Trump Flunks Black History
Earlier this month Donald Trump took moments off his blizzard of presidential orders–constitutional and otherwise– to pay cursory tribute to Black History Month. Ironically, he praised an historic figure whose words still inspire and justify the protest demonstrations going on against him and today– as they have inspired marchers for peace, civil rights, women’s rights and social justice for generations.
Trump noted the new African American Museum of History and Culture is where people could learn about Martin Luther King and Frederick Douglass, whom he called, with his limited vocabulary of personal clichés, “an example of somebody who has done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.”
Indeed Douglass has been recognized for more than 150 years as the father of the civil rights movement, a militant abolitionist often called Abraham Lincoln’s “conscience,” and for his famed battle-cry, “Without a struggle there can be no progress….Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.”
Obviously Trump has no idea who Douglass was, though he was truly amazing. Born a slave in 1817, he escaped to Massachusetts in 1836, acquired an education and soon became recognized as a major, powerful abolitionist orator and pamphleteer. He fought not only against slavery, but for the emancipation of women and respect for all minorities. The slogan of his abolitionist newspaper The North Star was “Right is of no Sex–Truth is of no Color–God is the Father of us all, and we are all Brethren.”
In mentioning the African American museum Trump failed to note a small section (likely to be expanded) devoted to his predecessor, the first African American president. Nor did he refer to a larger section devoted to John Lewis, a leader of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee who was savagely beaten in Selma in 1965, elected to Congress in 1987 and went on to be one of its most respected and revered members today.
Worse, Trump trashed Lewis, tweeting that the congressman “…should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested)…All talk, talk, talk–no action or results. Sad.”
Lewis’s district happens to be most of Atlanta, perhaps the most vibrant city in the South: home to numerous major businesses–including Coca Cola, Delta Airlines and CNN–educational institutions, major sports teams and the nation’s busiest airport. Yes, like many cities, it has its share of poverty stricken neighborhoods and crime, but under Lewis’s representation job growth in most major sectors, including construction, grew above the national average last year. The metropolitan area’s median household income is also above the national average.
Trump sang a different hymn to Atlanta nearly 10 years ago when he was planning to build a luxury, two-tower high-rise there–though the crime rate was 27 percent higher than today. “We’re just happy to be here,” he said, “Atlanta’s just…they’ve done a great job, an amazing job.”
Trump, however, does praise one living African American: his own obedient black surrogate Paris Dennard, his major apologist on CNN. Trump boasts Dennard “has done an amazing job.” Just like Frederick Douglass, I guess.
Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer