Still trying to process everything I took in this past week during the RNC (Republican National Convention) in Cleveland. It was the ultimate reality TV show starring Donald Trump. First thing I wanna do is clear up any misconceptions because I’m not sure how things were conveyed on TV. It should be noted the overwhelming majority of attendees to the tune of 97% of the delegates attending the RNC were white.
One might have gotten the impression the RNC was somewhat diverse due to the fact that party leaders found Black and Brown speakers to put on stage at prime time. Network TV cameras panned the faces of Black and Brown journalists or Black and Brown vendors and janitors who worked at Quicken Loan Center which added to the illusion of diversity. Don’t believe the hype. It was a sea of whiteness and I have the pictures from the floor of the convention to prove it.
Second, with respect to the Trump campaign, the man is no dummy. Don’t be fooled. Donald Trump is a masterful, pop culture and media manipulator who should not be underestimated. I repeat do not underestimate him..Key word… ‘masterful’.
While many of us have clowned him and gleefully denounced his appearances on Reality TV as something far beneath our intelligence, Trump saw clear openings and embraced it. He clearly understood there is a sizeable, passionate audience that is attracted to celebrity. He understood, that many in that audience love Reality TV. They thrive on bodacious, over-the-top, in-your-face, boombastic showmanship which helps them escape the hardships of dead end jobs and never ending poverty.
TRUMP’S WHITE PRIDE APPEAL
While many of us watched Trump give his spiel and responded by pointing out his numerous hypocrisies, scandals, offensive rhetoric and blatant wrong doings, his audience CONNECTED and continues to CONNECT with him. They don’t HEAR him. They FEEL him. Again I repeat, for his supporters it’s not about Trump being right or wrong. It’s not about him being caught in a lie or distorting the truth-Its about the way he makes his audience feel. His audience FEELS him.
For those who say they can’t understand that way of thinking, I would ask them to go back to 2008 and recall the types of things that were being said about Obama when he ran for the white house. Many openly talked about how Obama made them beam with pride. Many talked about voting for him so our kids could see a Black man in the white house. Many talked about being unapologetically Black in their support of Obama.
That mindset is not much different from the mindset many hold today with Trump. Contradictions and political shortcomings be damned. Exaggerations and distortions of truth be damned. Many rationalized their support for Obama and rode with him, no matter what.
Well, in 2016, we are seeing unbridled support for Trump by people who feel he is giving them a sense of pride… It’s White Pride and folks are increasingly vocalizing, that they are unapologetic about it.
TRUMP BORROWS FROM OBAMA
When listening to Donald Trump we can see clearly that he’s borrowed from President Nixon with his ‘Law and Order’ rhetoric. What’s not so clear is seeing that Trump also borrowed from President Obama.
Trump is basically doing a ‘Hope and Change’ type campaign that specifically targets poor, anxious, angry, blue collar white folks who are feeling marginalized. For them, ‘Fear of a Black Planet’ is real. ‘Fear of a Brown Planet’ is Real. Trump is feeding ‘Hope and Change’ to this demographic under the guise of ‘Fear and Blame’.
There are 3 main clarion calls to Trump’s campaign. One is to ‘build a wall to keep out Mexicans. Two is to increase surveillance and ban of all Muslims who are depicted as ‘Radical Islamic Terrorists’. Third is to return to the good ole days of ‘law and order’ where criminal oriented Black folks are locked up and harshly punished. These are appealing to a disenchanted segment of the population.
WILL TRUMP BETRAY OR EMPOWER HIS POOR WHITE BASE?
As I watched and listened intently to his speech on the final night of the RNC, I saw it resonating with that large crowd hungry for change and in need of hope. I also knew that one of two things will happen if Trump gets into office. He will either do like Obama and quickly abandon and betray many of the poor, marginalized folks that drove his campaign. That could result in violent reaction considering he has courted and attracted lots of armed anti-government militia types who have been preparing and yearning for confrontation.
What is more likely to happen is Trump as President, will find a way to incorporate these angry constituents and spread the love by empowering them to go full throttle on marginalized, poor folks of color.
It’ll be 1676 all over again when after Bacon’s Rebellion where the concept of whiteness was created and poor white indentured servants were granted privilege and power over their African indentured counterparts.
The payoff for those desperate to escape economic destitute and oppression was to buy into the logic that they were better then Africans and as newly minted ‘whites’ who were a step closer to the elites who ran the show, they would patrol and keep the enslaved Africans in check.
Trump’s message is plain and simple. Vote for me and I will keep you safe by putting all these Black, Brown and Muslim people in their place.
When you see outlaw biker gangs hanging with police which I did while in Cleveland (‘Bikers for Trump’) and popular anti government figures like Alex Jones riding for Trump and talking about Blue Lives Matter, it underscores the notion of white solidarity and empowerment which is being fostered by Trump.
As my good friend Professor Tina Bell Wright pointed out in a recent conversation what we are also seeing is a racialized backlash to Obama in much the same way the rise of the KKK and Jim Crow were backlashes to the Reconstruction era.
Professor Wright also noted that we are seeing a backlash to globalization and globalism which is being upheld by Hillary Clinton and Neo-Liberal policies she champions. In the face of corporate tyranny, the nationalism Trump is selling sounds good for many. It sounds rebellious and anti-establishment. people are emphatic about his willingness to protect ‘Americans’.
The question we are all faced with is at the end of the day, who does Trump see as Americans? Even more importantly who under Trump do we see his understanding of Americanism’ with all its privileges and protections get extended to? Its a direct throwback to the way the concept of whiteness were extended to certain immigrants in past generations?
IS TRUMP THE NEW AGE ANDREW JOHNSON?
