There are likely many who, if told that an award winning Black female singer was inundated with death threats and racist insults until she was finally forced to decline an invitation to perform at a presidential inaugural ball, would assume the story was from a century or so ago, and that her tormentors would be the KKK.
Similarly, if one was told that a group of African Americans — including Jim Brown, football great and long-time advocate for African American civil rights — would be called “a bunch of mediocre Negros” on national television for meeting with a president-elect to discuss ways to help inner-city Blacks, it would understandable to assume such racial vitriol would be directed to people meeting with Barack Obama in late 2008.
One may not easily assume that the year would be the current one, and the spewers of this vile speech would be Black themselves. Yet here we are, in 2017, listening to Grammy and Tony award winning singer Jennifer Holliday, speaking to The View about the backlash from her initial consideration to perform at Trump’s inauguration:
“I was receiving death threats from Black people, being called the N-word from Black people. They were saying they were going to kill me . . . At first I said, ‘Are these White people just messing with me?’ I would push the button to see who was calling me, cause your face is there, you could look at their thing or whatever, I’m going, ‘Oh my God, these are Black people calling me this.’”
It should be noted that most of these attacked for meeting with Trump, or who have asked to sing at his inauguration, are not Trump supporters. Jim Brown, for example, said on Fox News,”I was for Hillary, so I’m one of those that Mr. Trump defeated — but he is the president-elect of the United States.”
Therefore, Mr. Trump’s meeting with Jim Brown, Martin Luther King III, Steve Harvey and others who did not support his candidacy, to discuss such issues as inner city poverty and voting rights, would seem to be laudable to anyone eager to see these issues addressed by the next White House, as well as those eager to see Trump be more politically and racially inclusive. So why then did these meetings offend so many, including many Black Progressives?
Professor Michael Eric Dyson argues that the problem is that Trump did not reach out to ‘the right bunch of Negroes,’ so to speak:
“Steve Harvey is not the point man for discussing policy in black America. I’m saying that there are many people who are practicing that, who are dealing with that every day, who have strategic advantages because they’ve been thinking about this: Steve Harvey is the attempt by Donald Trump to avoid with some serious weight and theological and theoretical and sociological analysis about what’s going on in the community.”
Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro however rebutted Professor Dyson’s remark by stating:
“I don’t think it’s intellectually honest for Professor Dyson to be talking about how they were just wanting someone with more expertise, because I really doubt if Donald Trump had invited Thomas Sowell, for example, or Jason Riley of The Wall Street Journal to talk about housing policy they would have been supremely happy either.”
“What this really is about is that there’s a cadre of people on the left who get very insulted any time a Republican reaches out to a prominent Black person who doesn’t immediately slap that hand away and say, “Listen, you guys are the bad guys,” because too many folks on the left like to racially polarize in order to make hay politically and that is really quite terrible.”
I am more skeptical than even Mr. Shapiro, and I find it unlikely that even a meeting with Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and the founding members of Black Lives Matters would have been satisfying to many of Mr. Trump’s critics as well.
Having a president willing to be inclusive to those racially and politically different seems to be less important to many than the ability to make the argument that the president is not inclusive to either group, as are the potential benefits to the country and to the African American community of such a president.