President Trump and the Black Blowback

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
January 22, 2017

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeLast Friday Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States of America. As in so many other offensive things he has tweeted since November, Trump began this year by trying to besmirch (unfortunately one dictionary defines the meaning of this word as “to blacken”) the reputation of John Lewis and his courageous actions in turning the USA away from its segregationist past and setting it on a path to achieve its founders’ dreams.

Here is a man, with no sense of history, dismissing an icon of America’s attempt to redeem its past, with a silly phrase “All talk, talk, talk-no action or results.” Such disparagement led David Remnick of the New Yorker to ask: “Who would have the impoverished language to dismiss the whole of John Lewis as “sad”? To which he answers: “As it happens, the President-elect of the US.”

This is a sad time in America’s history. It portends badly for the future of blacks and other minorities in that country. Here is a president without a moral compass whose only function, it seems, is to belittle prominent figures (one can also cite the example of John McCain) who, in their own ways, have sought to have America realize the country’s dreams: a society in which all men and women can live in liberty and tranquility.

When Lewis was putting his body on the line to achieve an equal society, Trump was avoiding the draft-he claimed to have bone spurs in his feet-and preventing African-Americans from renting apartments in his buildings in New York City and in Norfolk, Virginia. His people coded their applications with a “C.” He inherited this noble tradition from his father Fred.

While Trump was studying real estate business at Wharton School, Pennsylvania, and living a glamorous life in New York City, Lewis, a sharecropper’s son, was directing a Voter Education Project in Atlanta, Georgia.

While Trump was sacrificing for America, creating thousands of jobs as he says, Lewis was registering millions of Americans to vote. Trump cared about making money; Lewis cared about liberating people and releasing their human potential.

These values will come to a head in 2017: a bully who believes that money and the making of money are the sine qua non of a good life; a civil rights leader who believes in people and stands for honesty and decency.

Margaret Burnham, a professor of Law and Africana Studies at Northeastern University in Boston, is a friend. Together we watched the results of the presidential election on election night. A month ago she made the following argument in the London Guardian:

“At the end of the American civil war, before Reconstruction could plant its feet solidly in the South, white people in the region fought to ‘redeem’ their states from freedmen, whom they saw as corrupt and ignorant, and northern rulers, whom they deemed to be corrupt opportunists.

“So bloody was the campaign that ultimately returned black people to near-slavery that one writer, Nicholas Lemann, described the redemption period, from 1876 to the mid-1890s, as the last battle of the civil war.

“I remind you of this because the president-elect’s selection of Jeff Sessions as attorney general suggests, perhaps more than any other appointment, that the redeemers have once again triumphed” (December 19, 2016).

Lewis, breaking congressional tradition, testified against Sessions last week when the Senate Judiciary Committee held its confirmation hearing on his (Sessions) suitability to be attorney general. He said: “I was born in rural Alabama, not very far from where Senator Sessions was raised. There was no way to escape or deny the choke hold of discrimination and racial hate that surrounded us….I tasted the bitter fruits of segregation and racial discrimination….

“It doesn’t matter how Senator Sessions may smile, how friendly he may speak to you. We need someone who will stand up and speak up and speak out for the people who need help…We need someone as attorney general who is going to look out for all of us, not just some of us” (January 11, 2017).

In speaking of the frightening prospect of a Sessions Justice Department and an altered Supreme Court, Burnham warns: “Far more frightening, however is the real possibility that the current regime will usher in an era of sustained political violence, reminiscent, in purpose if not precisely in kind, of what was experienced at the original redemption.”

Burnham reminds us that in the presidential election of 1880 (at the beginning of the Reconstruction period) black voter turnout in North Carolina was 81 percent. That figure dropped to 1 percent by the 1912 election. She notes: “While a black North Carolinian was elected to Congress in 1897, a second would not serve in that body until 1992.”

