Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Jan. 20. Succeeding the eight-year reign of the nation’s first African-American president, Barack Hussein Obama (2008-2016), Trump, a white male from Queens, New York, was listed by Forbes magazine in 2016 as the 324th wealthiest person in the world, and the 113th richest in the United States, possessing an estimated net worth of $4.5 billion. At age 70, Trump is the oldest and wealthiest president ever elected to office, defeating Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), without having any prior military or governmental service, and the fifth elected with less than a plurality of the national popular vote.
Endorsed by former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, President Trump has brought into his executive staff a number of individuals whose backgrounds raise suspicions of racially-biased behavior. Foremost amongst these questionable associates is Steve Bannon, former executive chairman of Breitbart, a right-wing news website which caters to white supremacists, white nationalists, and anti-Semites. Bannon is now President Trump’s chief strategist, having headed up his presidential campaign, and is seen by many as Trump’s chief theoretician.
Also initially joining Trump’s cabinet, in the position of National Security Advisor, was Retired General Michael Flynn, who once tweeted that “fear of Muslims is rational,” and that there is a “diseased component inside the Islamic world” that is like a “cancer.” Flynn supports President Trump’s proposals to ban Muslims from immigrating to the United States. However, on Feb. 13, General Flynn resigned as President Trump’s national security advisor after admitting that he “inadvertently briefed the vice president-elect and others with incomplete information” regarding allegations that he spoke with Russian government officials prior to the 2016 U.S. presidential election regarding U.S. sanctions placed on Russia by President Obama.
Next of Trump’s cabinet picks is recently confirmed attorney general, former Alabama Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, who was previously denied a federal judgeship by the U.S. Senate in 1986, amid accusations of racial comments he had made. Lamenting that he was being unfairly accused of being racist because of his Alabama heritage and his name, Sessions nonetheless was confirmed as U.S. Attorney General on Feb. 8. As Huffington Post reporter Jennifer Bendery notes, however, there are substantive reasons which explain why Sessions is getting heat on civil rights. She writes:
He supported gutting the Voting Rights Act in 2013. He has a record of blocking Black judicial nominees. He unsuccessfully prosecuted Black civil rights activists for voter fraud in 1985 ― including a former aide to Martin Luther King, Jr. A year later, he was rejected for a federal judgeship over allegations he called a Black attorney “boy,” suggested a white lawyer working for Black clients was a race traitor and referred to civil rights groups as “un-American” and trying to “force civil rights down the throats of people who were trying to put problems behind them” (Bendery, Jan. 11, 2017).
Adding to his cabinet picks is Steven Mnuchin, confirmed as Secretary of the Treasury on Feb. 13,, who came under fire from housing rights groups for racist practices like lending to very few people of color and maintaining foreclosed-upon properties less in white neighborhoods than in neighborhoods that were predominantly Black and brown.
And rounding out his racially-insensitive cabinet choices is Trump’s selection for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who on Feb. 27, released a statement which suggested that Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were exemplars of “school choice policies,” and thus failing to mention that for decades, HBCUs were the only institutions of higher education that accepted African American students. DeVos stated:
HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice… They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality. Their success has shown that more options help students flourish” (Wermund, February 28, 2017).
Ironically, DeVos’s statement was released the same day President Trump was meeting with HBCU administrators in the White House to herald an initiative moving the responsibility of dealing with HBCUs from the Department of Education to the White House, thus suggesting that the higher education needs of African Americans will garner top priority in the Trump administration.
Many see the election of Donald Trump as a victory for white racists in America and foresee a shift in race relations within the country during his term in office. Others, however, say that Trump is an untried entity, having never held elected office, and may surprise many of his critics. Indeed, outgoing President Obama stated: “I think the president-elect may say one thing and do another once he’s here because the truth of the matter is that it’s a big complicated world” (Obama, December 2016). Thus, the question remains: Will Trump’s policies and rhetoric bring African Americans back into the fold of the Republican Party or will they have the effect of further polarizing race relations in the country by driving a wedge between Whites and African Americans, White and Latinos, Whites and Asian Americans, Christian Americans and Muslim Americans, etc.?
