I left Madison for a funeral in Memphis when the news was breaking that President Donald Trump, in a tweet, advised four Democratic lawmakers to return to the "broken and crime infested places from which they came." Three of the four were born in the U.S., none are European-American, i.e., white, and they all are women. One has to wonder if Native Americans are thinking that European Americans should start first by returning to the “broken and crime infested places from which they came” since prisons were also emptied out to settle the original 13 colonies in America, particularly Georgia.
When family members in Memphis discussed the Trump tweet, some mentioned that this is more “white folks mess” from the white folks who voted for him, while others added that in their lifetimes, they too had been told to “go back to Africa.” First there was laughter at the observation that the invitation to leave was 400 years too late. Next there was silence as we contemplated that this is the 400-year anniversary of enslaved Africans being brought in 1619 to Jamestown, Virginia.
Four-hundred years of slavery, and there are those who believe that unfair mass incarceration is the newest form of slavery. Meanwhile Trump insisted that African Americans “love the job” he’s doing and are “happy as hell” with his criticisms of Rep. Elijah Cummings and his majority-black Baltimore-area district. His approval rating hovers between 1 and 10% in the African American community and my Memphis relatives asked, “Who could that 1 to 10% be?”
Criticized again for his comments being racist, Trump disparaged a Democratic, African American man and where he comes from. He referred to Cummings as racist, and tweeted that his majority-black Baltimore district is a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” Baltimore was once the second leading port of entry for immigrants — European immigrants, similar to Trump's wife, Melania, who was born in Slovenia — then part of Yugoslavia — and didn’t obtain U.S. citizenship until 2006 and whose first language is not English.
My aunt, until recently, was a hospital chaplain in Memphis and she told the story of a woman volunteer who she considers “a sweet lady” until she talks about Trump. The woman is an ardent Trump supporter and although she would never personally talk to my aunt about him, on Facebook she posts negative comments about Democrats who criticize Trump’s policies or anyone who is not an ardent Trump supporter.
After all these years of living in politically correct Madison, I asked my aunt if she ever tried to understand the woman’s politics or ask her why she appeared one way in person and another on social media. She replied that she no longer discusses politics with anyone who isn’t willing to listen to an opposing idea and she especially refuses to discuss any important topic via Facebook or any social media.
Frankly, the whole discussion of race is less important after we have witnessed the series of mass shootings of people of all races and ages at public places from a Walmart to a garlic festival. I hope we can all agree that this new “domestic terrorism” must stop, before we are all equally afraid to be in any public space for any reason.
Fabu, Madison’s former poet laureate, is a consultant in African-American culture and arts. She writes a monthly column for The Capital Times.
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