Blacks and other minorities face a tumultuous four years under Trump who wishes to turn back the civil rights clock by fifty years. They must do everything to delegitimize his presidency. Such treatment, for an egomaniac, would be as bitter as wormwood and sharp as a two-edged sword.

Professor Cudjoe’s email address is scudjoe@wellesley.edu. He can be reached @ProfessorCudjoe.

4 Responses to “President Trump and the Black Blowback”


  • Well, what do we know Doc,& yet another timely article on your part. Isn’t this something? It was only yesterday,I finally decided ,to egin the process of writing a long overdue book, on ‘Global African leadership-or lack thereof.’
    Still trying to finetune the title.The overall theme is simple :-It’s a call for a socially comatose ,& more so, misguided ,selfish ,Global Afro Middle Class,to step up and deliver -irrespective to if they are politicians ,millionaire sports/entertainment Celebs ,Business folks etc.
    Too many prefer to sit idly on the side lines ,& gloat about their personal successes,or high end credential acquisitions, while doing nada of significance ,to elevate desperate members of their race-and by extention -the society /world at large ,in which they live.
    Now ,since it is said, that ‘the upholder is worst than the thief,’then the neo apologists ,who defends such attitudes ,must likewise be called out.
    Not that I ,will ever dare characterize-suddenly outraged -Civil Rights Idol ,and ‘pro Royal CLintonian Democrat’ -John Lewis ,as such.
    I’ll attempt to respond to a few snippets of your blog,as we try to understand prevailing socio political realities ,that are here to stay,& here it is :-
    1. You said, “This is a sad time in America’s history. It portends badly for the future of blacks and other minorities in that country. Here is a president without a moral compass whose only function, it seems, is to belittle prominent figures (one can also cite the example of John McCain) who, in their own ways, have sought to have America realize the country’s dreams: a society in which all men and women can live in liberty and tranquility.”
    Not sure it can be any sadder ,then when the previous 44 leaders ruled ,Doc.
    To date, Black folks, never got those’ 30 acres ,& a Mule ,’as promised, by eventually murdered Lincoln, for fighting in the devisive American Civil War,many Southern folks ,are still pissed off at loosing. Yep a young ,White male walked into a Black Southern Church ,with a loaded rifle,& after listening to he sermon,calmly murdered 9 people. No big thing,let’s move on,dor guns don’t kill ,says White America.
    The modern day Jim Crow Prison Industrial Complex ,& neo Genocidal,Law Enforcement/ Judicial system ,is still in full bloom & even florished under Obama. Thanks Michelle Alexander ,for stepping out from your comfort zone,to speak up.

    https://mobile.nytimes.com/2012/03/07/books/michelle-alexanders-new-jim-crow-raises-drug-law-debates.html

    There is nothing that Donald Trump would do ,to change that,if the myriad of wealthy ,influential Black Million dollar Africans ,won’t take the lead,to address same.
    We know what would happen, if these were special minorities Jews ,or Asians , and heavens forbid , White Southern/Western Europeans suffering ,in similar dehumanizing fashion ,across Democratic America.
    Last I checked ,Donald Trump never called John Mc Cain a foreigner ,because he was born on some ship in Panama, to his milltary Commander Papa.
    The sly bastard ,however questioned Barrack’s birthplace ,for obvious reasons.
    Maybe he did ,but I don’t recall, Mc Cain comming to the former President defense,hmmmm? I remember vividly however ,the lifetime Warmonger, singing “bomb,bomb ,bomb Iran,” during his failed Presidential campaign bid,with that typical impish grin on his face. Why?Persian Muslim lives, don’t matter!

    http://politicalhumor.about.com/od/johnmccain/youtube/mccain-bombiran.htm

    Unlike many blokes-not named Barrack Obama ,Bill Clinton ,Rush Limbeaugh ,GW Bush ,& Donald Trump-Military elite Johnny Mack ,returned from a Vietnam prison camp, to a heros welcome , promptly dumped his loyal ,yet ailing wife ,for a more palatable ,younger ,financially profitable ,Beer Hieress ,then made his succeasful plunge into politics. Good for him. He’ll be fine Doc.
    You added ,”It doesn’t matter how Senator Sessions may smile, how friendly he may speak to you. We need someone who will stand up and speak up and speak out for the people who need help…We need someone as attorney general who is going to look out for all of us, not just some of us” (January 11, 2017).