On Feb. 1, seated between retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Omarosa Manigault, a former "Apprentice" contestant who is now an assistant to the president, President Trump sat down with a small group of African American leaders for a breakfast to kick off “Black History Month.” Trump stated: “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who's done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I noticed,” Trump said, thus raising the question in some minds of whether Trump has any idea of who exactly Frederick Douglass is. But, he continued: “Harriett Tubman, Rosa Parks and millions more Black Americans that made America what it is today. Big impact. I’m proud to honor this heritage and will be honoring it more and more” (Landers, February 2, 2017.). Citing as a sign of progress, Trump noted the recent opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, as well as the figures of history featured inside the structure. And, his African American supporters in the meeting, praised the president for his moves on combating inner-city violence.
Part of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign pledges was a promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as ObamaCare, in the United States. However, on March 24,, the Republican-dominated Congress pulled from consideration legislation that would repeal the ACA because House Republicans were divided on whether to repeal it and how to replace it, mostly fearing the inevitable backlash that would certainly follow a repeal of this historic healthcare act. As Bernstein writes:
A real motivation for the repeal was cutting about $1 trillion in taxes, including two ACA taxes paid mostly by the wealthiest Americans. It is axiomatic that when you cut such highly progressive taxes, the benefits go to those at the top of the scale, and it quickly became clear that, for example, almost 50 percent of the cuts went to millionaire households. The 400 richest taxpayers, with average income above $300 million, would get a tax break averaging $7 million. Couple that with the sharp cuts in Medicaid and the predicted premium increases for low-income elderly people in their AHCA plan, and even in D.C., the extent of this Robin-Hood-in-reverse play was too much for moderate Republicans, many of whom have ACA beneficiaries in their districts from whom they were hearing (Bernstein, March 24, 2017).
Eleven days prior to the Republican reversal, the Congressional Budget Office released a report projecting that repeal of the Affordable Care Act would lead to 24 million fewer people having health insurance by 2026 (Haines, March 13, 2017).
National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda Founder and Executive Director Marcela Howell in a released statement spoke of the racial impact of a repeal of the ACA as follows:
The GOP-led Senate is acting recklessly and with disregard for the more than 20 million people that would potentially lose their insurance if the ACA is repealed—increasing the uninsured rate for Black women by anywhere from 11% to 20%. We know there is not a replacement plan, and there will not be one anytime soon. And their personal vendetta against Planned Parenthood plain and simple is playing partisan politics with our healthcare.
Noting that women of color, low-income individuals, young people, LGBTQ-individuals, and persons with disabilities were just a few of the vast majority of individuals that rely on the ACA for insurance coverage, Director Howell continued:
Our legislators have a responsibility to act in the best interest of the people. Repealing the ACA without a replacement is not in anyone’s best interest. Defunding Planned Parenthood is in no one’s best interest.
Her press statement noted that: “55 million women would lose access to no co-pay preventive services, including birth control, STI screenings, and life-saving preventive services such as breast cancer screenings and pap tests (Black Enterprise, January 16, 2017). Though Trump has suffered a temporary defeat in his attempt to repeal and replace the ACA, he and the Republican leadership have noted that it is only a matter of time before ObamaCare goes bankrupt; thus, their attack on the healthcare of minorities and the poor has only temporarily been delayed.
On February 9, confident he had secured Washington’s private agreement, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres announced his selection of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as the new UN peace envoy to war-ravaged Libya. But, one day later, on jaws dropped as Trump’s UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, issued her unexpected, and bizarre, public response. Foreign Policy magazine reports that "the White House stepped in at the last minute to kill off the appointment." And the reason became clear as the White House denounced the selection as "unfairly biased" against Israel because Fayyad is Palestinian. In other words, it is understandable for America to discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, religion, etc. As Hussein Ibish stated in regards to Fayyad’s dismissal: “The statement barring Fayyad speaks in this distinctive, immediately identifiable and sadistically racist voice. It does not acknowledge him as a person to be judged on his own merit, instead casting him as a kind of flag with legs” (Ibish, February 12, 2017).
