SELMA, Alabama, U.S.A—It comes as no surprise that the current president of the United States Donald Trump is sorely and irrationally mistaken on a number of issues, the latest of which is his stance on the National Football League players’ symbolic, non-violent protest involving the American flag.
The fact is often lost upon white supremacism ideologues like Trump, but it remains genuine truth that African Americans built the United States of America: its railroads, its highways, its historic buildings with Adinkra symbols etched in concrete, its Ivy League and flagship state universities, its gospel and country music cultures, and its beloved White House. This is pure fact and has one hundred percent truth value attached to its veracity. Even top universities are dealing with this history of African American influence and are coming to terms with bringing their secret skeletons to the forefront.
The architects of the United States, African Americans have every right to acknowledge, salute, or protest the American flag as they see fit. Spike Lee burned the flag in his rendition of the movie: Malcolm X. It is their flag, as much as it is anyone else’s who founded, built, and poured actual blood for the nation.
Unfortunately, this real truth is lost upon Donald Trump and other white, mostly formerly European Americans who live in echo chambers and are informed by the propaganda of their fake news cycles. Their false truths regard the color Black as un-American and the color white as American, regardless of the facts of history. Donald Trump subscribes to such false truths, which is why his interpretation of events is horrendously off the mark.
An active Twitter warrior, Trump has posted several tweets attacking the NFL players for exercising their right to free speech under his handle @realDonaldTrump, including but not limited to the ones below.
Sep 23 – “If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!
Sep 24 – “Great solidarity for our National Anthem and for our Country. Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings!”
Sep 25 – “The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!”
Sep 26 – “Tremendous backlash against the NFL and its players for disrespect of our Country. #StandForOurAnthem.”
Sep 26 – “Ratings for NFL football are way down except before game starts, when people tune in to see whether or not our country will be disrespected!”
Sep 26 – “The NFL has all sorts of rules and regulations. They only way out for them is to set a rule that you can’t kneel during our National Anthem!”
A few points about his reckless rant:
1. Trump is confusing his privilege of inheriting millions of dollars from his daddy with the NFL players’ actual years of hard work that brings them their millions of dollars. African Americans were given absolutely nothing in the United States. Even after white-Europeans-turned-Americans forcibly coerced their African ancestors into slave labor—at the barrel of the whip, the gun, and brute violence by any means—African Americans still to date have received absolutely no reparations in recompense for their labor. If any African American has millions of dollars, it is not due to any privilege but solely to hard work—and you can assume they are owed 40 acres and a mule more, plus interest.
2. Trump is confused by the use of the pronoun our when he refers to the American flag, the country, and the national anthem. African Americans have lived in the country long before Trump’s family and most white Americans today, who are only recent immigrants. Lest Donald Trump forget that he is actually a European immigrant. Trump’s grandfather Friedrich Drumpf was born in Germany. He only emigrated to the United States when he was a 16-year-old teenager after 1880—and only changed his name to Fred Trump in an effort to sound more American.
This makes Donald Trump a third-generation immigrant. That’s right, a third-generation immigrant! Not only was his grandfather forced to leave Germany for refusing to partake in military service, one historian recalled. Trump’s family also has no legacy of being in the United States when the nation was founded, when the flag became a national symbol, and when thousands upon millions of African Americans shed their sweat, tears, and blood in real wars to erect the nation.
Where was Donald Trump’s family when African Americans built the nation upon their backs? Where was Donald Trump’s family when African Americans fought in the wars that gave the country its freedom from Britain and from the racist confederate? Trump’s family was in Germany. Trump would be wise, if that were humanly possible, to ask African Americans how he should address the flag, the country, and the national anthem. African Americans know far more about the United States, their country, than any third-generation European immigrant would.
3. Trump is confused by thinking he can fire football players. Trump does not hire football players. But the American people, including football players, hired him. And he stands to get fired through impeachment if he thinks he can berate citizens by calling them son’s of bitches and by blatantly treating them unequally.
4. Trump is confused when he thinks he or any NFL owner can tell Black men how they should behave. It is their prerogative to kneel, stand, sit, or stay in the locker room during the anthem. Trump needs to understand that despite his wildest fantasies, he is not a slave master.
5. All the while, I have offered that Trump is confused. But really this is only one option. Trump could also be an unadulterated, unapologetic racist. Being a racist is certainly not uncharacteristic of American white men, especially of his old age. But to be a blatant racist is not a desirable trait of a president of a whole country. This choice needs serious re-evaluation in the next four years, or perhaps before then, should an opportune tweet provoke a sudden shift in course.
Trump is obviously blinded by his whiteness, but this same whiteness is also his shield of protection. But how else would he have been elected president of the U.S. if he were not white? How else would he have won the white woman vote, despite speaking about groping white women, if he were not white? Why else would he not be wholly condemned for calling an entire group of people son’s of bitches if he were not a white man speaking negatively about Black men?
Donald Trump’s whiteness has allowed him to blend in and benefit from a nation that historically and presently demonizes and exploits Black bodies of any ethnicity. Indeed Trump is a direct beneficiary of America’s disease of a race problem, that is: white-European-turned-Americans’ unparalleled enmity for Black people.
Frankly, Donald Trump’s tweets about race in America should keep coming. They are revealing in the ways that he and other white supremacism ideologues believe they are entitled to America, and by extension the world and its resources, more than Black Americans and people of the African Diaspora.
The long arm of Trump’s statements reaches to the point that not only should white Americans control the mindset, behaviors, and bodies of Black Americans, but also that the white western world should control the mindset, behaviors, and bodies of Africans, South Americans, and Latin Americans. It will not be long before Trump tells all of us which treaties to sign and with which hand to hold the pen, which countries to befriend, and which battles to fight, lest we encounter the wrath of white western entitlement.
On this issue and innumerable others, Donald Trump is on the wrong side of history. If Donald Trump does not appreciate Black people’s right to their country, including their right to protest and exercise free speech in the ways they see fit, he can go back to Germany. He can charter a private jet to his grandfather’s land. He can tweet a back-to-Europe movement for all the disgruntled first, second, and third-generation white European immigrants in America. But he cannot tell African Americans what to do or how to act in their country. He surely cannot tell African Americans how to approach their flag.