Tennessee Congressman: 'Survival' Is Greatest Challenge Now for Jewish, Black Communities

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) participates in a press conference on April 26, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

WASHINGTON – Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) said the African-American and Jewish communities should work together to “push back” on President Trump and his agenda.

Coleman also said the Jewish and African-American communities have a “natural alliance” through the way they were treated during slavery and the Holocaust.

“For me, it’s about making sure that we can recognize our natural alliance and that we’re moving forward together for dignity and respect and freedom and coexistence for everybody,” Coleman said during an interview after a breakfast for black and Jewish members of Congress recently held on Capitol Hill.

When asked to discuss a Trump policy that she believes has been harmful to the African-American and Jewish communities, Coleman replied, “Trump is trying to dismantle democracy and he’s trying to give rise and give space to racism and anti-Semitism, and any ‘ism’ that is counterintuitive to a free and dignified and respectful coexistence of all people here. So it isn’t any one thing; it’s what he does in education, environment, housing, human rights, civil rights, voting rights, you name it. Those are all challenges that we need to be working together to push back on.”

Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.) was asked to describe what he views as the greatest challenge facing the African-American and Jewish communities in the Trump era.

“We had the good fortune of having Barack Obama and no drama. We have the misfortune of having Donald Trump and drama, drama every minute of the day. He is divisive and he drives wedges between our communities, and it is dangerous in my considered opinion. I​​ spend a lot of time speaking up about his divisiveness to the various groups that I speak to around the country and certainly in my constituency. These are challenging times,” he replied.

“And he does things deliberately t​hat are racist. There’s no ‘ifs,’ ‘ands’ or ‘buts’ about it. Charlottesville would be the best example of it. How in the world could he possibly say that there were good people that were marching saying ‘no Jews​ will replace us’ and carrying​ tiki torches? I don’t understand that kind of reasoning. It’s very challenging for all of us in this era,” he added.

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) told PJM that “survival” is the greatest challenge for Jewish and African-American communities in the Trump era.

“As far as tolerance and human rights, civil rights, voting rights they’re all​​ not on the front burner. If they are, they’re working against them. And that’s something Jews and African-Americans share is a desire to have human rights span the franchise, be tolerant, diverse and then that’s just not on the agenda with this administration. So it can be a difficult time,” he said after the breakfast.

Hillary O. Shelton, senior vice president for advocacy and policy at the NAACP, told PJM that protection of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) is crucial for the African-American community.

“It affects the very voices of the communities that we represent, and making sure our issues are addressed in this democratic system we call the U.S. government and beyond, for that matter,” he said.