Jessie L. Adolph

Minneapolis Burning did not begin with Police Officer Derek Chauvin placing an NFL-style knee on the neck of George Floyd—it started with Trump’s whisper.  

Although social media users falsely accused Chauvin of attending a Trump rally and wearing a “Make Whites Great Again” hat, nonetheless the president’s influence was felt. Donald Trump is a chameleon demigod worshipped by a base who have historically been repulsed by men and women of color. He is like the demon Magda from Showtime’s Penny Dreadful: City of Angels.  

Magda (played by Natalie Dormer), a shape-shifting supernatural being, does not use powers to seduce mankind to engage in evil. Instead, she incites man to give in to his hateful nature. The demon accomplishes her goal by reminding us, “All mankind needs to be the monster he truly is is being told he can.” Like Magda, Trump reminds those who have access to institutional power to dominate because they can do so.  

For instance, in his July 2017 speech to police officers and crime victims on Long Island in New York, he encouraged law enforcement to use excessive force when dealing with suspects. The president mimicked police officers placing suspects in police vans. He urged law enforcement to go against trained protocol in comments such as: “Like, don’t hit their head, and they just killed somebody — don’t hit their head.” Trump continued.  “I said, ‘You can take the hand away,’ OK?”  

Here the president devalued the humanity of suspects who should be deemed innocent until proven guilty. Also, it is important to note, Trump’s veiled consent to officers was aimed at “thugs” or “gang members” who he deems second-class citizens. Recently, black people are considered criminals if they birdwatch, run, sleep, eat ice cream in their homes, or play cops and robbers in the park.

Since the so-called ending of slavery, African Americans have been criminalized by a justice system that utilizes lethal force to render them voiceless. Black people cannot breathe under America’s legalized terrorism without the fear of being lynched. Indeed, President Trump cannot be blamed for the United States’ history of racism.  

However, Trump’s constant whispers of hate encourage many in law enforcement to engorge and satisfy a bloodlust to purge the most vulnerable. In Reconstruction, the government allowed white males to violently vent their hatred for black liberation through terrorist groups like the KKK. Today, Trump manipulates and awakens a past evil—white backlash—for those lost souls who felt emasculated by the Obama administration. But instead of double-holed sheets, many of these frustrated men and women infiltrate law enforcement, using their shield like a burning cross to inspire fear. 

The president’s weaponized whispers empowered Chauvin to place his knee on Floyd’s neck. Floyd’s death becomes a cinematic symbol of the MAGA dream to maintain a racial pyramid where white supremacy rests on the backs of black bodies. 

In Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, Magda’s goal is to silently create anarchy so that humankind can destroy one another. Likewise, in the chaos Trump hides his hand as Minneapolis smolders under the flames he produced. As the ink dries on this moment in America’s racist history, many lives will be lost and property will be destroyed. Sadly, the life of Floyd will be replaced by another hashtag of a person of color represented by Benjamin Crump.  

Furthermore, the police officers will not be charged with yet another murder of an unarmed black person. The federal government will not enforce or limit the power of the so-called “champions of people” if they maintain the status quo. The government will not nationally require police officers to wear body cameras or punish officers for the use of deadly force.  

Trump will stoke the flames to cover his political transgressions and to justify his presidency for a second term. For he will use the riots that Martin Luther King Jr. called “the language of the unheard” to argue for a stricter police state. The businesses destroyed will lead to further impoverishment of communities of color, and the cycle of conflict between law force and the poor will continue to spin.  

We do not need a crystal ball or a psychic hotline or tarot cards to rationalize these said predictions. All we have to do is listen to the whispers from a time when America used to send them, the criminalized other, out on stretchers.

Jessie L. Adolph is a college professor of African Diaspora Studies.

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