Then there were Trump’s two executive orders attempting to restrict travel to the United States from majority-Muslim countries: Syria, Iran, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Iraq. The first executive order was signed by President Trump on January 27, and the second on March 6. A nationwide restraining order against the first ban was issued on Feb. 3, by U.S. District Judge James Robart in Washington state who wrote that the executive order “adversely affects the state’s residents in areas of employment, education, business, family relations and freedom to travel.” He added that the ban harmed the state’s public universities and tax base noting that the harms were “significant and ongoing” (Brunner, Lee, and Gutman, February 3, 2017).
The second executive order was shot down by two federal judges on March 15, one in Hawaii, and the other in Maryland. The second executive order had removed Iraq from the travel ban. Trump’s first immigration ban was extremely broad, and even prevented green card holders who had long been in the country legally from reentering the country if they travelled abroad. Administration lawyers did vet the second travel ban; however, even though it gave no preferences for certain religious minorities, as the first ban did, the two federal judges still felt that it was unconstitutional and unfairly targeted Muslims (Mehrotra and Larson, March 15, 2017). At a subsequent rally of Trump supporters in Nashville, Tenn., President Trump vowed to fight on stating: “Let me tell you something: I think we should go back to the first one and go all the way…. This ruling makes us look weak” (Van Voris and Larson, March 15, 2017).
One can go on with numerous other examples of racist rhetoric and racist behaviors during the 2016 presidential campaign—from singling out a judge for his Mexican heritage as proof that he would not rule judiciously to his accusation that Mexicans are drug pushers, criminals, and rapists—and numerous racial actions committed by Donald Trump when he was simply a private citizen, and they all will suggest the same conclusion: Yes, Donald J. Trump is a white racist. But we should not be surprised or shocked by this, as the United States is a country with a very long history of racism that was forged on the backs of enslaved Africans, forced to till the fields for over 250 years, and endure over 300 years of racial discrimination from bonded laborers to chattel slaves, to Jim Crow violence and intimidation, harassment, lynching, denial of civil rights, etc. The United States is a capitalist nation, and the preferred manner in which U.S. capitalists have decided to justify the necessary gap in wealth, ownership, and opportunities—which capitalism demands—has always been race.
But for those of you who are opposed to such racist inclinations and believe the only alternative is to embrace the Democratic Party for solace and comfort during this time of disruption and uncertainty, let me disabuse you of such a mistaken notion. As the editor of the Black Agenda Report wrote on Feb. 7:
Any “resistance” to Trump that allies itself with Democrats, is futile. The Democrats are “unprincipled scoundrels” who “have no desire to move away from their corporate sugar daddies.” If the same people that now declare themselves foes of Trumpism “spend time wondering if they should back Cory ‘the hooker’ Booker or Elizabeth Warren in 2020, or ponder who should run the Democratic National Committee, they aren’t resisting anything (Kimberley, February 7, 2017).
The primary reason the Democrats lost the 2016 presidential election, in this author’s opinion, is because the party is bankrupt, devoid of legitimacy, lacking viable policies that support working-class folks, and have lost whatever connection they may have previously enjoyed with those struggling to survive in 21st century America. While Hillary Clinton posed as an advocate for the rights of women throughout the campaign, she filled her campaign coffers with millions of dollars from the Persian Gulf monarchies, from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia, in other words, she took campaign donations from the most misogynistic, women-hating, unelected, dictatorial regimes in the world. And why do you think that Hillary never publicly released the transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs - speeches which garnered her hundreds of thousands of dollars? And if you don’t believe she operated a “Pay to Play” scheme in her political methods, then you are likely to conclude that Hillary’s decision to overthrow President Gaddafi in Libya simply coincided with the same policy urged on by Saudi Arabia. Or perhaps it was just coincidence that Hillary spent much of her time in the State Department planning for the overthrow of the elected government of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, just as the House of Saud called for. And what of candidate Trump’s allegation on Aug. 10, 2016, when he called President Barack Obama the “founder of ISIS” and implicated Hillary Clinton as a co-founder. When conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt said that he understood Trump to mean that Obama had “created the vacuum that lost the peace” in Iraq, Trump objected and stated flatly: “No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS,” Trump continued: “I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton” [implying she gets a most valuable player award as well for this action] (Kopan, August 12, 2016). Likewise, Hillary went along with the House of Saud in supporting the Iraq War, as Saudi Arabia sounded the alarm that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, weapons which were never found.
