By JEFFREY DEAN SWAIN
Donald Trump is now President of the United States of America. Black Americans are not afraid of him but they are cognizant of the pattern of anti-black behaviors he demonstrated during the campaign cycle. For that, he should not be forgiven and he should be watched. I do not want or expect non-blacks to understand what we feel. We have collective memory of moments in American history where the language he used throughout his march toward Washington cost black lives. He pursued the Presidency at the expense of people of color. We should never forget that.
Donald Trump, by his own choice, is an enemy to black communities in America. His distasteful (“What the hell do you have to lose?”) offer to assist us demonstrates his disdain for a people one generation removed from racial terrorism. He should absolutely not be embraced as a peacemaker who wants to unite all Americans because he purchased his office at our expense – and perhaps our blood – by fostering racial tension all over the country that manifested itself on election night as a very red, anti-black election map. He stoked the fears of white Americans to a point of frenzy; and they validated his racism with their votes.
There is no “walking back” his comments. There is no forgetting he claimed not to know David Duke. There is no reconsidering his depictions of black neighborhoods as violence-plagued, unlivable and impoverished places because implicit in his choice of words was an intent to make black people offensive to white Americans and to mock our suffering as inevitable, if not self-inflicted. There is no explaining away surrogate Rudy Giuliani who repeatedly said that blacks kill more blacks than whites do without noting that murder, in all cases, is predominately intraracial and intraethnic. Trump accepted Giuliani’s bigoted assessment of us. We should not forget that.
Donald Trump represents the nadir of human decency and he will now inhabit the White House. What does that say about our Presidency to the world; but, more locally, what does it say to black people who have spent five centuries demonstrating loyalty to America even through America has never been loyal to them? Black people are always asked to forgive, always asked to excuse, always asked to appease and let bygones be bygones. White Americans need to know we will not give Donald Trump a pass because we will live with potentially life- threatening consequences of the racism he has unleashed that makes sitting anywhere with white folks an uneasy feeling.
Donald Trump cannot be everyone’s President because he never welcomed black people into his coalition. Dr. Ben Carson sold his integrity as a Christian to associate with a man whose behaviors in areas of race are unjustifiable. Black folk should not simply fall into line and ignore their outrage at a man who questioned the birthright of the first black President in U.S. history and called that same President “ignorant” and the “worst” President of all times without proof. Donald Trump, and no other Americans for that matter, will respect us if we relent.
Here is what black people must do:
(1) do not forgive this man’s behavior;
(2) step outside of the American dream and refashion an individual vision of how you will live amidst a consistently racialized society that shows little empathy for our plight;
(3) work harder than you ever have to realize financial independence;
(4) teach your children in this teachable moment that they must not accept people who speak against us and they should not honor such character; and
(5) remind your families that their neighbors chose this repugnant man as President. “To everything there is a season;” and this is the season for realizing we’re in a fight. This is a time for war.
Jeffrey Dean Swain, JD, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice and Chaplain at Florida Memorial University.