By Frank Harris, III, Hartford Courant
I shook my head when I heard that a Black man had described President Donald Trump as America’s “first Black president.”
The words, apparently intended as praise, came from Fordham University professor Jack Brewer during a Black History Month roundtable discussion between Trump and more than a dozen other Black leaders.
Brewer, himself, is Black.
So is CNN political commentator Angela Rye, whose words come to mind with regard to her sentiment about Blacks working to support Trump’s reelection as he courts Black voters: “Shame on you.”
I won’t say “shame on you” to Brewer, though I’m reserving the right to continue shaking my head at both the literal and figurative lunacy of the statement.
I will, however, say a few words about those who launched verbal volleys at Rye for “shaming” Blacks who might wish to support Trump. The volleys came mostly along the lines of Blacks voting lockstep, blacks chained to the Democratic plantation, or Blacks speaking condescendingly toward those Blacks who dare to think differently from the Black majority, of whom 85 percent, according to a Hill/HarrisX poll last fall, supported any Democratic candidate over Trump.
Certainly, everyone has the right to think one’s own thoughts. Indeed, if a Black person wants to support Donald Trump for a second term, then certainly that person has a right to do so — just as every other person in every other group in America does.
Yes, they do.
Just as the hen has the right to support the appointment of the fox into the hen house.
Just as a woman has the right to support the campaign of a misogynist to head a women’s center.
Just as a Jew had a right to support Hitler the night the glass broke.
Just as a slave had a right to side with the rebels instead of those “damn Yankees.”
So, let’s get serious here.
Considering the intentions of the fox, would you really accuse the other hens in the hen house of shaming the hen that speaks in support of the fox? Would you blame the hen majority for criticizing the fox supporter — as the fox gets fatter and it becomes evident that the fox only likes hens in a certain kind of way?
Considering the sentiment of the misogynist, should the women who oppose his appointment be shamed for criticizing the woman who supports him? Would you say they were guilty of not allowing her to think with her own mind — even as the misogynist continues to make life miserable for the women he interacts with?
Considering the policies of Hitler, would you really feel right telling Jews that they were speaking condescendingly toward Jews who supported Hitler? Would you tell them they were wrong even as Hitler’s henchmen began rounding people up?
Considering the mindset of slave owners and supporters, would you really say to blacks, slave and free, that they were out of their minds for criticizing other Blacks for supporting their masters and slavery — as the babies of Black women grew lighter in complexion from generation to generation, as their lives of degradation went on year after year?
The fact is there will be a few of every group that will go against the majority of its group. Sometimes it is good that this happens. Sometimes it is not.
Certainly, though, there remains the right to criticize those with whom one disagrees, which includes the majority of Blacks who view Trump as a racist who does not have Blacks’ interest in mind or heart.
So, to those who criticized Rye for saying “shame on you” to Black Trump supporters — she had every right to voice her disdain, just as you have every right to criticize her for doing so.
That’s what democracy and the First Amendment provides and allows: the right to express ourselves.
And so, I express: A Black person who supports Trump is like a slave who, instead of choosing freedom, chooses a gold chain and a red cap with the words “Make Slavery Great Again.”
Yeah, it’s your choice. But seriously?
Frank Harris III of Hamden is a professor of journalism at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven.