It’s a truism of presidential elections that the candidate must appeal to non-Whites. Political consultants know well that a small increase in the Black voting block can go a very long way. George W. Bush’s re-election was credited in part to his ability to increase his support from Black voters in Ohio and Florida. Political pundits have been warning the Democrats about the growing appeal of Trump to certain Black voters, according to a poll released in May. Numbers in that study indicated that in Ohio — a critical swing state — Trump might garner as much as 15% of the Black vote against Clinton. That’s a staggering jump from the 4% support for Mitt Romney in 2012.
Trump doesn’t seem to care about all that. His track record of racist comments and highly questionable tweets and retweets are simply too many to list here. Suffice to say, he’s not pandering to the Black vote.
Amazingly, he still has Black supporters: women and men who may be one of the most conspicuous sights on the 2016 campaign trail. Although Trump’s Cleveland RNC crowning attracted fewer Black delegates and speakers than any RNC in recent decades (one estimate suggested only 3 percent of RNC delegates, on par with his supposed 1-4% Black voter support in some polls), the ones who were there were, well, quite visible.
So who makes up those percentages? And what on earth are they thinking? How could any significant number of Black people support a presidential candidate whose racist record includes endorsements from White supremacists, a string of accusations of discrimination, and reported sentiments such as “laziness is a trait in blacks?”
In fact, it is exactly what it looks like: Trump’s Black supporters share his racist ideas. They are as rabidly anti-Black as their candidate. They have thoroughly consumed quite possibly the most sophisticated racist idea to date: the idea of a post-racial America. Historically, racist ideas have functioned as post-racial ideas, preventing Americans from seeing — let alone challenging — discrimination and racist Americans like Trump.
“I don’t think there’s anything he’s said that is racist,” said Willie Dove, a Black delegate from Kansas at the RNC. Kira Inis, an alternative delegate from Los Angeles, showed up on the floor of the RNC posing for pictures wearing a red t-shirt that announced her as “one of his African-Americans.” She then went on to claim Black people’s “ill-advised” behaviors “get themselves killed” by the police before ripping into Black Lives Matter activists as “a bunch of racist, anarchist monsters.”
Racist ideas have been produced and reproduced over the course of history for Black consumption as much as White starting with slavery — in large part to restrain Black activism. Most Black people have struggled to overrun or turn away from discriminators and all the racist ideas swirling around them. But a conspicuous few have struggled almost completely for racism, running across time and space towards oppressive plantations owned by bigoted White tycoons like Trump, and often receiving their favor.
This distressing history of internalized, self-directed racism in the Americas begins in 1657 with the story of “poor Sambo,” as retold by Richard Ligon in his A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados. Sambo was one of the first known enslaved Africans in the Americas to expose plans for a brewing slave revolt. But he refuses his reward for doing so. It was “but an act of Justice,” says Sambo, and he was “sufficiently” rewarded “in the Act,” the slave tells his master.
Sambo’s “act of Justice” sanctioned slavery, but not as directly and explicitly as Francis Williams’s grammar school in Jamaica for slaveholders’ children in the mid-1700s. Francis Williams (1700–1771) was the youngest son of Jamaica’s first freed Blacks. According to one White contemporary, Williams looked “down with a sovereign contempt on his fellow Blacks,” reciting a proverbial saying: “Shew me a Negroe, and I will shew you a thief.” (Though he didn’t likely include himself here.)
With their lives recorded by others, no one knows for sure what Sambo and Williams really thought. Their proslavery views could have been as fictional as the quintessential anti-Black slave in the 19th century: Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom. The main character in her 1852 landmark novel, Stowe cast Tom (and his race) as “docile, child-like and affectionate,” a captive who refuses to save himself and spends his life saving White enslavers.
Almost immediately, Black Americans ushered Uncle Tom into the real world, rendering him the identifier of Black submissiveness to White supremacy. The less than 1 percent of middle-aged southern Black men who served as Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, and the tiny number of Black slave owners beforehand, were probably among the first to be called “Uncle Toms.”
African Americans nicknamed the man who was quite possibly the most infamous anti-Black African American in history with a different appellation: “Black Judas.” The best seller of Ohio native William Hannibal Thomas (1843–1935) was more critically lauded by northern and southern White Americans in the witheringly racist year of 1901 than Booker T. Washington’s enduring classic, Up From Slavery. Thomas argued in The American Negro that a minority of Blacks — by which he meant himself — had overcome their inferior genetic inheritance. But since most had not, Thomas advocated restricting the voting rights of naturally corrupt Blacks, policing these inherent criminals closely with their “record of lawless existence,” and placing their children with White guardians since ninety percent of Black women were living lives of filth “without parallel in modern civilization.”
Booker T. Washington may not have despised this one hit wonder as much as William Hooper Councill (1848–1909), the long-time first president of Alabama A&M University. Council spoke out against integration as the leading Black voice in Alabama’s Democratic Party of segregationists, urging Blacks to accept their domestic jobs while calling job discrimination “friendly advice” on starting Black businesses. There were many other Councills doing all they could in public to gain personal favor from White segregationists. These Black lackeys passionately defended Jim Crow laws and ideas that codified that Black lives only mattered when they were picking up dishes and cotton for starvation wages.
When the civil rights and Black power movements created the first semblance of a Black middle class by 1970s, the racist backlash gave life to the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Coretta Scott King declared that Reagan represented the most “irrational elements in our society.” Those irrational elements included newly self-identified Black conservatives, some of whom Reagan welcomed into his administration, including the future Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas.
In the 1980s and 1990s, these Black conservatives called for law and order, an end to affirmative action and welfare, and dismissed the existence of discrimination using the same language as the White people anti-racists were calling racist. With “white racism…all but obsolete,” Black people’s main obstacle is Black people, particularly their “culture-internal ideologies,” John McWhorter maintained in his fast-selling books in 2000 and 2003. It is not surprising then that McWhorter wrote in Forbes weeks after Barack Obama’s election in 2008 that we are “now” living “in a post-racial America.”
Roughly a month after Obama’s inauguration, the vocally anti-Obama and anti-Black Tea Party was born. This extremely conservative political uprising in the Republican Party attracted not only adept mobilizers of anti-Obama racists like Sarah Palin, but Black politicians such as Florida’s Allen West and Utah’s Mia Love. Before being elected to the House, Love had pledged to take the Congressional Black Caucus “apart from the inside out” because those Black politicians “ignite racism when there isn’t.”
But the most famous Black darling of the Tea Party was none other than retired neurosurgeon turned presidential candidate. Ben Carson, an early endorser of Trump, has articulated the racist parable of the last five decades: “tons” of Black teenaged parents have sent “their children into poverty” and continued “the cycle of poverty and dependence” and crime in a nation where supposedly racism does not exist.
Racist ideas have been that powerful across American history — powerful enough to make a handful of conspicuous Black people hate Black people and admire anti-Black slaveholders, Confederates, segregationists, conservatives. And now Donald Trump.
By Ibram X. Kendi/Timeline
Posted by The NON-Confomist