The movie Hidden Figures depicted the relatively unknown contributions of three African American women to America’s space race. The main focus of the movie centered on events surrounding John Glenn’s historic orbiting of the earth making him the first American to achieve this feat. His historic accomplishment occurred in 1962. The three women worked against a backdrop of attitudes that saw both women and people of color as second-class citizens. The movie Selma depicts the struggle for voting rights, which obviously occurred against the same backdrop of attitudes. What troubled me about watching these two movies was that these same attitudes seem to have come front and center since the election of the 45th President. As a matter of fact, the current administration embodies these attitudes.
Since the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt, administrations have primarily moved forward on the question of race and unity in the United States. Franklin Roosevelt had his Black Cabinet. He also made overtures toward A. Philip Randolph regarding the issue of Black employment and unemployment. Roosevelt left us with the legacy of a safety net, which results in significant state intervention into poverty in America. Truman desegregated the military. He took up the issue of Civil Rights. Eisenhower, a Republican, sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas. Kennedy addressed the nation regarding the plight of Blacks and America’s need to recognize the issue of inequality. On LBJ’s watch Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and Fair Housing in 1968. Johnson also left us with Medicare and Medicaid. Even Nixon has been referred to as the Father of Black Capitalism. Despite his many faults he could breathe the words “set aside” as pertaining to fostering Black businesses. We know that Reagan began his initial campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Yet, Reagan signed a voting rights extension. He also signed the King Holiday Bill. In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” King spoke to White clergy with the intent of addressing individuals who had shortcomings on the issue of race, but were people of “genuine goodwill.” President Donald Trump is not a person of genuine goodwill. Allow me to repeat that statement. President Donald Trump is not a person of genuine goodwill.
When thinking about the Trump campaign, some argue that his campaign was shear genius to tap into American anger. In translation, this means that he tapped into White fear in general and White male angst and bigotry in particular. I argue that this was not a strategy. This is who Donald Trump is in the spirit and flesh. Every foul and racist utterance that we have heard from this man, whom we must call President, comes directly from his heart. At his heart he is racist and misogynistic with a healthy dose of xenophobia. He believes that White males are entitled to control everything. It irks him when he sees the color brown. He is willing to cavort with color as long as he believes he remains in a superior position. This is why he had such difficulty with President Obama. He cannot stomach the feeling of knowing that a Black person is superior to his status.
This is also a President who calls for “an eye for an eye” and “a tooth for a tooth.” This is an old dispensation that was replaced with the dispensation of grace, courtesy of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Turn the other cheek.” In translation, this means what Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high.” The teaching is to show a better side. With this President, there is no better side. I cannot understand why Trump’s Christian followers will not call him out on this point. All President Trump does is cast stones all day every day. Think about it. This is a President who referred to Black athletes as SOBs while speaking from behind the “Presidential Seal. Such nefarious behavior brings to mind that passage from Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall:”
I see him there Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed. He moves in darkness as it seems to me, Not of woods only and the shade of trees. He will not go behind his father’s saying, And he likes having thought of it so well He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’
Anthony Neal earned his Ph.D. in political science at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University). Dr. Neal is an associate professor at State University College, Buffalo. The author of numerous book reviews and journal articles, he has had his work published in the Western Journal of Black Studies, the Journal of Black Studies, and Black Issues in Higher Education. In 2014 Dr. Neal received the university’s Faculty Appreciation Award, was named Instructor of the Year by the university’s United Student Government, and Professor of the Year by the Student Political Society in the Department of Political Science. In 2015, he published The American Political Narrative which is a succinct yet poignant narrative about the development of the American political system and what is needed to maintain it. In 2016, he will publish a book of poetry entitled “Love Agnostic | from 9/11 to Charleston”