And, no, there are no other viable Democratic politicians who can lead working people out of this mess they find themselves in. As the Wikileaks emails revealed, Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist, has no chance of pushing the Democratic Party to the left. He was compromised, blocked, and prevented from getting the 2016 Democratic nomination, and the corporate directors of the Democratic Party have no intention of turning the party over to him and his supporters. Relevant to West Virginia is the Wikileak of DNC Committee Chief Financial Officer Brad Marshall, who suggested portraying Sanders, who is a Jew from Brooklyn, New York, as an atheist. “It might [make] no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief,” Marshall wrote, apparently referring to Sanders and the upcoming Kentucky and West Virginia primaries. “My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist,” he wrote. So what is so wrong with the DNC preferring HRC over Bernie, one may ask. In the primaries, the national party organizations are supposed to be neutral amongst their own candidates. But the Wikileaks emails confirm that the DNC “party establishment was in the tank for Clinton long before the primaries were decided” (Halper and Tacopino, July 22, 2016).
Again, I return to the words of Black Agenda Report editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley, and the clear words she wrote in her recent article titled “Freedom Rider: ‘Resist Trump, Resist the Democrats’.” Kimberley writes:
Resistance is the new watch word for millions of people who oppose Donald Trump and his administration. This is a positive development against a president who made such open appeals to white American supremacy and the 21st century iterations of manifest destiny.
His announcement of a travel ban directed at citizens of seven mostly Muslim nations rekindled outrage and denunciation from millions of people around the country. Those protests were righteous and needed to take place. What they did not need was the presence of Democratic politicians who are still committed to imperialism and neoliberalism and to their failed policies which brought Trump to the presidency. It is the Democrats who must be resisted first. If not this nascent movement will be just the latest in a long line of failure for the left. The left must create the political crisis necessary to end not just Trumpism but all of the isms that are ruining the lives of millions of people.
Democratic Senate leader Charles Schumer shed tears for stranded refugees but fully supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq, one of the nations targeted by the travel ban. Schumer is also one of the key spokespersons for Israel’s occupation of Palestine and endless massacres in Gaza. Cory Booker is an opportunist and a corporate hooker who also quickly stepped into that spotlight. Elizabeth Warren may ask tough questions at confirmation hearings, but invariably votes to approve Trump’s nominees. They and their colleagues can always be counted on to approve of American imperialism (Kimberley, February 7, 2017).
An inevitable divide has been occurring between Black working-class folks and the nascent Black capitalist class. A case in point is the recent criticism of Steve Harvey, American comedian, television host, producer, radio personality, actor, and author, who met with President Trump on Jan. 6. After the meeting, on Jan. 13, Harvey tweeted:
Our president (Obama) asked that all of us sit down and talk to one another in order to move our country forward….. the transition teams on both sides asked me to meet and I’m glad I did. I found him in our meeting both congenial and sincere. Trump wants to help with the situations in the inner cities so he immediately got Dr. Ben Carson on the phone to put us together to begin dialog in looking at programs and housing to help our inner cities and he’s very open to my mentoring efforts across the country. I walked away feeling like I had just talked with a man who genuinely wants to make a difference in this area. I feel that something really great could come out of this… I would sit with him anytime (Harvey, January 13, 2017).
