No Black person with a prominent platform should meet with Donald Trump or representatives from the Trump administration without preconditions. The United States government has a long-standing policy of setting preconditions for negotiating with hostile state actors. This is a policy Black America should employ as we move into the age of Trumpism. The duplicitous nature of Donald Trump’s rhetoric has damaged any credibility his words have. If he’s serious about his outreach efforts (something I doubt) his next move needs to be his best move. The CDC and Pfizer couldn’t make a panacea capable of eradicating his past racial transgressions, or the racially insensitive attacks on Barack Obama, but taking some bold steps in the right direction would be a good start to open the space for future negotiations.
First, he should withdraw the nomination of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. It was painfully obvious watching his confirmation hearing testimony that Sessions sees more law enforcement as a viable solution to problems facing the inner-city. More police on the streets does not address the socioeconomic factors that push kids into a life of crime. Redoubling the presence of law enforcement in struggling communities and giving them carte blanche to violate the civil rights of Americans based on race and ethnicity might offer short-term relief to those looking at these problems from the safety of their television screens, but it would further exacerbate the mistrust between police departments and the communities they work in. Stop-and-Frisk was a net failure that emboldened bad officers and put good officers in harm’s way. Jeff Sessions' inability to give clear and succinct answers about investigations into municipalities and police departments with problematic racial histories was, to me, more disqualifying than his alleged racism. If he can’t or won’t acknowledge the abuses of police power Federal probes have uncovered inside cities like Ferguson and Chicago how can those communities trust him to do what’s in their best interests?
Next, Donald Trump should ask for Steve Bannon’s resignation and publicly disavow, in unambiguous terms, the white supremacist elements inside the Alt-Right and other fringe groups he helped elevate. He can’t have it both ways. His most loyal supporters have the rare ability to parse every Trump tweet, and defend his almost weekly indefensible statements, but the majority of Americans, irrespective of race, don’t have this ability. Donald Trump is too comfortable with people who use terms like “feral” and “subhuman” to describe ethnic and racial minorities. Whatever talents or skill set Steve Bannon has to offer is offset by the platform he built for racists. Saying Trump is not a racist doesn’t negate the racism he and Steve Bannon benefited from. Steve Bannon not only provided a platform for racists to espouse their beliefs, but he profited from it. Once someone knowingly benefits from racism it doesn’t matter if they are racist or not.
Donald Trump has proven that he’s incapable of going more than a few days without saying or tweeting something offensive. He needs to build some trust. Anyone surprised that he would tweet out such a ridiculous statement about Representative John Lewis on MLK weekend must have forgotten about a guy named John McCain. Donald Trump’s inability to process critique of any kind will be a hindrance to his ability to govern; this deficiency will affect all Americans, but If Trump wants to show Black America he’s serious about his outreach, he will quit trying to win us over with celebrities. Maybe he could seek the counsel of the best and brightest Black people in America instead of the richest and most entertaining. If he were to come up with policy proposals capable of improving the lives of people affected by decades of bad trade agreements and centuries of systemic racism, he could use his concrete actions to build the bridge he destroyed with his mouth and Twitter account. Donald Trump’s symbolic Black celebrity photo op outreach campaign is failing miserably. When he asked Black people, “what the hell do you have to lose?” It was obvious he didn’t listen to what we were saying about Trayvon, Tamir, Sandra, Freddie, Walter, or Philando. His rhetoric and cabinet appointments are symptoms of his tone deafness.
If you look hard enough you can see the shame!