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Flesh on the Ground in the Trump EraPhoto 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.

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Comments

  • Francisco Jesus Aldana

    Hey Talib, how about you get to keep doing the beautiful work we remember you doing? I find it difficult to accept that people think a 70 year old American can truly have that much of an impact on their own personal happiness in this thing we call life. If you really believe in God, then just hold onto believing in the beauty of God’s creation, and work to help others. . .

    • JD

      That was the most useless, bullshit comment on such an enlightening and insightful article. You’re either with him, or against him, and I would guess the latter. It’s people like YOU he is speaking of, and it’s people like you who slow down progress. Your comment simply amounts to the same as the all lives matter and safety-pin crowd. It’s a side-swipe “shut-up and keep dancing and singing for us” couched as a pseudo-ally under the guise of caring or being neutral. It’s people like YOU who are getting old, yet are also becoming a non-factor for which the rest of us are beginning to ignore, and just steam-roll over to achieve our goals. No one is accepting of or normalizing the attitudes of people like you. From Colin Kaepernick to Talib, we just collectively give people like you a side-eye and fuck you, and keep it moving. You’re a non-issue, so go do your own damn dancing and singing, people of color are done doing it for you. #whiteextinction

    • Akademik

      Thank you.

  • KiN CAMELL

    Thank you.