Flesh on the Ground in the Trump Era - By Talib Kweli Greene
Photo courtesy of Talib Kweli Green.
If you grew up in New York City in the 1980s, avoiding the orange phenomenon known as Donald Trump was damn near impossible. He was everywhere, attending parties and premiers, dating fashion models. His first mention in the mainstream media ever was a 1973 story in the New York Times about how he was being sued for housing discrimination. Much like the gaudy, decadent TV show Lifestyles Of The Rich and Famous, Donald Trump represented every stereotype the poor and working class masses had about rich people in the 80s. That spoiled, entitled, hyper-violent, sexist villain seen in so many 80s teen comedies? Donald Trump was a father figure to that caricature. And it was fine, because as long as all he was doing was making sure poor New Yorkers of color had a hard time living in his buildings, he was tolerated. Scratch that, he was celebrated. Donald Trump, son of a billionaire slumlord and Ku Klux Klan supporter, was seen as a symbol of the American Dream, the physical embodiment of wealth itself.
So when Donald Trump put out a full-page ad in the New York Post demanding that the Central Park Five, black teenagers who were later exonerated by DNA testing, and set free, should be given the death penalty for a crime they had yet to be found guilty of, it was dismissed by mainstream media as Trump just being Trump. When reports began to surface about Donald Trump saying things like “laziness is a trait in the blacks” and “the only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day,” they were dismissed as Trump just being Trump.
Personally, I always recognized Donald Trump’s racist dog whistles. I would cringe whenever my favorite rappers would mention him in lyrics as a symbol of opulence. When he began doing reality TV, while overseeing failed business venture after failed business venture, while declaring bankruptcy four times, Trump began to make more sense to me. He was a clown, a court jester, an empty suit. I was fine with letting him pretend to be the boss, fake firing people on TV. Donald Trump’s tangible effect on my life wasn’t realized by me until he was triggered by the election of the first black president in United States history, Barack Hussein Obama.