Trump be­ing Trump puts equal­ity in doubt

He is ap­par­ently com­pletely ig­no­rant about the civil rights move­ment, its par­tic­i­pants and its sig­nif­i­cance to all Amer­i­cans

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

HOW DID you cel­e­brate the Martin Luther King Jr week­end? US Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump de­cided it was the per­fect oc­ca­sion to crit­i­cise a liv­ing civil rights icon, un­load­ing a series of tweets de­scrib­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tive John Lewis’s Ge­or­gia dis­trict as crime in­fested and ac­cus­ing the former Free­dom Rider of be­ing “All talk, talk, talk – no ac­tion or re­sults. Sad!”

He later added: “Con­gress­man John Lewis should fi­nally fo­cus on the burn­ing and crime-in­fested in­ner cities of the US. I can use all the help I can get!”

Sad in­deed. But Trump’s tweets might have been Martin Luther King Jr week­end ap­pro­pri­ate, in a per­verse way.

They serve as an illuminating, if dis­heart­en­ing, pre­view of what the next four years might look like for black Amer­i­cans, un­will­ingly led by a pres­i­dent who sees them as a barely func­tion­ing sec­tor of so­ci­ety.

What­ever his po­lit­i­cal flaws, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama helped to nor­malise the idea that black peo­ple in the US are, in fact, peo­ple – who could be pro­fes­sion­ally suc­cess­ful, have ad­mirable fam­ily lives, and might live not in crum­bling projects, but even in the White House.

Black Amer­i­cans have al­ways known this, of course; de­spite what the news might have you be­lieve, suc­cess isn’t for­eign to them and sta­bil­ity isn’t unattain­able.

But over the past eight years it felt as though it had be­come a bit eas­ier for oth­ers in our coun­try to see black Amer­i­cans as fel­low cit­i­zens rather than stereo­types or sad car­i­ca­tures.

Fi­nally they were af­forded the wide va­ri­ety of pos­si­bil­i­ties sup­pos­edly al­lowed to all Amer­i­cans, rather than be­ing treated like a per­pet­u­ally dis­tressed spe­cial-in­ter­est group.

But in the last few days of Obama’s ten­ure, on a hol­i­day meant to cel­e­brate the ad­vance­ment of civil rights, our pres­i­dent-elect felt the need to re­mind us all that noth­ing gold can stay.

More likely, Trump didn’t mean to re­mind us of any­thing. His tweets – fired off in re­sponse to Lewis’s state­ment that he saw Trump’s elec­tion as il­le­git­i­mate due to pos­si­ble Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence, and thus wouldn’t at­tend the in­au­gu­ra­tion – ill-in­formedly de­scribed Lewis’s dis­trict as crime rid­den and the in­ner cities as mys­te­ri­ously aflame.

They were just the lat­est ex­am­ples of how the pres­i­dent-elect views nearly 15 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion he is meant to serve: im­pov­er­ished, crim­i­nal, fall­ing apart and liv­ing in in­ner-city squalor.

It’s even rather fit­ting that this par­tic­u­lar il­lus­tra­tion comes di­rectly on the heels of an­other: last week’s con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings for the next hous­ing and ur­ban de­vel­op­ment sec­re­tary.

While former Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Ben Car­son may be a neu­ro­sur­geon, his nom­i­na­tion to this con­spic­u­ously un­re­lated post is but an­other ex­am­ple of the pres­i­dent-elect’s con­cep­tion of black Amer­ica in large print.

It’s clear that to Trump, Car­son is far eas­ier to type­cast than to take se­ri­ously. He’s black, he’s from Detroit – what else could he do but think about ur­ban is­sues and af­ford­able hous­ing?

In­ci­den­tally, not a peep has been heard from Car­son about this week­end’s Twit­ter em­bar­rass­ment.

He seems will­ing to ac­cept the role he has been given, de­spite what it may in­di­cate about how the pres­i­dent-elect views him and oth­ers of his race.

In con­trast, a num­ber of Democrats and even some Repub­li­cans have ral­lied in sup­port of Lewis, push­ing back against the dis­re­spect ob­vi­ous in Trump’s state­ments.

That barely mat­ters in the larger scheme of things.

What re­ally stands out about this week­end is sim­ply Trump be­ing Trump.

He is ap­par­ently com­pletely ig­no­rant about the civil rights move­ment, its par­tic­i­pants and its sig­nif­i­cance to all Amer­i­cans.

He is un­able to keep his peace, lash­ing out blindly even when do­ing so is wildly in­ap­pro­pri­ate.

And he has a vi­sion of black Amer­i­cans that is dis­ap­point­ing, dis­parag­ing and com­pletely at odds with the truth.

On the eve of his in­au­gu­ra­tion, it’s dif­fi­cult to be op­ti­mistic about Trump’s abil­ity to be “pres­i­dent for all Amer­i­cans”.

When ex­plain­ing the sig­nif­i­cance of hold­ing the We Shall Not Be Moved civil rights march in Washington last Satur­day rather than closer to Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion, the Rev­erend Al Sharp­ton noted that that would be the last Martin Luther King Jr Day cel­e­brated with the first black pres­i­dent in of­fice, and thus was wor­thy of par­tic­u­lar re­gard.

If Pres­i­dent-elect Trump’s man­ner of cel­e­brat­ing this week­end is any in­di­ca­tion, the hol­i­day will be much less pleas­ant for the next four years.

And what it sym­bol­ises – progress, equal­ity, the un­der­stand­ing that we are all Amer­i­cans – may be more in doubt than it has been for years. – The Washington Post

His vi­sion of black cit­i­zens is dis­ap­point­ing and dis­parag­ing

Chris­tine Emba is the edi­tor of In The­ory, and writes about ideas for The Washington Post’s Opin­ions sec­tion.

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