20
Sat, Jul

By Their Fruits and Imaginary Black Friends Ye Shall Know Them

SAY WHAT?

SAY WHAT? - This Juneteenth, there's gotta be no better totem of the grotesque lies of MAGA's revamped Lost Cause - just swap out white "Christian" men for slaveholders - than the spectacle of their felonious, "very fine people" leader hustling African-American votes at a "Black" church in Detroit that drew "the 15 Black people who support him" and a crowd of white MAGA-ites, some in WTF "Blacks For Trump" t-shirts. Consummate for a guy who's been vilely "wrong and loud" over a lifetime of racism. 

At midnight on Freedom's Eve, Jan.1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln's historic Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, declaring millions of enslaved people legally free. But in Confederate-controlled Texas, the last bastion of slavery, it took until June 19, 1865, for Union soldiers to ride into Galveston on "America's second independence Day" and free over 250,000 black slaves - “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news" - offering the (still-unfulfilled) promise of "absolute equality," not for some but for all. In 2021, in "the house built by enslaved people," Biden signed a bill making Juneteenth a new federal holiday; 14 House Republicans denounced the bill as "identify politics" and voted against it. Calling the event one of his greatest honors and "a day of profound weight" in which to remember slavery's "moral stain (and) terrible toll," Biden knelt to embrace 94-year-old Texas activist Opal Lee, the driving force behind the new holiday. On Wednesday, he posted, "Today, we honor the tireless work of abolitionists who made it their mission to deliver the promise of America for all."

Then there's the other guy. The one who got sued 50 years ago for housing discrimination against Black families. Who demanded the Central Park Five's young brown and black men be executed, and declined to apologize after they were exonerated. Who for years dog-whistled racist tropes and demonized migrants. Who gave rise to vicious Birtherism attacks against Barack Obama, spewed the n-word on his stupid show, claimed he "knew" Black people 'cause they worked on his tacky buildings, boasted about "the Blacks" liking him more now that he's a criminal and discriminated against just like them. Who befriended and defended white supremacists, Nazi thugs and Proud Boys, decried the removal of Confederate statues, went fake gangsta to peddle sneakers and mugshot t-shirts. Who gave tax cuts to rich white men, cut funds to HBCUs and safety nets and lied about it, said African people lived in "shithole countries" and Americans in majority-black cities - Baltimore, Atlanta, Philly, Detroit - are "living in hell." DNC chair Jaime Harrison: "He’s telling us exactly what he thinks of Black Americans, and we’re listening."

He's also the guy who, having never heard of either Juneteenth or the 1921 Tulsa Massacre - when a mob of white Oklahomans attacked a thriving Black community, burning homes and businesses and killing up to 300 Black residents - planned a Tulsa rally on Juneteenth as both the pandemic and protests against the murder of George Floyd raged. Faced with fury at his ignorance about "the history of that hallowed ground" as well asJuneteenth, he backed down and pushed the rally up a day to June 20. Then, ever the moronic, juvenile narcissist, he proceeded to brag to the Wall Street Journal, " I did something good. I made Juneteenth very famous." “It’s actually an important event," he explained. "But nobody had ever heard of it" (except generations of Black Americans). It seems a Black Secret Service guy told him about it; when he asked an aide if she'd heard of Juneteenth, she mentioned a White House statement on it he likewise knew nothing about - for Black Americans, "another reminder that our communities and our history are an afterthought, or worse, a target. At every turn, Trump is loud and wrong."

And so, to Detroit - or as the right-wing New York Post blared, "Team Trump is bravely going where Republicans have never gone before - into the black community." Also, into a city - oops, cue "horrible" Milwaukee - he earlier called "a living hell," in a state now deemed vital in an alarmingly close election. Detroit is one of the country's largest majority-Black cities, and in 2020 Biden won almost 95% of the vote. To sweeten the pot, the campaign chose the occasionto launch a "Black Americans for Trump Coalition" endorsed by a handful of Black celebs and pols; they include former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who served only a bit of his 28 years in prison for felony fraud and racketeering convictions - "the best people" - before Trump commuted his sentence in 2021. Trump was scheduled to attend a roundtable at the evangelical 180 Church on the hardscrabble west side of the city; the event was moderated by Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, a Trump sycophant and vice-presidential wannabe who's been busy trying to clean up an earlier, untoward claim that Blacks were better off in the deeply racist "Jim Crow" South.

Pastor Lorenzo Sewell, in a "Make Black America Great Again" shirt, hosted Trump; it's unclear how many of the city's bounteous churches with black pastors declined the honor. In a grinning interview, Sewell described congregants laughing when he invited them; at least one asked, "Why are you letting the devil into our church?" But he remained upbeat even as Trump, sitting two seats away, failed to recognize him: "Where's Lorenzo?" For many, the vital issue of the day was: Does it still count as a "Black" church if it's filled with white people? Despite a smattering of Blackpeople - they woke Ben Carson for the day, local rappers Peezy and Icewear Vezzo showed, as did some Black congregants, none from that church - most of the those who, per Jimmy Kimmel, "came to see Mr. Martin Luther Burger King in person" were white, stout, red-cap-wearing MAGA fans, raising the tricky question as to whether you can win the black vote with white folks. There was also a heckler yelling, "Drink some bleach!" and a skeptic noting, "I saw more Black people at my house today and I'm the only Black person who lives here."

As usual, the guy who's done more for Black people than Abe Lincoln, along with his lackeys, lied and ranted: Migrants are "coming into your community, they’re taking your jobs," crime is rampant, a crowd like you've never seen, more money for HBCUs, the American dream for all people," “I have so many Black friends that if I were a racist, they wouldn’t be friends, so I'm not racist." Pastor James Perkins: "Every time Trump opens his mouth to talk to Black folks, he demonizes us, insults us, and makes empty promises he’ll never keep." Pastor and head of Detroit NAACP Dr. Wendell Anthony panned Trump's "use of the sacred institution of the black church to peddle his pernicious, perilous lies." "He did not articulate any policy" - education, infrastructure, jobs, the John Lewis voting rights bill, the George Floyd policing act. "He articulated the fact that he wanted to come get some Black votes." "Some people may go for the okey-dokey," he said. "The fact is, he comes in and talks about what he's done for Black people. Look at the record. By their fruits, ye shall know them."

After the church event, Trump gave the keynote address to his real base of racists at Turning Point’s confab alongside Charlie Kirk, who argues the Civil Rights Act was “a mistake” and "Whiteness is great." From such dark places - see the rise of right-wing extremism, the dwindling of hopes of police reform or economic equity, the GOP's war on history, the persistence of holidays honoring the Confederacy in 10 southern states - does Juneteenth's promise of "absolute equality" become a mere "gilded token." MAGA is essentially a refurbished Confederacy, argues Thom Hartmann of a "post-political" GOP done with the niceties of democracy: "They’re using our political system (to) seize enough power to destroy our political system." On Jan. 6, more than one Confederate flag was seen waving in the Capitol. And on Newsmax Trump, representing all "oppressed people,” just became as big a victim as Emmett Till himself. Hint: It's the jury's fault, and "we've seen this before." Juneteenth represents how far we've come, but clearly, scarily, urgently how far we still have to go.

“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation are people who want crops without plowing the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters.” - Frederick Douglas, 1857

(Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, hauling water and writing before moving to Portland. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email: [email protected]  This article was first published at CommonDreams.org.)