The following YouTube commentary by an unnamed Black radio disc jockey on TICKETTv sums up many of the Black working-class comments hurled at Steve Harvey in the wake of his visit with President Trump:
Listen man, listen, listen, listen. So I just got finished listening to my brother Town Biz video. Big up to my brother Town Biznizz J.S. Ya’ll go check out his channel. That’s my partner in crime on here on uncut, Raw and Uncut, where we do our show. We got one coming for ya’ll probably later on this week. Anyways, I heard this video with Steve Harvey man. And, um, Steve Harvey apparently did a, uh, uh, segment on his radio show, I think it was on his radio show, where he was talking about how he was very disappointed that Black people were calling him a coon and a sell-out for going and sitting down with Donald Trump, and that, uh, he didn’t see the problem apparently with going and sitting down with the man, and that if his presence was requested by Donald Trump, that he’ll go see him again. You know what, I totally agree with what Town Biz said. Man, fuck Steve Harvey, man. We already knew you was a buck dancing coon, man. And the thing is is this: You can feel as bad as you wanna feel, but at the end of the day, you need to go listen to brothers like T.I. [born Clifford Joseph Harris Jr.], you need to be listening to brothers like D.L. Hughley who broke down the game that’s being ran on you. All these Black celebrities are getting game ran on them, man. Just like T.I. said, man: They breaking down the demographics. They see Steve Harvey that can talk to women, so they get him, they get him, so they can get all the Black women paying attention. You understand? They getting Kanye West because they think that the Hip Hop world—they can get him through the Hip Hop world—so they can get the Hip Hop culture. Oh, okay, we talked to Kanye West, we got that demographic. Oh, okay, we go, we go get M.L.K. Jr. or M.L.K. III on M.L.K. Day; okay, yeah, we straight with that. Boom, we got that segment of people. Come on man, ya’ll got to see through this shit, man. And Steve Harvey, I don’t give a damn how many times Steven A. Snitch [Smith] go on his ESPN First Fake [Take] and defend you. He’s a clown too. He’s a coon too. He’s the same one, like I said before, that sat up there and said that he didn’t have a problem with 87-year-old Bobby Bowden [retired white male Florida Seminoles football coach] calling him—who’s a grown damn man—like, like he like to say, a boy. Yep, Steven A. Snitch said that. This is the same dude who when Michele Beadle [white female sports reporter on ESPN] got all up in his grill violated company policy. What did he do? He tucked his tail and ran like a coward. But he can sit up there at any given moment, at any given moment, and stick out his chest like he Teflon Don peed up when it come to any Black person. I’m telling ya’ll that’s why I have no type of respect, no respect, for, uh, Steve Harvey or Steven A. Smith, but especially Steven A. Smith. But with Steve Harvey doubling down on this, I lost all respect for Steve Harvey, man. Oh, and that video 1LVZ put out—straight flame. TICKETTv man; ya’ll go check out the 1LVZ as well—LDBC, stand up (“Steve Harvey…”, January 16, 2017).
Contrarily, however, Georgetown sociology professor, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, put the onus on Trump, and not on Harvey, when he said in regards to Steve Harvey meeting with Trump:
Look, Steve Harvey, as was said, is a remarkable man, and a successful man. There’s no problem with that. The problem is Donald Trump, not Steve Harvey. Look, if you want a conversation with white America, do you go to Miley Cyrus or Mitch McConnell? The point is that, why do an end-run around Mitch McConnell or John Boehner or Paul Ryan and speak to say, I don’t know, George Clooney? The point is that there are political representatives of African American culture…I’m saying that if you are talking about serious issues of weight, value, and gravitas in Black America, no, I don’t think a comedian is the top of the list to speak about (Dyson, January 17, 2017).
If this pattern is reflective of what is going on in Black America, then it does suggest a possible division along class lines opening up amongst Blacks. And this further supports this author’s prior argument that the Democratic Party has lost its moorings, as its traditional monolithic Black base is apparently bifurcating.
Again, I return to the words of Black Agenda Report editor Margaret Kimberley:
The debacle that brought Trump to the presidency has been moving in slow motion for years. It was just a matter of time before the Democrats would lose this office as they had done with the House, the Senate, and most state legislatures. They have no desire to move away from their corporate sugar daddies, instead preferring to devolve into pretense, which was obvious to the voters who wouldn’t stand with Hillary Clinton.
The unprincipled scoundrels of that party have done everything except take responsibility for years of treachery. They did nothing to fight against the gerrymandering which gave the Republicans safe seats all over the country. They didn’t care about Republican triumphs in Wisconsin which made the country safe for union busting. They don’t care about the anti-abortion laws that have been passed in state after state. The only way to fight what they claim they don’t want would be to engage and energize their voters, but they have no interest in doing that. Their modus operandi is inherently hostile to the interests of the masses. The Democrats were content to hold the presidency and make deals with Republicans and fool people into thinking they had done their best.
