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Black Fear of Trump

Black Americans were lost and politically helpless before Election Day in 2016. Having a black Democrat in the presidency hid a multitude of sins. As a group we have lost jobs, the little wealth we had, and literally our lives and freedom from the police state. Donald Trump’s election just made what was already true crystal clear.

The victory of a Republican is always cause for some degree of panic among black people. They are, after all, the white people’s party and their ascension creates anxiety among us.

Donald Trump’s appeal to white nationalism has certainly upped the ante. The people who hold onto the feckless Democrats with a vice-like death grip now believe they have nowhere to turn. The Democrats’ allegiance to neo-liberal deal making instead of meeting the needs of the rank and file resulted in a presidential defeat and Republican control of both houses of Congress. They long ago conceded fighting for control of state legislatures. The result is that the Republicans hold all the electoral cards.

Instead of fear we should be angry that we denounced what we once supported and supported what we once denounced in a losing effort to keep Democrats in office. We made a tacit agreement with the Democrats to follow them, at times blindly and at others with eyes wide open in exchange for protection from the white people’s party.

After supporting mass incarceration, the end of welfare as a right, regime change and austerity, the Democrats didn’t come through. They failed to prop up Hillary Clinton and now most of black America is shocked and fearful of what the Trump presidency will bring.

Every move Trump makes is followed like a sign of Armageddon. Announcements of his appointments and his bizarre ranting tweets are followed with obsessive fixation like watching a monster movie meant to create terror.

It is interesting that there has been no revolt against the Democratic Party and their coterie of black misleaders after this political debacle. Black people came to believe that not only were we supposed to give the Democrats carte blanche but, like domestic violence victims, we had to keep quiet about our humiliation too. Now we are alternately afraid, angry and confused because we still think we must censor ourselves about our bad political decision making.

There should be serious introspection amongst us now. We must ask ourselves how we ended up in this situation. The fault is not ours alone. Our liberation movement was crushed and leaders were imprisoned or killed. We began to err when we accepted the first foolish agreement to be satisfied with the success of a small group of people instead of working for everyone’s freedom. That thinking culminated in the joy of seeing Barack Obama elected president in 2008. In 2016 we watched his hollow legacy go down in flames to the man who said he wasn’t born in the United States.

Black people have always made the greatest strides when unafraid. We speak endlessly of the days of the liberation movement without appreciating what we accomplished. Racism was open as politicians and other “respectable” people had no qualms about using racial slurs and threatening and carrying out violence against us. Sometimes we voted with our feet away from the Jim Crow south and at other times we rose up in open rebellion. We did not allow fear to rule the day.

Now we quake in our boots with every announcement from the Trump transition team. Instead of panicking because Dr. Ben Carson will be secretary of HUD, we should remember that HUD exists at all because of the demands that black people made on our political system. Creating political crisis should be the order of the day. That has always been the game changer, not necessarily getting Democrats into office instead of Republicans.

Should we be able to reverse this fortune through electoral politics just remember who we will be resurrecting. Nancy Pelosi says that the Democratic Party doesn’t want a new direction. Senator Cory Booker is mentioned as a 2020 contender but Ivanka Trump and her husband raised $40,000 for his last campaign.

If Trumpism is to be destroyed it cannot be through the same measures that brought us to this ignominious political end. It also can’t be done with the same faces who brought us here or with bought off progressives. Al Gore and Tulsi Gabbard may stop by to kiss Donald’s ring but that doesn’t mean we must either “give him a chance” or believe the end is nigh.

The desire for self-determination brought people out of slavery and out of Jim Crow segregation. It can certainly save us from the alt-right, Donald Trump and an attorney general named Jefferson Beauregard Sessions. We survived the Confederates and we can survive anyone named after them. That will mean shaking off fear, the Democrats, and the black misleaders all at once. We have never had anyone to depend on except ourselves. We do best when we acknowledge and honor that fact.

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Margaret Kimberley writes the Freedom Rider column for Black Agenda Report, where this essay originally appeared. 

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