Donald Trump has faced criticism after declaring that African Americans are in the worst shape “ever, ever, ever”, in a town named after a slaveholder.
The Republican nominee’s latest outreach to black voters, at a North Carolina rally, drew a swift backlash.
Many on social media questioned whether Mr Trump had considered the US history of slavery and segregation.
It follows a report that his charity used funds to settle lawsuits for which he was personally liable.
At Tuesday’s campaign event in Kenansville, the White House hopeful said: “We’re going to rebuild our inner cities because our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they’ve ever been in before.
“Ever, ever, ever.”
He continued: “You take a look at the inner cities, you get no education, you get no jobs, you get shot walking down the street.
“They’re worse, I mean honestly, places like Afghanistan are safer than some of our inner cities.
“And I say to the African-American communities, and I think it’s resonating, because you see what’s happening with my poll numbers with African Americans. They’re going, like, high.”
The businessman-turned-politician is continuing his outreach to African-American voters by meeting a group of pastors Wednesday in Cleveland, Ohio.
The BBC’s Anthony Zurcher says Mr Trump’s recent overtures to the black community may be aimed primarily at assuring moderate white voters of his racial sensitivity.
According to recent polls, he still faces an uphill climb in winning over even a modest level of black support.
Aside from a blip in one unconventional tracking poll, Mr Trump’s black support continues to be mired in low single digits.
This is roughly equal to the levels earned by the Republicans who ran against Barack Obama, the first black US president.
Last month, Mr Trump also raised eyebrows when he asked black voters: “What do you have to lose?”
He told a nearly all-white audience in Michigan that African Americans “are living in poverty” and their “schools are no good”.
Mr Trump said his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, “would rather provide a job to a refugee” than to unemployed black youths.
One need not be a scholar to be familiar with generations of slavery, discrimination, state-sanctioned bigotry, red-lining, lynchings, segregation, and Jim Crow laws.
But as NPR points out, the data shows Trump is wrong. For example:
- The black unemployment rate is more than 8 percent – that’s more than three points higher than the national average. But it’s halved from the recent post-recession high of 16.6 percent.
- Plus, black employment rates have always been higher than the national average.
- Eighty-six percent of African Americans are high school completers.
- African Americans with a bachelor’s degree or more has more than tripled (from 6.6 percent to 22.2 percent 40 years ago) and roughly one-third of 18-24-year-olds are enrolled in college.
- Because of the Obamacare that Trump is vowing to begin repealing on his first day in office, the number of uninsured African-Americans dropped by nearly 10 points over the last three years.
- While there was a slight uptick in some cities since last year, crime is at an all-time low.