Monday, October 2, 2017

Stand or Else: Trump's Attack on Black NFL Players


I am sharing a comment that first appeared in my Facebook feed written by my former colleague, Professor Joseph Carl Grant.  His bio appears at the end of this post.  I appreciate his point of view and his courage in conveying this powerful point of view.  I monitor all comments, so if you plan to say anything hateful in response, no one will ever see it.  My blog.  My rules.

"I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts on Trump's criticism of NBA and NFL players.  This weekend I watched Trump's Huntsville, Alabama rally, tweets, and sporting events and commentary very closely and carefully.

First, what really strikes me is the passion with which Trump, especially in the past couple of weeks, has gone after Jemele Hill, Stephen Curry, and the mostly African-American males in the NFL peacefully protesting racial inequality and injustice by kneeling during the National Anthem-the "S.O.B.'s" in Trump's lexicon.  There is one common thread, Trump is knowingly and purposely targeting African-Americans to appeal to his political base-this is about race.  (Yes, LeBron, you're next, Trump has no better sense than to attack you rather than listen to your wise and insightful observations about who and what a president should be).  Trump is attacking African-Americans who are exercising their Constitutional rights to dissent with more passion and verily than he could muster to condemn the actions of white supremacists in Charlottesville.  He wrongly insinuates "both" sides are wrong-there's no equivocation here-Trump has chosen the side of the alt-right (just another word for modern white supremacists).

Overall, Trump is constructing and articulating an "Us" versus "Them" vision or paradigm of American society.  What really struck me this morning was Trump's tweet praising NASCAR for not having racers kneel this weekend during the National Anthem.  Alright, maybe I'm dumb, but there's something apparent here, I can't name one African-American who participated as a driver in NASCAR this weekend, and you'd be hard-pressed to find many African-Americans who attended NASCAR this past weekend in sizable numbers.  I lived in NASCAR country/culture for three years in rural southwest Virginia-that demographic is largely Caucasian.  To illustrate my point, Trump is basically saying good white folks who attend NASCAR I'm your man-I'm with you!  However, NBA and NFL, which are largely populated by African-American male athletes, Trump is mining a dark vein by targeting and saying to his mainly white audience, we don't like it and suffer discomfort when you (Black folks) take a knee to protest what's going on in terms of the prison-industrial complex and police brutality/murder in the communities you come from.  This is that Us v. Them dichotomy I mentioned.

Through language, Trump called these men ("S.O.B.'s"), all Black men have mothers, many of whom raised us alone through struggle and sacrifice, all the culturally attuned Black men I know honor, respect, and hold their mothers in a place of high reverence.  Black women/mothers are not b*+=<%s! Trump has insulted a true pillar of the Black community-our women.  This is something Black men cannot stand for-this is a bridge too far.  Black men have stood beside Black women in the past, and now more than ever we must stand in solidarity with our sisters, because they have never left our side in any of our struggles as Black men.  Trump wouldn't insinuate that white women are b%#*+}s!  (Knowing his track record, perhaps he would).

Next, another thing that troubles me about Trump is that he perpetuates a slave master mentality concerning Black labor in this country.  In a nation where Black bodies were commoditized and sold with impunity and disregard for humanity a true president must pick and choose his/her words wisely.

In the South, where my roots run deep, my own ancestors were bought, sold, and transferred from Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina to Alabama.  A slave could be sold at a whim, or if he/she gave a word or a look of protest to their master.  A "good" slave stayed in line to preserve their individual comfort.  Rebellious or "bad" slaves spoke up and thereby posed a threat to the majoritarian social norms/institutions.

By saying that NFL owners should fire these men for kneeling, Trump in direct and indirect ways is harkening back to a dark period in our history where Black men had no control over their labor.  We were owned by slave masters in the not so distant past-the new plantation aristocracy are white NFL owners.  The net effect is that Black men don't have a right to dissent, express themselves, and seek regress of their grievances-the implication is that we own your body and we own your labor-therefore we own you!  Speak too loudly or cast a glance in our direction we don't like, we will take your livelihood away from you in an instant.  You, and your body are commodities that we market, control and profit from.  NFL'ers are akin to the modern gladiators of Ancient Rome.  Entertain us and subvert your own humanity.

Finally, the Constitution holds freedom of religion, speech, expression, and the press on the highest platform.  Time-after-time, Trump has shown us he neither respects or embraces these most important of core American values.  I may not like what someone else says or does, or how they express themselves, but the beauty of this country is that none of us have to follow the path of the masses-we may peacefully and lawfully dissent and protest social inequality and injustice.  The president in his/her use of the bully pulpit should always be trumpeting these most American of values.  This president on a basic, and elementary level has shown he has no knowledge and respect for the Constitution.  This a know-nothing president!  He embarrasses America!  There will be a day we must articulate and try to market these most American of values to others in the world, maybe under Trump, he will be unbelievable because he doesn't practice what he might one day have to preach to American or perhaps a worldwide audience if circumstances demand our core values be articulated.

If Frederick Douglass, A. Phillip Randolph, Paul Robeson, Marcus Garvey, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and untold others decided to remain silent where would I be?  I commend the social expression and consciousness of the Black men and women of the NBA, NFL, and WNBA to move the needle of justice in the right direction.

Dr. King said: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."  There is still much progress to be achieved, justice will be served.  I feel that the memory of history is long, history will judge and remember Trump for the counterproductive and destructive force that he has been to our democratic values and institutions.  Hopefully, he'll be a blip on the radar screen, who forces the needle further in the direction of unity among fair-minded and justice loving people.

There is so much going on in the world. Our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico are in the midst of a tremendous humanitarian crisis, North Korean tensions are rising, healthcare hangs in the brink.  Why is Trump paying attention to the NFL when there are bigger fish to fry?  His presidency has been a failure from inception."

Professor Joseph Karl Grant joined the Florida A&M University College of Law faculty in 2013.  Professor Grant teaches Property, Business Organizations, Trust & Fiduciary Administration, and Estates & Trusts at the FAMU College of Law.  Professor Grant received his J.D. from Duke University School of Law (1998), and A.B. from Brown University (1995).  He spent his junior year of college at the University of London, Queen Mary & Westfield College.  After law school, Professor Grant returned to his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, where he practiced in the Corporate and Securities, and the Labor and Employment law practice groups at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, LLP, and in the Corporate and Securities practice group at Thompson, Hine & Flory, LLP.  After leaving large law firm practice, and prior to his entry in the legal academy, Professor Grant founded and managed The Grant Law Firm, LLC in Cleveland, Ohio.  Professor Grant has served on the faculties at several law schools, including West Virginia University College of Law (2004-2005), Appalachian School of Law (2005-2008), Capital University School of Law (2008-2013), and the University of Oregon School of Law (Fall 2011). 

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