Justice Cannot Be Trumped
On the evening of November 8, I was in church, along with a fairly large assembly of black folks. It was good for me—for us—to be there as we were praying for the nation and for God’s will to be done in the 2016 Presidential Election. In the course of that service, I was reminded of one crucial point in the context of the historical African American experience: we are survivors. The world’s most abhorrent slavery trade took place in the United States, and we survived it. All of the most heinous, post 13th Amendment, manifestations of that same slavery/social control (from paddy roller horror to the American apartheid of Jim Crow) are also evils that we survived. That perspective gave me a good indication of what a possible Donald Trump’s win would mean to millions of people of color. It would mean, quite vibrantly, we would survive. Of course, we later learned that the election outcome was not what any of the black people who gathered at the prayer meeting wanted (or for that matter, what millions of progressive Americans would have wished). Nevertheless, my confidence in the enduring resilience of black and brown people—and all citizens of good will in my country—remains unflinching.
With the election of Donald Trump as the president of the United States, America has installed a Hitler-like figure as the leader of the free world. That has to be said. Indeed, the man who will soon occupy the White House, and have his finger on America’s nuclear trigger, has received the support of countless Neo-Nazi extremist organizations in the United States (Mahler 2016). To date, he has not renounced any of them. Also, while a great many newspapers in the states did not endorse Trump, the Crusader, one of the Ku Klux Klan’s most prominent publications, did—and did so boldly (Holly 2016). This news is not a secret. Trump’s racism and antisemitism have been well documented (Heilman 2016). However, for those who support him, none of those issues matter. What that says about America is that significant numbers of its citizenry are willing to risk global catastrophe in order to promote white supremacy.
Having said that, I hasten to add that millions of people of all colors did not vote for him. The strides forward that were made in the Civil Rights Movement were not erased from the consciousness of time because one hate monger–seemingly–won one political contest. In spite of Donald Trump’s White House triumph, America’s progressive contingent–and particularly black and brown people–have already redoubled its efforts to fight injustice. Certainly, efforts to ratchet up the battle against racial genocide will have to be more robust as a result of Trump’s “Make America [White Dominated] Again” crusade. Absolutely, work against Trumpian foreign policy efforts that might increase the prospect of war in the world must be much more purposeful and ardent. However, the battle in America for all people to be afforded equal rights and human dignity continues.
Trials Now and Trials Ahead
Race-based brutality and murder in the United States are common occurrences. Even in Donald Trump’s campaign, citizens of color were routinely assaulted for peacefully protesting. In fact, Trump made it a point to fuel that violence from the safety of his podium perch. Given the vitriol of his hateful rhetoric, it is fair to say that violence aimed at all non-white and non-Christian “others” will only increase after he assumes office. What is surprising to some, especially after 8 years of a black president, is how intensely mainstream racism appears to have rekindled itself—and is raging like a burning church in Mississippi. I am not surprised. I grew up here. Shortly before he was assassinated, Dr. King made it clear that “there are difficult days ahead” (King, “I’ve Been,” 222─223). He also added, that although he might not get to the Promised Land with us, that we, nevertheless, would “get to the Promised Land” (King, “I’ve Been,” 222─223). Racism—and all of the hateful “isms” that Donald Trump embodies never went on holiday. When I think about present day America, I must consider it within the context of King’s freedom fighting continuum. As a result of the election results on November 8th, 2016, that continuum of social justice activism has been re-invigorated. Though systemic racial inequality in the United States never took a vacation on a “post-black” cruise ship, there are multitudes of Americans working daily to send it packing.
The poisonous legacy of slavery, America’s original sin, continues to manifest itself via police murders of people of color, Native Americans raped of their land, the mass incarceration of nonwhite citizens, and more. I will not sugarcoat that fact. Arguably, the consequence of Trump’s political ascendance may mean the normalization of state-sanctioned racial abuse on an unprecedented level.
Clearly, there is nothing about Donald Trump in the White House that bodes well for either America or for the world—certainly nothing that has to do with the business of freedom. Despots always help an undertaker’s business. This should be of concern for anyone who has children. To be sure, with a Donald Trump presidency, fear of war waged somewhere around the globe–in the alleged name of “freedom”—is real. Without question, there is great concern about conflict escalating in the streets of America in response to ongoing protests against police domestic terrorism, poverty and despair. However, none of that fear has stopped the NAACP or the Black Lives Matter movement, and many other similar activist groups from ramping up their efforts to oppose racial oppression.
That is the great power in the African American freedom fighting story, and most decidedly, our strength. When you have been beaten, tortured, murdered and disenfranchised for centuries, at a certain point you realize there is nothing anyone can do to intimidate you. That is the state of black and brown America—a survivor’s state. We are not afraid to fight, march, and die—if necessary—in order to be free. As a result of Donald Trump’s recent rise to power, many Americans are wide awake and active—reinvigorated, in the battle against political leaders legislating hatred in high places. That is as it should be—as we should be, at our best. Injustice has a way of waking justice up whenever it allows itself to fall asleep in pillowed beds of apathy. Indeed, Civil Rights activist Ella Baker once said that “we who believe in freedom cannot rest” (Dreier 2014). I believe that. I also believe that the current rebirth of social justice activism will continue in the United States. To my way of thinking, it has to carry on, because no freedom-fighting struggle is a single round (or single election) fight.
Dreier, Peter. “Ella Baker, Ferguson, and ‘Black Mothers’ Sons.’” The Huffington Post 22 Dec.
2014: Web. 9 Nov. 2016.
Heilman, Uriel. 2016. “Donald Trump’s anti-Semitism controversies: A timeline.” Arutz Sheva
/ Israel National News 6 Feb. 2016: Web. 9 Nov. 2016.
Holly, Peter. 2016. “KKK’s official newspaper supports Donald Trump for president.”
The Washington Post 2 Nov. 2016: Web. 9 Nov. 2016.
King, Martin Luther. “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” A Call to Conscience, eds. Carson
and Shepard, 2001.
Mahler, Jonathan. 2016. “Donald Trump’s Message Resonates With White Supremacists.”
The New York Times 29 Feb. 2016: Web. 9 Nov. 2016.