Tags: African American celebrities, African Americans, American Education, current-events, European Americans, media, meetings with the President-elect Trump, politics, President Trump, President-elect Trump, representation, subjective interpretation
Once President Trump won the nomination and set up his office in Trump Tower, he had numerous individuals coming to pay him a visit. Among some of these visitors were a number of popular African Americans. Because of the baggage that President Trump brought with him from his campaign that was seen as ethnically biased against African Americans, many people questioned the reasons for African Americans going to Trump Tower. Regardless of their reasons for visiting with then President-elect Trump, the photo opportunity after the meetings of these African Americans with Trump sent a message that he was using them to show the country and the world that he was not biased. The problem with that interpretation is that these African American individuals represented only themselves, not the national community of people of color.
Some years ago, a European American politician in Oklahoma was asked why he did not come into the African American community to campaign for votes. He answered that he had met with all the important African Americans in the community and paid them off for the community’s vote. So, there was no need to try to win the votes of individuals when he already had the community vote in his pocket. In other words, all this politician had to do was to meet with a few popular African American and pay them to publicly support his campaign. So, although we are not questioning the rights and integrity of the individual African Americans who visited with Trump nor their reasons for the visit, we do not want the lasting impression from their visits to be that they were making a deal with him on behalf of the African American people. The African American citizens have not given their voting power or influence to any popular African American individual nor can they because African Americans and people of color do not represent a monolith.
When America saw various African Americans of note having their pictures taken with President-elect Trump and saying words in praise of him, that occasion gave many of them an opportunity to pause and think about what they saw. Why, after a campaign that was filled with disparaging and negative things about people of color, not to mention the “birther” campaign that was conducted for several years, would a prominent African American want to be photographed with Trump? Regardless of their reasons, meeting with and being photographed with the President-elect was their right and privilege. However, the implications associated with such meetings bring to awareness some conundrums—did the President-elect cut any deals or make any promises with these individuals? If so, what were they, who did they impact, how will they be implemented, and when? One certainty we know from experience—deals and promises made with individuals acting as individuals are not binding to the people these individuals seemingly represent.
In addition, the photo opportunities of the African Americans with the President-elect Trump gave the viewers the suggestion that some type of negotiations might have taken place. Whether deals or promises were part of the conversations, only the parties involved know what transpired because the people were not privy to them. Again, the problem that needs to be resolved is whether the individual African Americans were representing themselves, or were they speaking on behalf of a group of people. If they were at their meetings as individuals only, then no problem exists. However, if they gave the impression that they were speaking on the behalf a group of people, then they should have said so. No single individual can know and communicate the needs and wants of every community in America specifically; that is why organizations of concerned and active people exist. The meetings with individuals create a problem of perception, not one of individual rights and privileges.
One problem with individuals meeting with Trump and having the meeting seen as an individual representing the African American community is when organized national and community organizations request meeting with Trump to discuss some concerns, his response could be that he had already discussed those concerns with one or two individuals earlier. Evidently, the organizations did not get the memo about the meetings. The fact that the photo opportunities with the African Americans and the President-elect Trump serve as evidence that he met with them could be used as proof of his concern for some of the challenges in the various communities, and then suggest that anyone with a concern seek out these African Americans for answers to their questions.
Some people might suggest in defense of these individual Africans Americans if they are not representing an organization, that Martin Luther King, Jr. met individually with leaders, so that proves the acceptance of this type of activity. No so! King always spoke as a representative of a group of concerned citizens, and he was seldom alone at such meetings. Throughout history the media has taken the opportunity, on occasion, to create spoke persons for the African American community by simply showing them again, and again responding to questions asked by the media. Booker T. Washington became a national leading figure for the African American community when the media took a quote from a speech he delivered at the 1895 Atlanta Cotton Exposition focusing on “separate but equal” status for African Americans and broadcast it nationwide. Because of that nationwide coverage, Washington became the most influential African American of his day. So, we know what exposure to the media can do for individuals.
The American public has been conditioned to think incorrectly that one person can speak for all people of color. So, when an individual of color is shown by the media making a statement or responding to a question, the public could easily view that individual as representing an entire group. Unfortunately, that perception is what comes to mind when an African American celebrity is shown in a photo opportunity with President Trump. If such meetings between Trump and African American celebrities involve problems and concerns facing African Americans and other people of color and deals are made, the strength of the groups and organizations whose purpose is to address these problems with the President or his representatives is greatly weakened.
All individual have a right to meet and speak with anyone they choose, especially if that person is the President of the United States. However, all individual do not have the right to speak for a group of people they do not officially represent or to give that impression to the public. These individuals certainly have the right to speak on any topic they choose as long as they represent only themselves.
