It is our duty to speak out against the disturbing, disrespectful and alarming treatment of black women by President Donald Trump. At rallies, Trump continues to harass and ridicule U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California), a native of Kinloch, with his rallying cry, “Oh, Maxine, Maxine Waters – low IQ.” He is fixated on this powerful black woman, who will soon become the head of the House Financial Services Committee and have the authority to subpoena his tax returns. Rightly, he fears her greatly.
More recently, Trump went on a rampage against three highly respected black women journalists with white supremacist tropes. He dismissed April Ryan (White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks and a contributor to CNN), commanding her to sit down repeatedly. He taunted Yamiche Alcindor (White House correspondent for PBS and contributor to NBC and MSNBC), absurdly calling her “a racist” in some weird inversion and projection of his own character failings. Then Trump attacked Abby Phillip (CNN reporter and former Washington Post journalist), contemptuously telling her, “You always ask such stupid questions” after she asked him if he wanted Matthew Whittaker, Trump’s appointee as acting attorney general, to “rein in” special counsel Robert Mueller.
Needless to say, it’s part of Trump’s “distract and rule” strategy to undermine the press in general. In the same news cycle when he publicly degraded and attacked these three respected black women journalists, Trump also slandered and revoked the White House credentials of Jim Acosta, a Latino reporter for CNN, who challenged Trump’s false characterization of a caravan of refugees as “an invasion” from the South. But Trump finds particular sport in humiliating black women professionals who dare to challenge him and speak critically of him. It’s the perfect opportunity for his racism and sexism to converge.
Not surprisingly, there is historical precedent for presidential disregard for black women journalists. Alice Allison Dunnigan, the first African-American woman journalist to receive White House credentials, stated in her autobiography, “I might say the White House seemed ‘hell-bent’ on gagging me, as far as questions on civil rights were concerned. President Eisenhower always left me standing like the invisible man. The white reporters began to notice the snub, and one day one of them asked, ‘Do you realize how many times you were on your feet today asking for recognition?’ When I replied that I hadn’t counted, he replied, ‘Fifteen times.’”
Under Trump’s presidency, the country has regressed a century in its public discourse around race and women. It’s horrific to contemplate how far we have fallen in the two years since Michelle Obama was first lady of the United States and Barack Obama was president. Ron DeSantis was elected Florida governor after his racist slander of Andrew Gillum, his Democratic opponent, whom he said would “monkey up” the state if elected. Even more amazingly, U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi) has not retracted her statement that she wouldn’t turn down “a front seat at a public hanging” as she faces Mike Espy, a black Democrat, in a special election in Mississippi – a state with a notorious history of lynching black men.
From the nation’s highest office, Trump has empowered racists and misogynists high and low to say – and do – what they mostly had been keeping to themselves. We know that lives have been and will be lost as a result. There also is incalculable damage being done to the self-esteem and dignity of our black children to hear this kind of talk coming from the president of the United States. How do we explain to our daughters that those who ignore and belittle black women are dead wrong and acting inappropriately, when the elected president of the United States behaves this way and gets away with it? This is why we must speak out – loud and forcefully – against Trump’s demeaning treatment of African-American woman. We must speak our truth and call Trump out as the racist and misogynist that he is.
And we must remember, also and always, the truth of our power. The most reliable voters against Trump and the Republican Party that enables him are black women. Trump attacks and seeks to demean us, like the coward he is, because he fears us. In that, if only that, he is correct. He should fear us and the power of our vote, because we, especially black women, are coming, as demonstrated in the recent election cycle, to get him at the ballot box.