Why we'll help President Trump put people of color first

Hate crimes, racism reported post-election
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  • Marc H. Morial: Donald Trump has an opportunity to be a leader for all Americans, not just white Americans
  • Morial: The National Urban League and the social justice community will support Trump in expanding, protecting the rights of people of color
  • But leaders will also stand in opposition to any attempts to roll back 50 years of progress on civil rights

Marc H. Morial is President and CEO of the National Urban League. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.

(CNN)In the days and weeks following the 2016 presidential election, a wave of racially motivated hate crimes and harassment swept the nation. Many of the perpetrators invoked the name of Donald Trump, suggesting that a new ethos had descended upon the United States.

Of all the dangers and uncertainties represented by the incoming administration, the assumption of a fundamental ethical change is potentially the most destructive. We are not a different country just because we have a different president. Our principles of inclusiveness, respect for diversity and opportunity for all citizens haven't changed. Our core values can and should remain the same.
Marc H. Morial
President Donald Trump has an opportunity to prove to the perpetrators of hate crimes and harassment who invoke his name that they are mistaken. He has an opportunity to state repeatedly and unequivocally that this is not what his administration represents.
    Most importantly, he has an opportunity to show us in the actions he takes and the policies he advocates for that he truly is a leader for all Americans, not just white ones.
    As the president and CEO of the National Urban League, one of the nation's oldest and largest racial justice and economic empowerment organizations, this is my fervent hope. At a campaign event in Charlotte, North Carolina, in October, Trump said, "Every African-American citizen in this country is entitled to a government that puts their jobs, wages and security first."
    And we are, of course. We plan to hold Trump to his word and stand ready to facilitate, however we can, a Trump administration that puts the jobs, wages and security -- not only of African-Americans, but all people of color -- first.
    Trump promised a $1 trillion infrastructure investment, of which the inner cities will be a major beneficiary. We would support such a bill, if and only if, it contained a strong jobs-building component that guaranteed employment for workers in neighborhoods with high unemployment rates and minority business participation.
    That said, Congress has not always been welcoming to infrastructure initiatives -- particularly under President Obama. Obstructionists blocked his $50 billion "roads, rails and runways" proposal in 2010 and his American Jobs Act in 2011. They blocked his proposals for an infrastructure bank, a national high-speed rail network and the GROW AMERICA Act (Generating Renewal, Opportunity, and Work with Accelerated Mobility, Efficiency and Rebuilding of Infrastructure and Communities throughout America).
    Even if partisan loyalty can overcome some of the hurdles to infrastructure bills, there are still doubts about Trump's commitment to African-American "jobs, wages and security." Many of his statements and actions throughout the campaign and transition have been deeply troubling.
    He has nominated for attorney general Sen. Jeff Sessions, a former federal prosecutor with a history of hostility to racial justice and voting rights. His secretary of education nominee supports policies that drain resources from public schools and into private and for-profit institutions. His nominee to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development disparaged the Fair Housing Act. And Trump himself has never apologized for his real estate company's history of racial discrimination, nor his campaign to execute five teenagers of color who were later exonerated.
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    Where we and the rest of the civil rights and social justice community can find common ground with the incoming administration, we will offer support, but we stand firm against any attempts to roll back 50 years of progress on voting rights, economic progress, educational achievement and housing discrimination.
    As thousands of us chanted as we marched last weekend in Washington, DC: We shall not be moved. We will speak out. We will urge our representatives in Congress to block regressive policies. We will continue to mobilize communities to exercise their legal rights -- at the ballot box, at school, in their workplaces and financial institutions and in the communities where they live.