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
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.