Donald Trump’s ascendency from fringe Republican candidate to President of the United States of America upset the Republican establishment and signaled a major shift in the political and cultural landscape for many Americans, especially those who exist outside the traditional structures of power and influence. The President’s bombastic remarks about issues of import to blacks and Latinos have riled some and worried others. For some black folks who enjoy lives with a certain level of financial security, social ascendency, and a measure of protection from the quotidian indignities of poverty, Trump may seem more silly than scary. But make no mistake, for people of color, irrespective of their fortunes or fame, Trump’s proposals are a dangerous and direct threat and they shan’t be taken lightly; they must be resisted at every turn.
Run The World
The question for the moment is not IF we will have to act, but where and how. Trump’s proposed 2018 budget makes clear his fiscal priorities do not align with the most pressing needs of the African-American community. His plan – which has been widely panned – if passed as-is, will whittle the Department of Education’s budget by 14% in addition to slashing funding for college grants – including $4 billion from Pell Grants, and reduce funds for college work study, Meals on Wheels, Free Legal Aid programs, Community Development Block Grants and a host of other programs that assist lower and middle class Americans. Now, more than ever, it is incumbent upon us to strengthen and expand our talents and abilities so that we are equipped to resist, and if need be, to fight. We must bring the full force our ingenuity, creativity, and power to this challenge, and perhaps more important, we must avail ourselves of every opportunity to share our knowledge with our youth, for they are the ones will be saddled with the burden of cleaning up the literal and figurative carnage this presidency – if fully actualized – will bring. For those who have adopted “Bad and Boujee” as their nom de jour, perhaps it’s time to consider a new moniker: Righteous and Ready.
A centerpiece of Trump’s campaign speeches was his promise to “get tough on crime.” This dog whistle call is nothing new. Politicians have used this catch phrase for decades to signify to their racist supporters that they intend to arrest and imprison black people. Trump has taken his tough on crime approach a step further by explicitly promising to punish, jail, or expel “illegal” immigrants, but since they’re not American citizens, and lack a visible and organized constituency, he can go after them without the reprisals he would face if openly attacking African-Americans.
Ring the Alarm
President Trump has repeatedly painted a picture of increased violence and crime that is supported only by alternative facts and does not jibe with actual crime trend reporting from federal agencies. Trump stated during a February 7, 2017 White House meeting with sheriffs that the murder rate is the highest it has been in “45-47 years.” However, his assertion is not supported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reports. Facts notwithstanding, Trump and his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, are moving forward with their stated intention to ramp up enforcement and get tough on crime. His words are not simply rhetorical; Attorney General Sessions announced on the final day of Black History Month, his intention to pull back on efforts to probe civil rights violations by police departments in several major American cities. Slay.
Prominent members of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Incarceration, a group whose ranks include William Bratton, the former police commissioner in New York and Boston and police chief in Los Angeles, as well as officials from Philadelphia, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Charlotte, and Birmingham, wrote a 28 page letter to President Trump expressing their concern with his law enforcement agenda. The letter said, in part, “Today’s crime policies, which too often rely only on jail and prison, are simply ineffective in preserving public safety.” Despite this informed counsel from the nation’s top cops, Trump, through Sessions, has made clear he plans to eschew community engagement and instead to ramp up arrests and lengthen jail time for offenders. Sessions, using a future need for expanded prison facilities as his excuse, has stated the federal government will once again use private prisons, a policy President Obama rejected. Slay.
End of Time
There is little doubt that the substantive policy measures President Trump enacts, and those from previous administrations that he revokes, will have effects that are felt for years, natch, decades to come. In order to undo that which is made wrong, we will need the best and brightest talent to set it right. The policy makers, thought shapers, artists, and lawyers who will mount a challenge to our nation’s ill-advised directional course and myopic public policies are sitting in schools across the country, seeking guidance, knowledge, and direction. Let us not leave them hanging.
Education is not a panacea, but it is a damn good solution. All of the answers to our problems will not be found through creating a cadre of intellectually tough and creative leaders, but many of them will. We need the best and brightest minds to challenge the status quo. In order to do so, it is incumbent upon us to help them build the necessary skills both to dismantle current systems which do not serve us and to envision new more holistic and progressive structures.
We must equip our youth with the tools to fight and to create. Ensuring their educational preparedness is the first, and most important, step in doing so. By preparing our children to excel in every field of endeavor – arts, science, law, law enforcement, public policy…you name it! – and by encouraging them to think broadly and creatively, we can help them to recognize and break down oppressive systems.
By preparing our youth for academic rigor and by encouraging them to study and read each and every day, we equip them with the tools they need to dissent, to discern, to dismantle and to disrupt. Many of our public schools are in disrepair, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos won’t likely lead our public schools out of their quandary. Billionaire DeVos has worked doggedly to expand charter schools around the country. The DeVos family has given millions of dollars to Great Lakes Education Project, a pro-charter school Public Action Committee founded by Secretary DeVos and her husband, Dick, that has aggressively pushed for charter schools and so-called school choice programs, which allow public funds to be used to pay for private and parochial schools often with disastrous results. As chair of the American Federation for Children, she had led a zealous movement to privatize public education, and to encourage public policies that embrace vouchers instead of fixing public schools.
We mustn’t allow our future prospects to be diminished by bad public education policy. Black folks have always found a way to succeed in this country, despite legal and structural, and societal barriers to educational access. If our enslaved ancestors could risk life and limb to become literate, come what may, we, too, can fight for our children to gain access to quality education. Libraries are open and accessible. Internet access, which is widely available and often free, opens up possibilities for intellectual engagement that could not be conceived of even a decade ago. Massive open online courses allow free and access to scores of lectures, readings, and course syllabi. Even small measures, such as limiting television and encouraging students to set aside time each day for non-academic reading, help build mighty minds. For the child-free in our community, there’s a role, too; sponsor a magazine or newspaper subscription for a child you know, work through your alumni, civic, and Greek Letter organizations’ programs that engage youth, volunteer at your local schools. There is no small number of needs to be met and no limit to our ability to rise to the challenge of meeting them.
Back to Black
Our hardest won battles may have started with revolts and protests, but they were consecrated and made into law and policy in the courtroom by well-trained lawyers and policymakers. Conversations may be had in the barbershop and at the kitchen table, but it is through the power of the pen that those sage words are captured, crystalized, and elevated to the poetry, plays, and prose that shape that our collective consciousness and shift public discourse. Our community is already mired in problems and the current administration’s policies will create a host of new issues. However, these challenges are not intractable. We can survive, and even prosper, but we must get real, get ready, and get to work.
Get thee bodied.