They continue to make excuses for Hillary Clinton’s defeat while simultaneously pushing anti-Russian propaganda. They ratchet up the call for war while also diverting attention from their own failures. Trump is no better as he engages in threats against China and Iran. Trump can’t peel Russia away from its alliance with those countries. They are allied precisely because of American aggression and they won’t be fooled by the newest criminal in the White House. The Democrats and Republicans may continue to wreak havoc around the world, but none of their mad dreams will come to fruition (Kimberley, February 7, 2017).
In conclusion, in the age of Trump—President Trump that is—race is very much alive in the United States and is still playing the role assigned to it by many of the founding fathers of the country to act as a wedge to divide the white and Black working class, and obfuscating the role of the puppeteers who are pulling the strings of the economy and culture for the ruling class.
Barack Obama in “Trevor Noah: Trump Is Racist.” December 13, 2016. YouTube [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kMswKahYug].
Bendery, Jennifer. January 11, 2017. “Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III Says His Name Is Why People Think He’s Racist.” Huffington Post. New York, NY: Huffington Post Media Group. [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/jeff-sessions-attorney-general-racism_us_58751865e4b099cdb0ffb10a].
Bernstein, Jared. March 24, 2017. “Why Republicans failed to repeal Obamacare.” The Washington Post. New York, NY: Nash Holding LLC. [https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/03/24/what-just-happened-explaining-the-republicans-big-health-care-fail/?utm_term=.1251cd2c96c5].
Black Enterprise. January 16, 2017. “Repealing Obamacare Will Hurt Black Women and Their Faimilies.” Black Enterprise. New York, NY: Earl G. Graves, Sr. [http://www.blackenterprise.com/news/politics/repealing-obamacare-will-likely-hurt-black-women-families/].
Brunner, Jim, Jessica Lee, and David Gutman. February 3, 2017. “Judge in Seattle halts Trump’s immigration order nationwide; White House vows fight.” The Seattle Times. Seattle, WA: The Seattle Times Company. [http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/federal-judge-in-seattle-halts-trumps-immigration-order/].
Dyson, Michael Eric. January 17, 2017. New backlash after Steve Harvey meets with Trump. Fox News Interview on YouTube. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmdIe5hYM6A].
Haines, Tim. March 13, 2017. “CNN: Congressional Budget Office Predicts 24 Million More Uninsured By 2026 Under Trump Plan.” Chicago, IL: Realclear Investors. [http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2017/03/13/cnn_congressional_budget_office_predicts_24_million_more_uninsured_by_2026_under_trump_plan.html].
Halper, Daniel and joe Tacopino. July 22, 2016. “Leaked emails show how Democrats screwed Sanders.” New York Post. New York, NY: News Corp. [http://nypost.com/2016/07/22/leaked-emails-show-how-democrats-screwed-sanders/].
Harvey, Steve. January 13, 2017. “My meeting with @realDonaldTrump …” Twitter. [https://twitter.com/IAmSteveHarvey/status/820007199917375489/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw].
Ibish, Hussein. February 12, 2017. “Who is Salam Fayyad and why does the US fear him?” The National. UAE: Abu Dhabi Media. [http://www.thenational.ae/opinion/comment/who-is-salam-fayyad-and-why-does-the-us-fear-him].
Kimberley, Margaret. February 7, 2017. “Freedom Rider: ‘Resist Trump, Resist the Democrats’.” Black Agenda Report. [http://blackagendareport.com/resist_trump_resist_democrats].
Kopan, Tal. August 12, 2016. “Donald Trump: I meant that Obama founded ISIS, literally.” CNN Politics. Atlanta, GA: CNN. [http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/11/politics/donald-trump-hugh-hewitt-obama-founder-isis/].
Landers, Elizabeth. February 2, 2017. “Trump holds 'little breakfast' to kick off Black History Month.” CNN Politics. Atlanta, GA: CNN. [http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/01/politics/african-american-meeting-donald-trump-frederick-douglass/].
