Stephanie Luster is skeptical of President Donald Trump’s Platinum Plan. As the president of Essations Inc., an ethnic hair care company on Chicago’s South Side, she’s experienced racial discrimination from banks, investors and distributors throughout her 30-plus years in business. 

Nearly seven years ago, she said, a leading salon distributor refused to put her products on store shelves. According to Luster, the distributor told her that Black businesses only represented 3% of their overall products. In order to put her products on the shelves, Luster said, the distributor would’ve had to make room by removing other brands owned by big conglomerates. The company wasn’t willing to do that, Luster said, remembering the conversation.

That particular experience, along with rejections she received for business loan applications under the administrations of former President Barack Obama and now Trump, has made it difficult for Luster to run her business. 

I look at big, white businesses under this [Trump] administration and they come up with an idea, pitch it, get finances for it and [then] the business fails 40 times, and [then] they’re back again seeking more finances, because they’re at the table.” Luster said. She’s also the niece of the late Fred Luster, who founded Luster Products, Inc. on the South Side in 1957. “For us, we have to work so much harder to get what we need to make our businesses run.” 

Despite the challenges Luster continues to face as a Black business owner, she’s not running to Trump for solutions. “I could never vote [for] or support Trump because he represents hate,” Luster said.

Trump’s two-page Platinum Plan makes a lot of promises to Black America, especially around economics. His plan includes promises to increase Black America’s access to capital by nearly $500 billion. Trump’s plan also says he will create 500,000 new Black-owned businesses, add three million new jobs for Black Americans and advance home ownership opportunities in the Black community, among other things. 

To help me interpret the fine print of the Platinum Plan, I reached out to Michael Dawson, a John D. MacArthur professor of political science at the University of Chicago. He described the Platinum Plan as a “sore incoherent set of initiatives.” He continued, “The Platinum Plan is aimed at white Americans to assure them that the Republican party is not racist.”

Dawson sees the Platinum Plan as a last-minute attempt by Trump to correct campaign missteps while repairing his reputation from his first term. For example, Dawson said, the Platinum Plan’s promise to declare Juneteenth a federal holiday is Trump’s response to the criticism he received from Black people this summer. Some senators had just proposed a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, while Trump scheduled his first campaign rally on Juneteenth in Tulsa, Okla., where one of the deadliest race massacres occurred in 1921. He later moved the rally to the next day.

“It doesn’t change power relations. It doesn’t move resources to the Black community,” Dawson said. 

Another example is the Platinum Plan’s promise to make lynching a national hate crime. There’s already a bill on this issue, too, that’s been sitting in the republican-majority Senate since June 2018. Dawson said it’s unlikely the bill will pass the Senate since it’s been sitting for so long. Black organizers and policy-makers have been fighting for anti-lynching legislation for over 100 years.

And regarding the Platinum Plan’s promise to create “$500 billion in access to capital,” Dawson said Trump didn’t make this happen in his first four years in office.

“We’re from Chicago, and he’s had very negative things to say about Black mayors and elected officials where Black people live,” Dawson said. “We will need to know a lot about the details and I’m extraordinarily skeptical.”

Frances Newman disagrees. The 58-year-old South Side resident believes Black Americans have been brainwashed into sticking with the Democratic party because it’s the political party their parents and grandparents aligned with. She argued that during Trump’s first term, he designated $85 million under the Title III program of the Future Act to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and he also announced a separate $85 million to support school choice for disadvantaged youth in Washington, D.C. 

All of these actions, Newman said, proves that Trump is a better candidate. “I don’t consider myself to be a Trump supporter. I consider myself to be an advocate for Black America,” said Newman, a former assistant scheduler for Illinois Rep. La Shawn K. Ford.

A proud Trump surrogate, Patricia Easley, said she’s been meeting with Trump as a part of a Black advisory circle since 2018. She’s the founder of Wells-Washington-Douglass Society, a conservative Political Action Committee (PAC) in Chicago.

Easley said the Platinum Plan is a continuation of Trump’s ongoing outreach, and that this is the first time in American history that a sitting U.S. president has called on young, Black folks to join him at the White House to discuss Black issues. During Triibe Tuesday on Oct. 27, Easley insinuated that Latinx immigrants take jobs from Black Chicagoans and make our communities less safe. 

“As he stated in the White House, illegal immigration negatively impacts our communities the hardest. We look at what’s going on here in Chicago,” Easley said. “The drug cartel has made the West Side of Chicago its American headquarters.”

Easley and Newman agree that Trump has proven his policies are in the best interest of Black folks. Trump’s willingness to meet with Black entertainers such as Ice Cube before Election Day is another example of that, they said. However, Cube’s involvement sparked controversy after an Oct. 13 announcement that he was advising their campaign, which sent social media into a frenzy. Cube said that he’d met with the Trump campaign to pitch his Contract with Black America (CWBA), a 22-page document outlining 13 areas of improvement, including bank lending, prison and police reform. 

“Blacks needed something in writing prior to the election because that helps Blacks decide how we cast our votes,” Newman said about the Platinum Plan. “I don’t think it was unreasonable at all for Ice Cube to want to know what the plan was for Black America.”

However, Black Lives Matter Chicago’s executive director Amika Tendaji said the Platinum Plan is just another one of Trump’s distractions from bigger issues in the Black community, such as defunding the police and reallocating those funds to improve healthcare and education across Black America. 

For those reasons, Ice Cube isn’t suitable to be crowned the voice of Black America, she said. In the last two weeks, rappers 50 Cent and Lil Wayne announced their support of Trump’s Platinum Plan, sending social media into yet another frenzy. 50 Cent retracted his endorsement soon afterwards.

“Celebrities who want to do these random and one-off political maneuvers need to build, develop and maintain relationships with the people already doing the work,” Tendaji said.

Tendaji further explained that the Platinum Plan isn’t realistic, since the Trump administration still hasn’t issued a second round of stimulus checks to Americans for COVID-19 pandemic relief. “In the language of young people in Chicago, Trump is like the king of cap,” Tendaji said.

In Chicago, some Black business and philanthropic leaders believe they’re in position to create solutions to the wealth gap and other systematic barriers plaguing local Black neighborhoods. 

Helene Gayle, president and CEO of Chicago Community Trust (CCT), said they’ve engineered  a new program, Together We Rise, to focus on Black and Latinx communities, which were already economically insecure before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The purpose of the program is to make sure Black and Brown communities have resources in place to assist with recovery efforts after the pandemic. 

“We know that if you look at private investments, it’s about a 5:1 ratio of private investments in white neighborhoods versus Black neighborhoods,” Gayle said. “As our neighborhoods become disinvested, with no private capital flowing into our neighborhoods, the neighborhood continues to deteriorate and that creates a real cycle that’s hard at both the individual level and neighborhood level to escape.” 

As part of the Together We Rise program, CCT has raised $25 million in philanthropic capital and $600 million in pledges from banks and other corporations who are committed to making home ownership and small business loans more attainable for Black Chicagoans. Gayle said CCT is putting an emphasis on how Black residents can grow household wealth and drive investment into their neighborhoods. 

“[We need to] shift the narrative about our neighborhoods so that people understand the power of investing in our neighborhoods,” Gayle explained. “We will grow and we will be more economically prosperous as a region if all of the city’s neighborhoods are able to realize their economic potential and grow.”

is a freelance writer for The TRiiBE.