It’s a strange thing to wake up one morning and see the President of the United States disparaging you, demonizing Black elected officials and targeting entire cities. But then you remember that this isn’t just any President — it is Donald Trump. A reality TV star who constructed his reputation by fanning the flames of racism, unrest and division decades earlier, Trump has continued his quest to empower the worst elements of society. I’ve known Trump for over 25 years; this is what he did in New York, this is what he did to gain notoriety and this is what he did to get elected in 2016. If we expect anything else for 2020, we’re only fooling ourselves. It is incumbent upon us as Black folks, for all people of color and for our white allies to not only denounce his blatant bigotry, but stand up to the dangerous rhetoric and policies coming out of this White House by exercising our right to vote. We are the majority, and the majority are tired of the President talkin’ loud and sayin’ nothing.
Back in the 1980s, Trump took out full page ads in four prominent newspapers calling for the death penalty to be reinstated in New York so that five Black and Latino teens could be executed. The Central Park Five, or the Exonerated Five as we refer to them because they were in fact exonerated, lost years of their lives in prison for a crime that they did not commit. Donald Trump did everything in his power to stoke fears about Black and Brown teens, and till this day refuses to apologize, let alone acknowledge their innocence. I marched against Trump back then, I marched against his birtherism nonsense when President Obama was in office and I will always march against the xenophobia coming out of this Administration. I have spent my entire life making trouble for bigots, and I will continue to do so no matter what the latest tweetstorm.
Despite what the Trump White House would like us to believe, people across the country are hurting. They are working two or three jobs, or more, just to put food on the table and take care of their families. They are struggling to pay for health care, or even see a doctor when they are sick. They are watching as tax cuts continue to benefit the wealthy while they suffer from rising costs for everything from food to housing, meanwhile their wages remain stagnant. As much as this President would like to divide us, we must keep our focus on issues like income inequality, health care, affordable housing, jobs, quality education and all of the pertinent things impacting us on a daily basis. Trump would rather demonize people instead of doing his job of governing, tackling challenges and leading this great nation.
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It’s no surprise that those of us who find themselves on the receiving end of the President’s Twitter tirades and outbursts are people of color. He attacked me for standing up for Congressman Cummings, who himself became Trump’s target because he took a moral stand to question how migrant children at the border were being treated. He referred to the great city of Baltimore as "infested," and told four Congresswomen of color to essentially "go back to where they came from." Trump has a particular venom for Black folks and people of color, and we should not be silent about it.
We are dealing with blatant racism, and we must continue to make our voices heard and come out and vote to protect all the gains that we have achieved through decades of intense struggle and the sacrifices of many before us. Trump believes he can once again play the race card and use racial animus and division to somehow energize people and win in 2020. It’s bad for the country, and I don’t’ think it will work. The majority are hip to the game; the majority do not fall for the hustle; the majority will do the right thing.
Trump tried to call me a con man. As I said in my press conference the other day, if I was a con man, he’d nominate me to be in his Cabinet. The truth is that the ultimate con job has been the Donald Trump Presidency, and come 2020, we will break free from this terrible reality show.
Reverend Al Sharpton is a Baptist Minister & Political, Civil Rights, and Social Justice Activist based in New York City.