    Barrack Hussain Obama had what ,2 Afro American AGs-including some Holder guy,with Bajan Caribbean roots -during his overhyped, ,glorified Reign ,as Commander in Chief,& so the question is,did Afro Americans ,or folks of color ,experienced better Justice ,than under the 44 White Presidents that served before-including that political weasel ,Bill Clinton,aka Slick Willy-who delusional Literature Nobelist ,Toni Morrison ,once affectionately called,’ Americas first Black President?’
    Yeah Toni,the same Bill Clinton ,(with self serving Hillary -Tammy -Wynnete Rodman at his side)who extended GH Bush policy ,of preventing Bantu looking Haitian Boat people from entering America,while welcoming Cubans , then orchestrated the ouster,of Haiti’s 1st Democratically elected President ,or slept through the agonizing massacre ,of 800,000 Rwandans ,as opposed to using his P5 clout ,on the Security Council, to save them -as was done for Whiter,Balkan /former Yugoslavian Genocide victims.
    Got that. Black Americans are fearful of what the Supreme Court would look like under The Donald ,as they should ,but was it better for them ,so far ,through the years that Thurgood Marshall succesor ,in Affirmative action beneficiary(now critic )Justice Clarence Thomas ruled?
    Under GW Bush,Colin Powell,& Condi Rice ,were the 2 first Afro American Secretary of State . Has those 2 done anything of worth , that would advance the cause of Humanity-especially ,as it relates to African people,& others of color?
    During Barrack Hussain Obama political reign , Israel florished financially ,while Africa lagged far behind. Europe remained peaceful,while wars ,and similar beatdown occured in countries (chiefly)of color,such as Afghanistan,Iraq, Yemen ,and Syria.
    Both America ,& China helped divide Sudan , & we know who gave the green light for the ouster of Quadaffi,& why oil rich Lybia ,is in such a politically pecarious state today.
    Fast forward to 2017,& what do we see? ISIS is alive, Al Quaida is florishing,& Israel ,among others ,could not wait to see the back of Obama,as they celebrate President Trump ascention.
    Suddenly ,there is a Mr Lewis sighting. Silent as a mouse, during Barrack stewardahip,even as the lives of Black folks regressed,on all socio political fronts.

