. “Then I began to do my research and I found out I was a Republican. Democrats push against the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to bear arms — all these things are in the Constitution.”
Republicans held the majority in Congress when the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were approved, which collectively rejected slavery and gave Black men the right to vote, he said.
“Back in the ’60s, I was fighting for the freedom of all people,” Henderson said. “During that time, the most oppressed were Black people. It’s the same fight now, except it’s for all people. We need to make sure we don’t fall into economic slavery because of the pandemic.”
When asked about Black Lives Matter, he said he doesn’t align with the movement’s ways of approaching civil rights.
“It’s either justice or injustice,” he said. “When you add the word social, it broadens the brush of it. Black Lives Matter is not a civil rights movement. It’s unlike the movement I participated in that brought us together. We wanted to build up, not tear down. And, the Black Lives Matter movement is tearing down things and people in various communities. We need to be able to sit down and talk about these things.”
He said he thinks defunding the police is rhetoric and that if that notion succeeds, the Black community stands to be most negatively affected.
“My question to Black Lives Matter is what do you expect that you are going to accomplish?” he said. “We either have order or chaos. We are a nation of laws.”
While conservatives are working diligently to try to lock arms with Black voters, Democrats maintain that they are the better party to respond to the concerns of African-Americans.
— Kristyn Leonard (@KLeonardNV) September 14, 2020
Republicans continue to overlook racial disparities, according to Joe Biden’s campaign, which continues to tout Biden’s record as solidly supportive of Black issues. A Biden campaign official, who didn’t want to be named, said Biden is working to “rebuild our economy in a way that finally brings everyone together – and that starts by rooting out systemic racism from our laws, our policies, our institutions, and our hearts.”
Biden co-sponsored the Civil Rights Act of 1990 that protects individuals against employment discrimination, led multiple reauthorizations of the Voting Rights Act, fought for reauthorization and extending the Fair Housing Act, and supports Delaware State University, the state’s historically Black University, the official said.
Not only has Trump not “disowned white supremacy,” but he also hasn’t done enough for Black people during the pandemic, the official said, noting:
More than 1.5 million additional Black Americans are unemployed than at the same time last year and 400,000 small businesses have closed because of the economic fallout from the crisis.
The pandemic further exacerbated racial inequity in the business community and forced Black and minority businesses to close at alarming rates.
Black businesses are often excluded from traditional banking institutions, limiting their access to capital and resulting in a low amount of cash on hand.
In Philadelphia, only 2.5% of small businesses are Black-owned, a strong indication of lack of access to capital and the result of the generational wealth gap.
In Pittsburgh, many Black businesses are struggling to keep their doors open and business ownership by Black residents is declining.
Democrats lost Pennsylvania in 2016 by 44,000 votes. An estimated 10 percent of Pennsylvania’s electorate is made up of Black voters, giving Black voters a lot of power to determine the 2020 outcome.
Having offices in both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Henderson said staffers at Black Voices for Trump are successfully reaching out to a population that has been historically told how to vote. He said they have been utilizing every resource possible during the pandemic to educate Blacks on the differences between Republicans and Democrats.
He added that he’s “nobody’s victim” and that Black voters need to show up to this election with knowledge and act like they are about to enter onto a field to play a sport.
“Let’s go on the field, in the arena, and see who wins,” he said. “Prove it out in the voting booth. I’m looking at rhetoric versus reality and voting for reality.”
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