Mehrotra, Kartikay and Erik Larson. March 15, 2017. “Trump’s Second Bid at Travel Ban Knocked Down by Two U.S. Judges.” Bloomberg Politics. New York, NY: Bloomberg News. [https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-03-15/trump-s-second-travel-ban-is-blocked-by-u-s-judge-j0bk602s].
Office for Civil Rights. March 1991. “Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Higher Education Desegregation.” Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. [https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/hq9511.html].
“Steve Harvey says he’s very hurt that Black people called him a coon for meeting Trump!” January 16, 2017. TICKETTV Production. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rR1aN7RSbic].
Van Voris, Bob and Erik Larson. March 15, 2017. “Trump on Travel Ban Ruling: ‘Go Back to the First One’.” Bloomberg Politics. New York, NY: Bloomberg News. [https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-03-16/trump-on-travel-ban-ruling-go-back-to-the-first-one].
Wermund, Benjamin. February 28, 2017. “DeVos sparks controversy with comments on black colleges.” POLITICO. Arlington County, VA: Capitol News Company. [http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/betsy-devos-hbcu-historically-black-colleges-235498].
 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are institutions of higher education in the United States established prior to 1964 with the intention of primarily serving the African-American community. Prior to the US Civil War when chattel slavery of African Americans was legal, blacks were banned from any sort of education in the United States. After the Civil War, Reconstruction was followed by decades of lynchings, intimidation, and further denial of education for Blacks. When Black institutions of higher education were finally established, beginning in the late nineteenth century, the institutions were unequally funded compared to their white counterparts and were given second-rate resources. “Title III of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, authorizes funds for enhancing HBCUs. The statute authorizes the ‘Strengthening Historically Black Colleges and Universities Program’ and the ‘Strengthening Historically Black Graduate Institutions Program.’ Title III is administered by the Department's Office of Postsecondary Education - Division of Institutional Development” (Office of Civil Rights, March 1991).
As a child growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, I used to absolutely love to watch science fiction television shows. Especially the ones that were “safely” scary, like Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone in which my mind would be tickled without too much gore and violence. As I explore his Cabinet picks, who would have thought that fifty years later, I’d actually have a front-row seat with an intimate view in a real-life Twilight Zone called the Administration of the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump?
Trump Swearing In
Many who tuned in to see the swearing in of the 45th President of the U.S. thought it was the beginning of yet another U.S. Presidential Administration. But, this is not just any other U.S. Administration: the Donald J. Trump Presidency has already been declared in the media over 1,000 times as an uncomfortable episode in the 1950s US science fiction television series, The Twilight Zone.
“You unlock this door with the key with the key of imagination: beyond it is another dimension—the dimension of sound; the dimension of sight; a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into the twilight zone.”
So begins one of the versions (I found three) that introduced the TV series. It is this intro that I read into the Congressional Record about the Presidency of George W. Bush. But, only a few days into his Presidency, I do believe that Donald J. Trump has even surpassed W. After his election win, there was much media speculation on how the spoils of war would be distributed—and who would get what plum positions. On November 15, Trump tweeted that only he knew who his finalists would be; therefore, all the wild speculation was just that. Now, one week into his Presidency, let’s just take a look at who actually got what, focusing on his Cabinet picks thus far.
Alabama U.S. Senator, Jeff Sessions, was President Trump’s first nomination, for the Attorney General slot, taking over leadership of the Justice Department from President Obama’s Loretta Lynch. Although he was the Trump’s first nomination, Sessions is yet to be confirmed by his Senate colleagues. Southerners who are “men of their times” are often dogged by allegations of being racist because they did not rise above that time. I personally know some of those making the most egregious allegations against the Senator whose judgeship aspirations were derailed due to the charges. This time, the Senator seems poised to take office in the Trump Administration—maybe before this month ends.
