So you’re chilling on the couch, sipping on a cold glass of red Kool-Aid, and you decide to turn on cable news. Maybe it’s MSNBC, CNN or, God forbid, Fox News, but all you want is an honest discussion of the presidential election. Just a bit of information you can repurpose as a Facebook post or a clever tweet. And then, boom!
You see brothers and sisters dropping dimes of knowledge left and right. Marc Lamont Hill, Joy-Ann Reid, Van Jones, Angela Rye and Charles Blow—all of whom are nice with theirs—are just killing their white conservative opponents intellectually, while still finding time to give the camera some “Yeah, I heard that, too, but don’t worry, I got this … ” secret black-code facial expressions to the black head nodders in the viewing audience.
Life is good.
But even as the Black Intellectual Justice League chops up fools left and right, you get a sense of foreboding because you’ve been black in this country for 94.56 percent of your life. (Don’t trip—we remember when you were caping for Robin Thicke back in the day. You ain’t slick. You lost points for that.) And you just know that the American white supremacist media structure ain’t about to allow black magical brilliance to just happen. Deep in our souls, we know that there’s a secret panic button that the media uses to create a diametric counterweight to black wokeness. And with the truth being spit with such ease, now is the time to press that button.
“Get us a Black Trump Surrogate, stat!”
As the split screen reveals the Black Trump Surrogate, you do a “Whoa. Who is this Negro?” mental check of your database of black folks, hoping against hope that the surrogate's last name isn’t close to anyone in your immediate or extended family. That means a quick call to the keeper of black family genealogy:
Momma, do we have any Katrina Piersons in our family? No? Cool. OK, I know that we have a bunch of bootleg preachers, but do you remember any relatives named Darrell Scott or Mark Burns? A’right, I think we’re good.
Now that you’ve dodged that bullet, you grab your high blood pressure medicine, turn back to the cable news debate and brace yourself to hear the crazy that is gonna come out of the Black Trump Surrogate’s mouth. And over the past 14 months, the crazy has flowed like the River Jordan. But who are these black folks? Well …
First you have Katrina Pierson, Trump’s official spokeswoman, who is known for heisting stuff that ain’t hers and for saying some official crazy madness, like, “President Obama started the war in Afghanistan”—uh, an amazing overestimation of the power of then-Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama. But Pierson wasn’t done, and claimed that Trump’s Muslim ban was not a Muslim ban.
You can’t make this up. Believe me, I tried.
Remember Bruce LeVell, the Georgia jeweler who was absolutely filleted by Charles Blow for supporting “the bigotry that is Donald Trump”? LeVell was one of Trump’s earliest supporters, proclaiming after a meeting in 2015 that “Donald Trump is not a racist, guys.”
Well, if Trump isn’t a racist, then he’s definitely racist-ish in what he does and says. Apparently LeVell saw no racism in Trump’s Birtherism, his declaration that Mexico was exporting rapists to America or his claim that an American judge with Mexican heritage couldn’t be fair because Trump was building a wall. Nah, LaVell just thinks that’s your mind playing tricks on you. Cue the Geto Boys intro.
And who can forget the Black Trump Surrogates from the ratchet section of politics: Lynette “Diamond” Hardaway and Rochelle “Silk” Richardson? These two sat down for an interview with fellow Trump supporter—and white nationalist—John Friend, a guy who once wrote, “The only real, authentic kind of Americans there are, considering the racial group that settled, built, founded and developed this once-great nation, are those of white European descent.”
Favorites on the alt-right, particularly with the Breitbart-website crowd, Diamond and Silk gained fame denigrating the Black Lives Matter movement by saying in a YouTube video, “If your black life really matters, you wouldn’t march in the streets and be blocking traffic. Someone can run you over. Duh!”
Yeah, I lost brain cells over it, too.
Another Black Trump Surrogate, the not-so-good Rev. Darrell Scott, once gave this explanation for why black folks weren’t running to support Trump:
The thing that kills is this: Black people believe satire. Black people believe parody. I had a guy that I considered to be a very intelligent person send me a headline from a satire website that said “Donald Trump Plans on Deporting All African Americans back to Africa,” and he believed it.
So there you have it. Scott’s explanation for why black folks aren’t voting for Trump: We’re too stupid and gullible to know what’s good for us. And even though Trump and his racist Daddy Warbucks, Fred Trump, were so known for racial discrimination against blacks in New York housing that the government sued them and Woody Guthrie even wrote a song about it, nah, we’re just dupes for fake websites.
Apparently Trump likes to over-index in Black Trump Surrogates who are ministers of this church or the other. For example, Omarosa Manigault stretched her 15 minutes of The Apprentice fame to 16 by becoming Trump’s director of African-American outreach. I assume Omarosa was given the job because Stacey Dash was still trying to figure out why she was asked to appear at the Academy Awards.
But give Omarosa credit because she will go down in history as having done enough effective black outreach to drive African-American support in many states down to zero. But still she says, “My reality is that I’m surrounded by people who want to see Donald Trump as the next president of the United States who are African American.” I imagine those “people” are really just one guy, Dr. Ben Carson, who is asleep in the corner.
Last but not least is Pastor Mark Burns, who, when he’s not screaming into a microphone at the Republican National Convention, is busy tweeting out racist cartoons. Oh … and also not understanding the difference between when to use “do” and when to use “does.”
Sorry, not sorry. My petty runs deep.
Why trot out these Black Trump Surrogates? The GOP knows it has a minority problem, per its post-2012 autopsy, so the party understands that it must pretend to create some sort of minority-outreach operation. But that white supremacist bug in their Republican political-philosophy system doesn’t allow their Google Maps to search for the phrase, “Where black folks at?” So in lieu of going organic, they go artificial, creating their very own secret Factory of Ignorant Negroes, a place where unconscious black folks are manufactured to say things like, “Donald Trump be good to the blacks.” In other words, black folks who fit the GOP’s notion of what black people should be.
To be clear, I don’t tag all black Republicans with this stench. I may vehemently disagree with them, but South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts and former GOP party Chair Michael Steele seemingly are black folks who simply believe in Republican ideals of smaller government, low taxes and the private sector. If they have innovative ideas to help the African-American community, hey, I’m all ears. As a liberal Democrat, I don’t think we have a monopoly on good ideas. It’s just that the GOP doesn’t tend to bring those ideas to the black community honestly.
And as long as Republicans keep pulling delegates from the Factory of Ignorant Negroes, they’re going to keep getting 0 percent of black folks. If they’re smart, the head honchos at GOP headquarters will recognize that these Black Trump Surrogates only care about whether their checks clear on the 1st and 15th and whether or not they can tie themselves to a mailing list that will make them rich.
But to the rest of us, I say this: Yes, these Black Trump Surrogates get on our nerves. And yes, we spend a lot of our time yelling at the television screen, hoping they’ll hear us call them the latest cast members of America’s Great Political Minstrel Show, featuring Jim Crow, Zip Coon and special guest star J.J. from Good Times.
What these poor, unfortunate fools don’t know is that on Nov. 8 the Black Folks Drop Squad Nation is gonna mount up and head to the polls in record numbers. We’ll vote not because we love Hillary Clinton but because we love black people. And after we vote for that love, we’ll deal these Black Trump Surrogates the deepest cut of all: We’ll forget that they exist. Just as Donald Trump will.
Lawrence Ross is the author of the Los Angeles Times best-seller The Divine Nine: The History of African American Fraternities and Sororities. His newest book, Blackballed: The Black and White Politics of Race on America’s Campuses, is a blunt and frank look at the historical and contemporary issue of campus racism on predominantly white college campuses. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.