What do you say to a Black Trump supporter?

What do you say to a Black Trump supporter?

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.

            It may be that I make a naive assumption about African Americans, i.e.,  that the depth of our history as victims of racist and national oppression; our history of resistance to profound racial injustice; and our experience with the underside of the so-called American Dream, makes us immediately able to see through the demagogic chicanery of someone like Donald Trump.  It is sort of the naivete that many of us experienced when Clarence Thomas was up for his nomination to the Supreme Court:  yes, I understand that he is a real conservative, many of us said, but you have to give the “brother” a chance; once he is appointed, he’ll do the right thing.

            Events turned out differently.

            In reading about the first night of the Republican National Convention, and hearing a clip from Hershel Walker’s speech, my heart dropped, and I felt this very profound embarrassment.  I don’t think that either Walker or Senator Tim Scott are stupid.  Not at all.  But they have chosen to accept a world view that has a number of interesting features.  Let me enumerate them.

            One, the assumption that despite the open racism of Trump and the Republican majority, it somehow does not apply to them or the people that they care for.  I read stories about a similar phenomenon happening in pre-Hitler Germany where many rich Jews thought that the anti-Semitism of the Nazi Party was rhetorical opportunism and only applied to the Nazi attitude towards poor Jews.  The Black Trump supporters that I have encountered, including within my own family, ignore the racial buttons pushed by the Republicans and think that it is all directed towards ‘others,’ e.g., undocumented immigrants; do-nothing Black complainers.

            Two, the assumption that racism is no longer a major feature of US society.  This comes up again and again.  It is the denial of the systemic nature of racism and, instead, the tendency to look at racism as simply a matter of individual interactions and bad behavior.  This goes back to the thinking of Ronald Reagan who, in effect, declared that the era of systemic racism was over.  For the Black Trump supporter, cries of “race” and “racism” are used as excuses by US African Americans and other racialized populations as an reason for not doing the hard work necessary in order to succeed.  Many of these Black Trumpsters have succeeded so why can’t everyone, they ask.

            Three, a form of Black conservative pessimism, i.e., white folks are going to be what white folks are going to be, so we had better get used to it.  This is something that never occurred to me until I read more about the thinking of Justice Clarence Thomas.  You could see a variation on this theme in other parts of African American history, e.g., the late 1800s, where the overwhelming force of white supremacy, e.g, Jim Crow segregation, led segments of our people to decide that it was impossible to overcome; therefore, we must accommodate.  And in accommodating, so that one does not feel humiliated, one must find a justification.

            I am certainly not trying to make excuses for Black Trumpsters.  They are either delusional or trapped in a delusional bubble.  As a result, trying to convince them, as individuals to wake up and smell the coffee tends not to work.  Much like the impact of Covid19 on one’s loss of the sense of smell and taste, the Trump deception has blunted their sense of reality.

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Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the executive editor of globalafricanworker.com and a former president of TransAfrica Forum.

6 thoughts on “What do you say to a Black Trump supporter?

  1. Like your article. Not surprising since I like everything you write whenever I happen to see it – so hope you don’t mind if I piggy-back on it

    The history of oppressed people identifying with the oppressor and/or wanting his acceptance/approval from Jews trying to assimilate by changing their name, cosmetic surgery to their nose, or renouncing their religion – to Asian women removing the natural slant in their eyes – to blacks straightening their hair – or short people ( not really an oppressed group group ) putting lifts in their shoes, is discouraging but an all too human desire to be part of the dominant group.

    While we keep looking at the “pathology” of the oppressed we might better spend out time looking at the “pathology” of the oppressor and ask ourselves what is it that makes them need to feel superior – so much so that rather than place their trust in their innate superiority they need to impose and maintain it by force.

    I have a website and a newsletter where I comment on all things socio-political from a left – and sometimes contrarian – perspective working towards a better world – but I fear the answer may be human evolution is a random accretion of genetic traits and hate, envy, fear, violence are not a result of environment or culture but simply flaws in our genetic make-up. I leave open to discussion whether they are immutable or susceptible to transcendence.

    • Thanks for this response. A few points. First, I agree with you regarding the oppressor, but i would flesh it out differently. The oppressor must create a mass base in order to support its objectives. Building that mass base can be expedited through the creation of the “Other”, i.e., a demonized segment of the population. In the USA, race has become the key instrument for “other-izing”. Second, the oppressed, as you say, can internalize their oppression. My essay was a reflection of my frustration and anger with that internalization but it was also a flag to others that the Black Trump supporters are the equivalent of a “5th Column” within our ranks. They are not just mistaken; they are delusional. And most will not be convinced to change sides because they have accepted the delusion in all of its simplicity. Third, we, from among racialized populations, must remind ourselves that having been the recipient of racist and/or national oppression does not necessarily mean that we have or will accept a progressive analysis as to the source of the oppression and the direction towards liberation.

  2. Good essay. What makes the problem even worse is that Trump has more or less said that if history had gone the way he wishes it had gone slavery would still exist. He said that Andrew Jackson would have handled the conflict over slavery better (if he had been President at the time) than Lincoln did. Jackson was a slave owner and passionate opponent of abolitionists and would have either compromised with the South or just caved into them entirely. There’s more about what Trump said at- http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39773280 and at- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-39723586 .

    Tom
    My blog post on this subject is at- https://theblackandthegreen2.blogspot.com/2017/05/party-of-lincoln.html

  3. I totally agree with you. While Biden isn’t perfect and he has a past history that was harmful to Blacks…what about everyone else that he was trying to negotiate with in the Senate and Congress.. That was many years ago. Trump, however. Is espousing hatred in 2020, giving approval to KKKops who kill. White Nationalist, White supremesist, David Duke in front of the whole Black community.
    Blacks who support him are the enemy and should be shamed and shunned publically and FOREVER. Not another moment or dollar of recognition or support. 50 cent, lil Wayne. The Attorney General of Kentucky, and all the sports figures and other Uncle Tom’s at the Trump convention. SHUT THEM DOW NOW…TODAY.

  4. I’m not great with words but as a white woman married to a black man, I find this article very offensive. It reeks of moral superiority and these comments are filled with falsehoods. This way of thinking saddens me and likely frustrates many.

    • Sorry that you feel that way but, interestingly, you have not indicated the source of your disagreement. I have no idea who your husband is or his politics, but this was a political critique of what has been articulated by Black Trump supporters. In the face of the blatant racism of Trump; the contempt which he openly displayed towards African countries and countries with large Black populations; with his xenophobic approach towards immigration, I simply do not get any Black person who could support this. I realize, of course, that there are different views out there and they exist in my extended family. But to the extent to which I can identify anything other than colonial mentality it is greed, i.e., someone believing that regardless of the racism, that they can do well, individually (or, generously, their family) under the Trump regime.
      Thanks for your note.

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