Next, Trump announced that he was considering General James “Mad Dog” Mattis as his Pentagon Secretary. Of course, I objected because of the doctrine of civilian control that Trump was just obliterating with his nominations. Then, Dr. Ben Carson was announced as Trump’s choice for HUD (Housing and Urban Development) and I complained because despite Dr. Carson’s obvious talents as a world renowned neurosurgeon, and despite his knowledge of health care and how the neoliberal health industry drains dollars from the public, but fails to demonstrate enough care about public care, it appeared to me that Trump had selected the Black man to deal with the Cabinet post perceived to deal with the issues of urban America—a euphemism in polite circles for Black and Brown people in the U.S. So, I tweeted back to Trump, “Why HUD and not HHS [Health and Human Services]??????” This is a classic way to pigeon-hole someone with the intent to “keep them in their place.” Tellingly, Congressman Dr. Tom Price from my home state of Georgia, an orthopedic surgeon, was selected by Trump to serve as his HHS Secretary. Trump nominated Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s wife, and previous Secretar
y of Labor under President George W. Bush, Taiwan-born Elaine Chao, to serve him at the helm of the Department of Transportation.
In stunning fashion, Trump kicked off nominations on what seemed to be “Billionaire Week” when he selected billionaire Betsey DeVos (who is also the sister of Blackwater founder, Erik Prince) to serve as his Secretary of Education. He rounded out the week by tapping Wilbur Ross to become the country’s Secretary of Commerce; hundred millionaire Steve Mnuchin (who is registered to vote in both California and New York, according to Fortune) to serve as Treasury Secretary; and from a billionaire family, Todd Ricketts, to back up Ross as the second in command at Commerce. A few days later, Trump stuck with the hundred millionaire club when he nominated Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO at ExxonMobil, for Secretary of State.
Serving at Cabinet-level positions, while not formally being in the Cabinet, are Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Haley is already on the job representing the U.S. at the United Nations while President Trump is rumored to be considering an executive order threatening drastic cuts in current U.S. funding levels at the global body. Therefore, as of this writing, President Trump has only two Cabinet officials actually serving in office right now, other than his Vice President: Secretary of Defense General Mattis and Secretary of Homeland Security General John Kelly, who oversaw torture and illegal detentions at the U.S.-held prison at Guantanamo Bay on the island of Cuba. Thus, so far, the Trump Cabinet can be seen largely as a group of multimillionaires and billionaires and generals. Former Assistant Treasury Secretary Dr. Paul Craig Roberts says that President Trump needs strong personality types who won’t be pushed around by bullies in the press or in Congress. While that is probably true, too, still I wonder if this is the right mix of leadership to put the U.S. on the right track. And honestly, I wonder if people who have been so consumed with personal interest and bottom line corporate interest even possess the necessary character and personality ingredients to become servants of the public interest—a greater good than the bottom line. I wonder if generals who are trained and prepared to go to war at the drop of a hat should command offices like Pentagon Secretary; and if the general at Homeland Security is willing to work his way out of a job by abolishing that Bill of Rights nightmare after ushering in immigration reform and securing U.S. borders— whatever that means—when a clear and more present danger to the U.S. honestly exists within the U.S. Congress. But that’s another topic for another day. Therefore, I have to end this article exactly where I began it: on the outskirts of The Outer Limits (another popular TV show of the same genre and time period) and on my way to my ringside seat in The Twilight Zone.
Actually, it was a newspaper in Scotland that first intoned The Twilight Zone moniker for the Trump Presidency by publishing this: “After a long absence, The Twilight Zone returns with one of the most ambitious, expensive, and controversial productions in broadcast history.” It was writing about the Trump inauguration. But in an even stranger twist of facts, some intrepid social media maven was able to track down a 1950s-era TV show entitled Track down which focuses on the Wild West of the U.S. during the late 1800s. One particular 1958 episode is entitled “The End of the World.” And believe it or not, the star of this episode is a fellow by the name of Dr. Walter Trump who claims that by building a wall he can prevent the world from coming to an end by midnight at the end of that very day—November 14th. Robert Culp (1930–2010) plays the role of Hoby Gilman, the Texas Ranger charged with tracking down crooks and criminals—and in this episode, the crook is Dr. Trump. In the end, Gilman gets his man, arresting Dr. Trump for fraud. Yes, truth can be stranger than fiction—including science fiction. And every time I think about the Trump Cabinet of Generals and Billionaires, I can’t help but wonder if I’m a two-bit star in The Twilight Zone, The X Files, or The Prisoner.