Seeing through a platinum mirage
The author is the Washington bureau chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Malcolm X Park was bleak in the late autumn afternoon, almost desolate. It didn’t feel like intense protests had taken place here. The Black Oak Park in West Philadelphia was renamed in 1993 in honor of Black human rights activist Malcolm X. The park is also well known as the site of a summer jazz festival.
Protests started on the last Monday of October, after 27-year-old Walter Wallace Jr., a Black man, was shot and killed by white police officers. Wallace, who had a mental illness, was carrying a knife in front of his house, and despite his mother’s plea not to shoot, two police officers fired more than 10 rounds.
Protestors gathered at Malcolm X Park and denounced police brutality. As the night deepened, some protesters formed mobs, and looting and arson began. Surveillance footage of a clothing store being looted in less than a minute was shocking. More than 200 people were arrested, and 60 cops were injured. The West Philly situation emerged as the last variable in the presidential election less than a week away.
Democratic runner Joe Biden did not hesitate. When asked by a reporter as he came out from voting early, he drew a clear line and said there was no excuse for looting and violence. Governor of Pennsylvania Tom Wolf, a Democrat, requested deployment of the National Guard to Philadelphia, and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney ordered a curfew. The fury in Malcolm X Park lapsed into silence.
Black voters increasingly went to polls. Early voters, from California in the west to Maryland in the east, doubled, and in some cases increased as much as tenfold, compared with four years ago. Joe Biden captured 87 percent of the Black vote, according to a Washington Post analysis. Joe Biden expressed his special gratitude to Black voters in his victory speech.
Feeling that things were not going in his favor, President Donald Trump offered gifts to the African American community before the first television debate. He promised three million jobs, legal system reforms and making June 19, known by African Americans as Juneteenth, a national holiday. He offered a $500 billion “Platinum Plan” to win over Black voters, equivalent to Korea’s annual budget.
However, while proposing the agenda, Trump focused more on denouncing Biden. The African American community must have realized what it was essentially a negative campaign. Trump’s plan was a mirage without sincerity. The time has long gone that a U.S. presidential election could be won only with white voters’ support. Was President Trump not aware of this? It is a lesson that will not be forgotten.