Black History Month: Another Perspective

Whether consciously or not, everyone and everything that Donald Trump touches is diminished by the contact. Even Black History Month could not escape his malignant grasp.

Black History Month is a celebration of black achievement in our country. But not in the hands of Trump and his team. At the White House launch, Trump revealed staggering ignorance by apparently thinking that Frederick Douglas was still alive.

One of his sycophants then talked about going to Chicago to meet with some “top gang thugs.” Standing in the background was another Trump hanger-on, Omarosa Manigault, who famously – and seriously – said, “Every critic, every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump.”

Vice President Mike Pence, giving us his practiced sincere look, took the occasion to honor a white man; but at least it was a white man who did something really good: Abraham Lincoln.

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Rather than a recognition of achievement, the bleak Trump worldview, a perspective shared by many of his white supporters, was reinforced.

It was a world in which everything bad is attributable to the “black community,” a world of squalor, poverty and violence, while the “white community” is capable of only good, and Dylan Roof and the long list of other white evildoers are merely one-offs.

Just as black people are integral to understanding the history of the United States, so white people are essential to understanding black history. For that reason, the Source will introduce a unique feature during Black History Month: profiles of those white people who spent their lives blocking black progress and working tirelessly to make the lives of black people miserable. Historically, if we look at the results, they have often achieved success.

Some will say that this is negative thinking, that it might be divisive. Or something like “You (minorities and immigrants) lost. We (white people) won. Get over it.” Or that we should focus on racist black people who oppressed whites in the now happily-ended age of political correctness.

But this is false thinking because, in studying history, we should paint as close to a full picture as we can get. As with all groups, there is a continuum, from those white people who made great personal sacrifices in the name of justice (particularly courageous white southerners), to those in the middle who may have meant well but did nothing, to those on the other end who devoted their lives to oppressing another race, often enriching themselves and doing great harm to our country in the process.

In our never-ending struggle for racial justice, there have been heroes, a term that we overuse in our times. Some of these heroes were white. There have also been evildoers, who, also in our times, are given a pass, the profound impact of their bad deeds glossed over.

In any society, one of the most important roles that leaders play is to define the norms and values that we should aspire to. To make this “worst” list, these leaders, whether individuals or groups, fostered and played to the worst instincts in our culture, those things that invariably lead to destructive conflict and human misery.

What we are talking about is the worst of the worst, the kind of white people who would have ended up on playing cards in Iraq. These are people who did great damage to an entire race of men, women and children, and, in the process, to a country that always sees itself as a beacon of justice.

Unlike Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., these were the “Drum Majors” for hatred, bigotry and oppression. Given our long and tortured racial history, making the top 20 will not be easy.

Let’s take Donald Trump, who, if we did not live in a society marked by racial division, would just be a doddering old man trying to figure out how to get attention. Despite Trump’s father’s pioneering work in the Ku Klux Klan in Queens, his own efforts as a racist landlord and his success in bringing the Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists into the Republican tent, and, for that matter, into the White House, there is no guarantee that Trump will make the list. He is also just getting started, so we don’t know what his overall track record for poisoning the racial well will be.

Stay with the Source as we review the histories and biographies of those white people who have devoted their lives to blocking black progress and undermining our claims of American exceptionalism and high moral standing.

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