    http://www.blacknews.com/news/open_letter_to_tom_joyner101.shtml#.WIYp-nTD_qA

    Did I mention ,that the Black Middle class,are a lost Sheep,politically clueless,& often petty bunch ,who would quicker waste their efforts on butt slapping trivialities,while pandering /appeasing others ,who mean them harm,as opposed to working in unison ,to elevate the lives of their people,as well as more profitable causes?
    Thanks Travis Smiley,& Dr Cornel West ,for trying to expose Barracks faulty concept of” Change . ”
    In addition to his lifetime mentor ,in Black Liberation Theology guru ,Rev Wright,Black Civil Rights Founding Fathers ,such as Stokley Carmichael, MalcolmX,Dr MLK, & Medger Evers ,are all turning over in their respective graves ,to see the squandered opportunities under Barrack-which essentially created a partway ,for the rise of neo Facist, Donald Trump.
    Sorry Doc ,tribal pride is good for some ,but irrespective of which yardstick is used by way of assessment,Barrack Obama political stewarsahip ,was a dismal failure,especially for people that looked like his Kenyan Papa,his wife,& 2 authentically ,Afro American kids.
    The guy won’t recognize the Words ‘Black Agenda ,’even if it rose up from the gun murder den, of his still misanaged ,racially skewed, home state Chicago ,and smack him in the face.
    No,there won’t be no “Blowback” in Black America ,just like there weren’t any in our T&T ,during Kamla ,or her mentor ,Basdeo Panday reign.
    Whether it’s across Africa ,America ,or the Caribbean as a whole ,Black folks , have always ‘gotten the short end of the stick ,’from leaders,that looked like them.
    Not surprising, others ,would continue similar beatdowns ,once the opportunity presents itself.
    I am however subject to correction ,& hvve faith that the devided Afro Masses ,might see the light.
    If Donald Trump ,is that person who can finally trigger that outrage ,maybe ,it’s a win.
    Sadly ,most Afro Americans elites ,remain too embolden to the decrepit Democratic Party Organization ,and Corporate America , when they should instead , be using there increasing wealth,and growing influence ,to form their own Orgqnizations,to further self interest.
    Just like us in T&T ,& Continental Africa,childish ,neo Fuedal Politics ,remains the norm.
    The African Union made perhaps it’s 1st meaningful ,independent political move, to remove an African political tyrant in Gambia ,and that gives me hope.
    In T&T today, THA elections are taking place ,which might help preserve the status quo.
    Let’s hope for neglected Tobagonians ,this won’t be the case. The clock is ticking DR Rowley. Tokenism ,has no value in our country-if sustainable development, is the end game.
    A viable ,more independent ,thriving Tobago,is a boon for our entire Twin Island Republic.
    Say what you wish about them ,but Kamla ,Basdeo Panday, their Hindu leaders Sat Maraj ,& like minded others ,within the Indo Trini ,Muslim community ,delivered for their people.
    Will you by 2020,or sooner?Must Tobago ,& Afro constituencies across T&T ,remain convenient ,political footballs ,to be kicked around ,willy nilly ,while others push forward tangibly? Your call.
    As I said ,I’m working on this book Doc. Might have to lean on you for a forward.
    There is work to be done,& yet more modern ,symbolic Massa Plantations to burn down.
    Whites ,as well as other folks of color ,are handeling their business,as we speak.
    Let’s heed the cries of Marcus Garvey,and yes -‘rise up … mighty people!’It’s time to embrace Brother Stokley Carmichael war cry,& “get ready for the Revolution!”
    It’s a call to a seemingly comatose , Afro Middle Class ,to lead,in like manner ,to past selfless stalwarts ,such Haiti Toussaint,South Africa Steve Biko,Winnie Mandela/Dr Desmond Tutu,T&T’s George Padmore/Stokley/CLR,Tanzania Dr Julius Neyere,Guyana Dr Walter Rodney,Jamaica’s Poet /Musician, Lynton Kwesi Johnson,Puerto Rico Roberto Clemento,and America Randall Robinson.
    Stay Vigilant People!Find your roles ,and be positive ,win/win, Difference Makers,si?
    Thanks Doc,for unwaveringly leading the way,& or ,doing your part-even amidst a multitude of detractors.
    Regards.

  • Well Professor… It was a ‘wild’ week..

    But after reading this article…>

    These Countries with Business Links to Trump Aren’t Part of His Immigration Ban.

    While Muslim-majority countries such as Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, and others are not included on the list, the omission of Turkey and Egypt may be argued as being seen at odds with Trump’s definition. Both Turkey and Egypt endured high-profile terror attacks in 2016.<

    http://fortune.com/2017/01/27/donald-trump-muslim-immigration-ban-conflict/

    Now, the million dollar question… Will T&T be added to this 'list' (as his adm. says the list will be expanded)?
    Or does Trump have investments in T&T?

    Anyway, maybe T&T Carnival will not be a destination for many US. based Trinis this year…

    I guess they 'do mind' and will not like to sleep like Uncle Ellis (Yuh talk bout 'A Brek-UP, Brek-DOWN Society' eh Professor?) ….

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqOKcjXZpaU

  • This article is quite poignant… sad but true. Great points Sir! It is a great read!

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