Tags: African Americans, American History, black, Brigette Gaberiel, Caucasians, English, ethnic americans, ethnicity, European Americans, lesser whites, Pilgrims, political correctness, Prejudice, skin color, white
The following statement provided an opportunity to make clear some common misinformation:
We must come together as a nation. We must throw political correctness in the garbage where it belongs and start speaking the truth! I am sick and tired of everybody walking around being so offended. We need to start offending people. I am sick and tired of “I am an African-American, I am an Italian-American, I am a Lebanese-American”. We are nothing but Americans!” –Brigette Gabriel, Watchmen on the Wall Conference 2015-http://rightweb.irc-online.org/profile/Gabriel_Brigitte
On the surface the statement above reads like someone is deeply concerned about the bigotry and insensitivity relative to ethnic Americans. However, on closer scrutiny we discover the opposite intent of what is said because of the apparently vague generalities. Let us be specific in our concerns. Who are the “we” in the first sentence and why are “we” not together? The next sentence does nothing to identify or to make clear the “we” questions, but states that political correctness must be thrown into the garbage. Why? In addition, the truth must start to be spoken. What truth? Before we go further in our discussion we realize that the above statements reads like bumper stickers of the past: “America, Love it, or Leave it!” Like the bumper sticker, society does not know who is making the statement and to whom. To most Americans, that bumper sticker statement would be totally Un-American, because in our democratic form of government, when we do not like something that is unreasonable, we work to change it, not run from it.
Gabriel’s reference to political correctness sounds more like a “dog whistle” than a legitimate complaint about something of significance. Most instances of political correctness seek to make more accurate and pertinent some expression or practice. An example of political correctness involves changing the label “Garbage Man” to “ Sanitation Worker” and in so doing remove the denigrating reference to garbage and the gender designation of man. Why would anyone be against that kind of correctness? For certain some of the changes or suggested changes can appear hyperbolic and unreasonable, but to discount all political correctness would be fool-hardy. How does one distinguish “the truth” in political correctness without examining the objective in making the change and then checking for its validity and accuracy? Again, the question must be asked: Whose truth?
The next sentence contains sentiments of Gabriel being “sick and tired” of other people walking around being offended. She has every right to feel whatever she is capable of feeling, but that freedom does not include making other people conform to her feelings. She has no control of the feelings of other people, but if so concerned about why they feel offended, might inquire of them. Maybe they are justified in feeling offended. Her statement reflects a degree of arrogance when she describes her dislike of other people’s expressions of offence as if they are supposed to please her.
Gabriel’s next statement sounds dictatorial and aggressive towards people who offend her and the “We” she has yet to define. What would be the objective in deliberately offending people? Americans have 1st Amendment rights that are protected by the Constitution, so if their expressions and/or behavior does no physical or mental harm to anyone, then they can continue exercising their right, whether Gabriel like it or not. The suggestion of wanting to offend someone for some unknown reasons or for using political correctness seems un-American and un-democratic.
In her next sentence, Gabriel expresses again her feelings of “sick and tired” of what she apparently considers political correctness: “I am an African-American, I am an Italian-American, I am a Lebanese-American”. This statement shows a total lack of or acceptance of American history in that Gabriel does not understand the difference between ethnic identity and cultural identity and how it has played out in America since before the Mayflower. Although the pilgrims brought their prejudices with the to America, those prejudices were not based on ethnicity, but skin color—red for Indians, black for Africans, and white for Europeans. Not until the founding fathers invented two races—one black, one white, did the need for identity become important.
The ruling Anglo-Saxon class of early Americans wanted to control society in order to protect themselves and their possessions, so they invented two races base on skin color followed with what they promoted as natural characteristics. For the white race the concept of total supremacy over all non-white people was offered as a God-given right. For Africans/African Americans the concept was one of inferiority in every respect, especially, intelligence. These two concepts were two sides of the same coin; one does not exist without the other. Everything was fine for a while because all the social, political, religious, legal and educational institutions were controlled by the Anglo-Saxons.
In the early 1920’s the ruling class realized that too many lesser whites were immigrating to America, so they slowed European immigration down in some regards, and put a stop to it relative to people of color—see Johnson-Reed bill. The lesser whites—including Irish, Italians, Slavs, Poles, Jews, Germans and others were placed under the rubric of Caucasian, a term coined just prior to 1800. This term Caucasian became identified with white and elevated the lesser whites relative to privilege, and prestige. The significance of this elevation for the lesser whites, which is important to Gabriel’s complaint, is that the European immigrants who could change their identity from its ethnic origin to white, did so. Being white was more important and valuable than being Italian-American. Unfortunately, the shift from ethnic identity to white did nothing positive for African Americans; it, in fact, produced more bigots who identified with their new social group.
All Americans have two identities, one ethnic, and one cultural. The ethnic identity is based on ancestry and geography and cannot be changed. Our cultural identity is of our own choosing. For example, if a female child is born to French parents in France, then both her identities will be French. However, if as an adult she decides to move to England, and become an English citizen, then her cultural identity changes to English. She becomes a French-English citizen or just English. The case with African Americans is different because the African captives who were enslaved in America had their identities taken away from them and replaced with terms like Negro, black, colored etc. So, the term African American is not an example of political correctness, but a re-establishment of both former and current identities.
European Americans or whites can select the time and place to use their ethnic identity; for many, they only know white or Caucasian. Control of African Americans and some lesser Americans is still in effect today because race still has social value. We would welcome the day when all Americans can truthfully say that we are all Americans and be politically correct.