"Ben Carson has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities. We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities. Ben shares my optimism about the future of our country and is part of ensuring that this is a Presidency representing all Americans. He is a tough competitor and never gives up."Campaigning in Charlotte, North Carolina, in late October he'd used the phrase once, at the beginning of a speech titled "New Deal For Black America":
It is great to be here in Charlotte to discuss an issue that means so much to me. That is the issue of urban renewal, and the rebuilding of our inner cities. Today I want to talk about how to grow the African-American middle class, and to provide a new deal for Black America. That deal is grounded in three promises: safe communities, great education, and high-paying jobs....At the NYT, Emily Badger expresses anxiety about the phrase "urban renewal" (and she doesn't ignore that other historically resonant phrase, "New Deal"):
His language has an odd ring to it, not solely for marrying Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal with the post-World War II era of urban renewal. If Mr. Trump was reaching for a broadly uplifting concept — renewal — he landed instead on a term with very specific, and very negative, connotations for the population he says he aims to help....Did Trump mean to evoke these details when he used the old phrase? Badger says it's a "mystery" and compares it to the mystery of whether Trump knew the historical background when he had that phone conversation with the president of Taiwan.
The term “urban renewal” dates to the Housing Act of 1954; its 1949 predecessor called the same policy “urban redevelopment.” Under these laws, the federal government gave cities the power and money to condemn “slum” neighborhoods, clear them through eminent domain, then turn over the land to private developers at cheap rates for projects that included higher-end housing, hospitals, hotels, shopping centers and college expansions....
Urban renewal was meant to wipe clean poor, deteriorating neighborhoods, while boosting tax coffers, stimulating private investment and luring middle-class residents and shoppers back into the city.....
My guess is that Trump not only knows the historical background, he intends to leave us off-balance — tangled up in the mystery of whether he knows. But I can't solve the mystery of what he intended to do by using the old phrase that James Baldwin once said was a euphemism for "Negro removal."
We know Trump has said "eminent domain is wonderful" and:
"If you have a factory, where you have thousands of jobs, you need eminent domain, it’s called economic development... Now you’re employing thousands of people and you’re able to build a factory, you’re able to build an Apple computer center, where thousands of people can work. You can do that, or you can say, ‘Let the man have his house.'"I recommend assuming that Trump knows what he's doing. The alternative assumption — that he's a bumbling idiot — is too easy, and if you are wrong, you will be left in the dust. But to say that he knows what he's doing is not to know what he has in mind. It's easy to fall back on the old accusations of racism and to take advantage of his use of the old phrase to dangle that theory in front of NYT readers — who snap up the bait. The highest-rated comment there says:
The article makes clear "urban renewal" is code for racist policies. And the "political correctness" that clearly drove you to vote for Trump is coded language for racism.But maybe Trump himself was baiting people like Badger and that commenter to talk about him like that and look like surly pessimists who make reckless accusations of racism over nothing. And here he has nominated that lovely man Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.