For as long as he is president, there will be debate over whether or not black people should be meeting with the Marigold Manchurian Candidate. It’s a question The Root’s political editor, Jason Johnson, recently tackled in the piece “So, When Is It OK to Meet With Trump?”
While we are in accord with the notion that certain black public figures—namely, black celebrities—needn’t allow themselves to be used as props in a public relations ploy by the incoming president’s transition team, I still question whether it’s worth meeting with a man who has long proved to have absolutely no concern for black people at all.
Others have lamented that those of us who argue from this stance do so much from a place of emotion rather than from logic. You see, we have to see the bigger picture. We have to understand that the Marigold Manchurian Candidate will be president; thus, if we want results, we must strip ourselves from our feelings and effectively suck it up for the greater good.
The flaws in this line of thinking are abundant.
What kinds of deals can black people score with a man who would nominate Jeff Sessions as his attorney general? How much faith can you place in someone whose campaign reportedly actively sought to suppress the black vote, only to later smugly thank black voters for lower turnout? Can you really achieve much from a “law and order” candidate who still labels the Central Park Five guilty even after they’ve long been proved innocent of their crimes?
Even now, consider the sort of black folks the new president has been meeting with: Jim Brown, Kanye West and Steve Harvey. While these famous black men may take themselves a wee bit too seriously in terms of their actual power, these highly publicized meetings suggest a continuation of the Marigold Manchurian Candidate’s overall stereotypical view of black people. This man thinks that these people are our “leaders” for no reason other than that they are famous and willing to speak to him.
Some would suggest in response that because he is a celebrity, perhaps he thinks there are equals on the black-hand side of fame. The problem with this explanation is that most of the folks he has appointed to his Cabinet to lead the country, while as grossly underqualified for their jobs as he is, are not all famous. They’re not athletes. They’re not rappers. They’re not talk show hosts-slash-comedians-slash-suit-makers.
The discrepancy is as clear as his tangerine-tickled skin. Even if I never agreed with President George W. Bush in terms of policy, when he did reach out to black people about roles in government and policymaking, they were qualified. For those of us who lived under Texas Gov. George W. Bush and resided in Houston, we knew of former Houston Independent School District Superintendent Rod Paige, who ultimately served as his head of the Department of Education.
The Marigold Manchurian Candidate is no Dubya. Earlier this month, BuzzFeed reported that black Republicans were upset that they were excluded from an invite-only meeting with Omarosa Manigault and senior members of the Trump transition team. The meeting was majorly orchestrated by Manigault, and since she is a former Al Gore staffer, it makes sense that many of those invited were Democratic-leaning. Nonetheless, that was her work, not his. His meetings with Kanye West to talk about whatever, and with Steve Harvey to discuss, uh, urban poverty, are the real signs of just how serious he is about doing work on behalf of black people.
Sure, Martin Luther King III went to that gaudy tower in midtown New York City this week to meet with the future 45th president of the United States, but he was nothing more than P.R. fodder. When in front of the cameras next to Vladimir Putin’s special friend, MLK III dismissed John Lewis’ legitimate criticism about POTUS’ legitimacy as if emotions had just gotten the best of both of them.
These people have all lent their hues to a hatemonger, and they have nothing to show for it besides a few headlines. Their debasement was not for our benefit but for each of theirs. Of course, the real winner in each of these meetings is the next president. He has never been shown to give a solitary damn about black people. But ever the showman, he set up meetings to mislead Americans into believing otherwise.
All he needed was a few black palms to shake, and to the dismay of many, it was the celebrity wing of the black community that answered the casting call. There’s a reason most blacks who actually yield political clout have kept their distance. It’s the same reason I have not fallen for a single one of these meetings.
We know better, and we won’t be suckered.