Point of View Columns

An Open Letter to Donald Trump

It should be clear by now that there are no boundaries for Donald Trump. And there is no limit to the extent to which Trump will seek to disgrace, demean or degrade whoever might come into the line of his vision. And so it should really come as no surprise that even though he has been a lifelong bigot and fully committed racist, Donald Trump would have the temerity to appeal to black voters as their savior incarnate.

We know that Donald Trump reads as much as a mildly curious six year old, so there is no doubt that he will never read this letter. Nevertheless, this letter is addressed to Trump in the hope that there will be those who will read it and understand once and for all, that not only is this man unfit to be President, he should be thankful that the 1st Amendment prevents him from banned from all public discourse – forever.

Dear Mr. Trump:

It is beyond belief that you would actually appeal to black voters with a line like “What the Hell do you have to lose?” Aside from our self-respect, dignity and sense of personhood, voting for you would virtually vaporize any hope of a future for ourselves or our posterity.

But here’s a question for you Mr. Trump. Where the Hell have you been? You are 70 years of age which means that you were 17 at the time of the March on Washington. Where the Hell were you?

When your father’s housing development company, where you served as an executive,  was accused by the Department of Justice of racial discrimination in the 1970’s in Cincinnati did you acknowledge wrongdoing and try to rectify your misdeeds as manager of the project? Or did you sue the federal government for $100 million and finally settle without acknowledging guilt? Where the Hell were you?

And, in the modern era, since you were a public figure by 1980, can you name one time, just one time, when you spoke in favor of racial justice, equity or fairness?

Was there ever a time when you expressed dismay and outrage over the NYPD killings of Eleanor Bumphurs or Amadou Diallou or Sean Bell or Eric Garner? Do you even remember the young black men who were killed by a racist mob in Brooklyn? Where the Hell were you?

We do know that you sought the death penalty for the young black and Latino men who were wrongfully convicted of raping the Central Park jogger. We do know that even after they were fully exonerated and their sentences were vacated you expressed no remorse. When justice was finally done, where the Hell were you?

And when Barack Obama was elected President where the Hell were you when racially motivated bigots tried to delegitimize his presidency? Oh, that’s right; you were the spearhead of that despicable movement.

When there was a demented movement to falsely claim that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, where the Hell were you? Oh, that’s right; you were at the head of that movement. And when President Obama finally displayed his Hawaiian birth certificate where the Hell were you? Oh that’s right, you were nowhere to be found.

And now, after blatantly and purposely exaggerated the persistent pathologies that have beset the black community, stoking the flames under the perpetually boiling cauldrons of stereotypes, you must know that you did not discover these problems. So where the Hell have you been all of these years? Have you ever taken a single step, made a single effort, uttered a single word to help? Where the Hell have you been?

And now, having run the gamut from insolent indifference to blatantly racist rhetoric for your entire public life, you have the gall to ask for the support of the black community. Now, having insulted and attempted to demean and degrade the first black president of the United States during his entire time in office, you ask “what the Hell do you have to lose?”.

By supporting you Donald Trump, black people would lose the respect of all of the mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters who marched and protested and labored and died in the cause of freedom and fairness. By supporting you black people would lose any and all pretext of dignity – believing that after 70 years you have finally discovered black people and that you are the savior incarnate would be blasphemy, plain and simple.

So Mr. Trump, the answer to your question, “What the Hell do you have to lose?” is “Where the Hell have you been?”

Sincerely,
Black America

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Point of View Columns

Ten Years a Suspect

The Law of Unintended of Consequences is one of those laws that cannot be questioned. We have known all along that the race-based and unconstitutional Stop and Frisk procedure employed by the New York Police Department has resulted in the erosion of trust and confidence in law enforcement in many communities of color. As recent incidents at Barneys and Macy’s show, it has also resulted in the general criminalization of people of color.

Just about every adult black American who lives in or near a city has a story that involves their being followed around in a department store by security. It happened to Barack Obama and if you are an adult black American reading these words, it has probably happened to you.

During the past week, however, news stories regarding the arrest and detainment of black people who have legally purchased high end luxury items makes it clear that in New York, thanks to Stop and Frisk, white paranoia regarding the criminality of black people has reached hysterical, if not historical, levels. The fact that the wrongly apprehended individuals were offered a perfunctory apology by the NYPD does not hide the fact that there appears to be a new crime in the New York State Penal Code – LWB or Living While Black.

The Law of Unintended Consequences has been hard at work here. After over 4,000,000 unconstitutional and race-based stops over the past ten years, the NYPD’s Stop and Frisk policy has not only trained its officers to look at people of color as likely criminals, the virus has spread.

After ten years of official criminal profiling of people of color in New York City, a policy specifically and heartily endorsed by the mayor and the police commissioner and praised by more than a few businesses, newspaper editorials and citizens groups, there should be no wonder that many white (and non-white) New Yorkers (and retailers like Macys, Barneys and others) have come down with bad cases of profile-itis.

It is an ongoing tragedy that law-abiding citizens of the City of New York should have to worry about being questioned, detained or arrested for the simple crime of LWB. White citizens in New York do not think twice about walking into a department store and going to that section of the store where the luxury items are sold.

Black citizens of New York have every right to feel that, in a similar circumstance, they are seen as escapees from some racial township in a latter day version of American apartheid. They are simply out of their “territory” and even having the funds to purchase the items that they want is not enough to keep them from being caught in the jaws of a criminal justice system seemingly bent on promoting injustice rather than public safety.

Macys, Barneys and the NYPD have already issued their precooked apologies with all of the sincerity of stale beer. But just as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly remain adamant and unrepentant with respect to the odious race-based policy of Stop and Frisk, it is certain that there will not be any acknowledgement that “Ten Years a Suspect” could be the working title for a description of how that policy has been perceived by communities of color.

Meanwhile, as an ironic footnote to this sordid display of institutionalized retail racism, the rap mogul Jay-Z is planning to launch a line of eponymous high end clothing at……..you guessed it………..Barneys. And predictably, many of Jay-Z’s fans and others have called upon him to break off his relationship with Barneys. And predictably, Jay-Z has demurred to date.

The irony is that through his outlandish lyrics and commentaries that glorify violence, criminality and misogyny, Jay-Z has actually done more to convey the perception of young black Americans as potential criminals than ten years of Stop and Frisk. Again the Law of Unintended Consequences is hard at work.

One can be fairly certain that Jay-Z has never given a second thought to the impact and effect of his promoting some kind of faux gangster lifestyle. But one of the consequences of his successful promotion is that too many people, black and white, take him seriously. And the next consequence is that people of color get racially profiled and arrested by his business partner.

One would never have thought to see the NYPD and Jay-Z as strange bedfellows – but there they are – both complicit in demeaning, degrading and criminalizing communities of color but never thinking about the consequences.

 

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