I have long said Donald Trump is a new age Andrew Johnson. For those who are unfamiliar Johnson is the man who succeeded Lincoln after he was assassinated. He hated the elite and he hated the planter class establishment that ruled the South. He wanted them to crumble and kiss his butt. But he hated Africans even more and immediately went to work to dismantle Reconstruction, starting with the closing of the Freedman’s Bureau.
It’s with that understanding of history, I see Donald Trump and his proposed policies of containment, banning and surveillance. It’s with this understanding of history that none of us can afford to be apolitical at this time. It’s with this understanding of history that none of us can afford not to be connected or involved in organizing efforts to rebuff whats coming down the pipe…
All of us are going to step up. Black and Brown folks for now will be the obvious and immediate targets, but also everyone else from young millennials to women to LGBT etc are in line to catch this backlash.
BUILD A WALL & BLUE LIVES MATTER
Over the week, I saw thousands stand on the floor of the Quicken Loan Center cheer and chant in unison ‘Build a Wall’. At one point the frenzied cheering and jeering by an emboldened white crowd made it feel absolutely unsafe to be in the vicinity or outside in the adjacent courtyard.
Speaker after speaker blamed Brown folks for everything ranging from ruining our economy to stealing precious resources to setting off murderous crime sprees against ‘innocent’ American citizens. The hateful rhetoric was validated by the RNC including a Black or non Latino Brown speaker to parrot the anti-immigrant vitriol.
The ‘Build a Wall’ chants and tough talk against Latinos were accompanied by the equally vitriolic demonization of Muslims who were called ‘Radical Islamic Terrorists’… And while RNC speakers attempted at times to qualify their statements by noting that ’not all Muslims’ are terrorists’, what was being advocated was the wholesale surveillance and banning of Muslims along with a call for policies to be put in place to eradicate Muslim practices like Sharia Law which were grossly distorted.
Just as frightening as thousands chanting ‘Build a Wall’ was thousands chanting of ‘Blue Lives Matter’ and cheering wildly to the news that one another police officer connected to the killing of Freddie Gray was acquitted. The unapologetic upliftment and all out debasing of the Black Lives Matter movement was beyond disconcerting.
Everywhere you went you saw Blue Lives Matter buttons and t-shirts being sold like hotcakes ironically by Black vendors desperate to capitalize on sales who were lined up all up and down Euclid Avenue, one of the main streets in downtown Cleveland.
This was accompanied with the presence of several thousand police officers from all over the country including Florida, Massachusetts, Indiana, Montana to name a few, running and executing what amounted to be crowd control drills against demonstrators who were all forced to be confined in a park blocks away from the RNC called Public Square. 300 of those police were from California Highway Patrol.
It was not lost on me the irony of RNC attendees chanting ‘Blue Lives Matter’ in the same Quicken Loan arena where Lebron James, Kyrie Irving and other members of the World Champion Cavaliers who were openly revered from the stage of the RNC, showed support and helped increase visibility to Black Lives Matter and the police accountability movement when they famously wore ‘I Can’t Breathe’ t-shirts in response to NY Police choking Eric Garner to death in 2014.
It also wasn’t lost on me the irony of this week being one in which while ‘Blue Lives Matter’ was being loudly chanted in a sports arena, the WBA (Women’s Basketball League ) had threatened to fine several players for wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts. The WBA felt it was wrong to use a sporting platform to put forth a political position. The threats of fines had been rescinded after much public pressure and WBA players promising a media boycott.
It was here in Cleveland during the RNC we saw police unions flex and attempt to get Ohio’s open carry law suspended for a week once it was made known that Black protestors would show up with their guns especially after it was made known that white militias would be in Cleveland ‘exercising their second amendments rights.
Just to show you how deep things got, prior to us coming to Cleveland, our radio station got a visit from the FBI warning us of credible threats by armed white supremacist militias. There was no attempt to suspend the Open Carry law when that took place.
Kali Akuno of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movements recently noted in an article, that progressives minded folks will have to fight a war on two fronts. One will be with the white supremacy being uplifted by Donald Trump, the other will be the corporate back Neo-Liberal and equally repressive policies of Hillary Clinton.
A Trump presidency is not something to romanticize about or even see as ‘business as usual’ especially for those who have not prepared in terms of establishing strong networks to help sustain you and your family economically.
Trump in office is not something to take lightly if you don’t have a strategy in place to deal with an anticipated rise violent racist attacks backed by and in many cases initiated by members serving in various police departments that have been infiltrated by white supremacist types.
Many Trump supporters are experiencing economic hardships coupled with deep seated fears of being outnumbered and overwhelmed by a growing Black and Brown population. That anger under a Trump presidency will be directed at our communities with the full unapologetic backing of the state. How prepared are we for this?
Some will try to avoid this harsh backlash by seeking favor and cutting deals in an attempt to obtain what I will call overseer or buffer status. In short many will seek relief and protection by betraying their community and taking on the role of oppressor. How prepared are we for that?
For many, the goal is defeat at all costs Trump with Hillary being the viable option. We can debate the pros and cons of that at another time. But for those who see casting their lot with Hillary as a solution, I will say this, inaction, lackluster political engagement and uninformed political analysis will cost you dearly. Believe that..
Don’t believe out of touch TV pundits, 30 second sound bites or brought and paid for polls. One will have to do more than just pull a lever in 2016. In most elections 50% of the population stays home. One had best figure out how to get them to the polls…
If you are not volunteering your time, door knocking, phone banking and vigorously engaging, organizing family neighbors and friends not just in your own community but also in so-called battle ground states, then you will lose this election, Trump will be your President and you will have no one to blame but yourself.