There is a wise saying that says; it is “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” I am always amazed when people possessing enough power and resources to have a cadre of individuals around them make avoidable missteps in public. Unfortunately, I was not surprised when America’s Commander in Chief, Donald Trump, made an inexcusable intellectual stumble.
Just in case you missed it, this is what occurred during a recent Black History Month celebration. America’s ‘can’t get right’ President attempted to once again prove to Black America that he is on their side by delivering a Black History Month speech that included him reading a list of African-American heroes from a sheet of paper.
Now I am confident that you are wondering what could go wrong with the reading of a list of names from a prepared speech. Unfortunately for Donald Trump, he apparently became too comfortable and unwisely choose to insert impromptu comments regarding these esteemed individuals. During this rather awkward moment, President Trump began discussing Frederick Douglass, this nation’s greatest Abolitionist voice. Of course, there is nothing wrong with President Trump speaking about such an esteemed American historical figure. However, Trump’s remarks regarding Douglass were spoken in the present tense as if he believed that the famed Abolitionist was still in the land of the living. It was evident that the Commander in Chief had no clue whatsoever that Douglass died February 20, 1895. Hilariously, Trump made it seem as if Douglass would be leading the next Million Man March.
On the surface, this public misstep is little more than a representation that President Trump knows absolutely nothing about African-Americans or their protracted struggle for politico-economic liberation in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. From a deeper view, Trump’s ignorance of African-American History, albeit we will remember this moment of ineptitude forever, places the spotlight on an American educational system filled with persons who know as little as Trump does about the African-American experience. Unfortunately, African-Americans from every walk of life, including educators, are included in the population mentioned above.
I previously used this space to tell a humorous story regarding a discussion among a group of African-Americans, each possessing a Ph.D., who wanted to bring in Richard Wright to deliver our keynote address for Black History Month in honor the 65th Anniversary of his epic tome, Black Boy. Although I was stunned that such ‘learned’ individuals had no idea that Richard Wright died fifty years prior, I did my best to hold in my laughter as these people pledged thousands of dollars to a pot with the intention of bringing the noted author to our campus. It was at this moment that I asked a member of the committee, who was also a Reverend, the following question.
“Do you speak to God on the regular?”
He responded, “Absolutely Brother Jones, is there a lamentation that you wish for me to deliver to the Lord?”
“Nah, I’m good on that front. However, there is one thing that you are going to have to do. Now he is still in the miracle business isn’t he?”
He nodded his head.
“Well, tonight when you talk to God, please tell him that he is going to have to reach into his old bag of tricks and breathe life back into Richard Wright as he did with Lazarus. And while he’s at, have him bring Malcolm and Martin back as well. Richard Wright has been dead since 1960. When was the last time you saw him on television? What was the last Richard Wright book that you read?”
Obviously, those ‘educated’ people around me had not only never read a Richard Wright book, but also had no idea of who he was or what he accomplished during his life.
Despite our hesitation to admit it, the truth of the matter is that the vast majority of our people emanate from the same educational system that produced our genius of a President. And without a serious infusion of “blackness” into our personal educational curriculum, we will be just as ignorant as our Commander in Chief regarding matters affecting our people.
I hope that we can agree that being ignorant is one thing, however, being “Trump dumb” is inexcusable, particularly when it comes to African-Americans. I hope that we each use this year’s Black History Month as an opportunity to not only raise our consciousness but also apply that knowledge toward the uplift of our community “By Any Means Necessary.”
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017