When President Donald Trump asked an African-American reporter during a press conference last month to set up a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), caucus members were dismayed by the appearance of racial insensitivity.
Trump’s office later reached out to the group and a meeting is set for Wednesday.
Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York was one of the CBC members shocked when Trump asked reporter April Ryan to set up a meeting with the caucus.
“It shows the president is not really connected to the real world in my estimation. … It was somewhat insulting to all the American people for him to ask an individual who’s a White House reporter just because she happens to be black,” Meeks told VOA.
VOA requested comment from the White House but got no response.
After that news conference, most Black Caucus members attended Trump’s recent address to Congress, but others chose not to.
Trump opened his speech by acknowledging some of America’s racial challenges.
“Tonight, as we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our nation’s path towards civil rights and the work that still remains to be done,” he said.
While Meeks considers Trump’s remarks a start, he said there needs to be a more effective policy when it comes to the African American community.
“African-Americans don’t just live in urban America. … You’ve got to have a broad policy taking different geographical locations in place. … I happen to represent New York but there are many members of the CBC who represent rural areas of Mississippi, South Carolina or Georgia,” he added.
The CBC has a record 49 members. Meeks said that speaks volumes about America’s diversity.
“America has progressed to the point that African-Americans do not represent just African-Americans or majority African-American districts,” he said.
But politically, the caucus is mainly composed of Democrats with the exception of Republican Senator Mia Love. Two African-American lawmakers — Senator Tim Scott and Congressman Will Hurd, both Republicans — do not belong to the CBC.
Meeks said the biggest misconception is that the group is monolithic.
“You’ve got members who come from all different perspectives because some are from the East Coast, West Coast; some are from urban areas, rural areas, some believe in hunting and guns, others don’t; some believe in trade and some don’t,” he said.
Meeks has been in Congress for 17 years and is a member of the Financial Services and Foreign Affairs Committees. He said the caucus members have a wide range of expertise, which could be helpful to any administration.