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Nephew —

Hours before Donald Trump was named the 45th president of the United States, I watched you breathe your first breaths through my iPhone screen. I could hardly hear your coos over the groans in the next room, where my friends gathered to watch more states turn red than blue. But it was enough to see your kinky hair and chestnut skin. It was enough to see the wrinkle in your nose, the same as my sister’s, which scrunched as she cradled you in her arms. It was enough to see you, a Black boy, happy and free in a country that is seldom kind to Black boys.

And more, your birth brought more than a glimmer of joy to an evening that was quickly spiraling downward. It shined a ray of light onto a darkening day — one I did not know would become one of the darkest days for Black people in American history.

As the election results neared, I couldn’t help but fear for the country you’d be born into — a country at risk of being led by a man who used bigoted hate as a political weapon. Even before Trump refused to condemn white supremacists in Charlottesville, or referred to Haiti and African nations as “s***hole countries,” he’d already earned a reputation for unabashed racist comments and the insistent debasing of innocent Black people. And yet, on your birthday, more than 60 million Americans voted to elect a man who fearlessly deigned to be publicly racist.

A vote for a racist president is a vote for racism. And now, as you near your fourth birthday, and America nears four years of a Trump presidency, my greatest fear has been fully realized: from letting Black people die from an unmitigated pandemic, to emboldening violent racists, Trump has done more harm to Black communities than any president in modern history.

But Nephew, it takes more than truth for a hateful man to admit his faults — especially one who made more than 20,000 false or misleading claims since taking office. And of all Trump’s lies, perhaps besides his victory speech’s promise to be “president for all Americans,” his most shocking came during the final debate last Thursday.

Referring to himself in the third person, the president claimed that “no [president] has done more for the Black community than Donald Trump” with the “possible exception of Abraham Lincoln.” Such a bombastic claim, which was met with laughter, and ultimately mocking, by opposing candidate Joe Biden, is one the president has repeatedly made on the campaign trail.

Despite being consistently ranked as the worst modern president on issues of diversity, the president has taken to Twitter and Fox News to repeat his bold assertion. Just last July, Trump made the claim once again during a White House briefing on the coronavirus, citing his record on criminal justice reform, opportunity zones and the decreasing unemployment rates for Black Americans.

But Trump’s record on race has not only disproved his claim that he's done the most for Black Americans, it’s proven the opposite.

While employment has increased for Black Americans during Trump’s presidency, much of that progress can be attributed to the Obama administration. And worse, the median income for Black households has decreased. Moreover, Trump’s Opportunity Zones are now under fire for padding the pockets of wealthy investors rather than under-resourced Americans. And his criminal justice reform efforts, while admirable, come alongside his propulsion of conservative circuit judges, not one of whom is Black.

But the greatest irony of Trump’s assertion last July is that it was made during a briefing on a disease that has ravaged Black communities. Due in part to Trump’s uncaring, ruinous response to the rapid spread of COVID-19, the pandemic has infected three times as many Black Americans as it has white Americans, and killed twice as many. Just this week, cases broke their daily record, with mass spikes in the deadly disease predominantly occurring in communities of color. And, as if it weren’t enough to cause harm directly with his coronavirus response, Trump has continually emboldened racists. In the debate prior to Trump’s latest lie of how much he’s done for the Black community, he prompted the Proud Boys, a violent group of white nationalists, to “stand back and standby” — like a general commanding his army to wait in the ranks before preparing their strike.

To be Black in America is to face a constant risk of harm from those who think of us as lesser, be they police officers or Proud Boys. But Nephew, your ancestors have brought you too far to live your life in fear. And when I look at you, I see their faces.

I see your great great great grandmother, whose land was stolen by a neighboring white family just decades after the Civil War. I see your great great great Uncle, who narrowly escaped the KKK on horseback. I see your great great great grandfather, a white moonshiner who was burned alive in his home for loving a Black woman. I see your great great grandparents, marching on Washington, fighting for an equal right to vote without obstruction.

Racism, as you’ll learn, follows America like an unwanted shadow, rendering people a single color and lurching into this nation’s path each time we forgets our past. But nephew, while 60 million Americans voted for Trump’s hate on the night you were born, 3 million more voted against it. And now more than ever, Americans have demonstrated an increased awareness of the shadow racism has cast on this country. Not only do half of Americans agree that Trump is racist, but 46.2% believe Black Americans “have worse jobs income, and housing than white people … mainly due to discrimination” — a double digit increase since President Obama took office in 2008.

While Trump aimed to deepen American racism, his virulence and hatred has spurred the opposite. He held a mirror up to a country that so desperately needed to see its flaws and foibles. To see what happens when unbridled racism reaches the highest office in the land. Now, the right to vote that your great great grandparents marched for is all that stands between removing hate from the oval office. And a vote against him is a vote to protect you — to keep your light brilliant and bright in a country led by a man who doesn’t want to see you shine.