Donald Trump and the failed opportunism of 100 Black pastors
By Charing Ball
There is a name for a Black person who supports people who have blatantly shown no regard for us. And it is not the word you are thinking of.
Of course, I am talking about the 100 Black pastors who went to meet Donald Trump and some who eventually endorsed his candidacy for office.
One of those such pastors is Rev. James Davis from Cleveland who appeared on CNN yesterday to discuss his support and said that while pastors “technically” can’t endorse candidates for office, as James Davis, the man, he stands behind Trump 100 percent.
He also added:
“We are in a very serious time in this country where our community is on fire basically and no one is talking about sending a fire truck. Basically, what is going on now is a bunch of rhetoric about sound blurbs and what the media is putting out to paint a picture of Mr. Trump. So in that case, those of us who have enough sense and intelligent enough, we can get passed these sound blips or re-tweets or whatever they are and hear the substance.”
The “sound blips or retweets or whatever” Davis speaks of, include erroneous statistics on Black-on-Black crime, which Trump shared on Twitter. The crime stat controversy happened just a couple of days after the presidential candidate publicly supported the vicious at-tack on a Black protestor at a Trump campaign rally in Alabama.
And both of those incidents are par the course for Trump, who has a long history of making derogatory statements against Black people specifically.
In spite of all of the evidence to the contrary, Rev. Davis said that he does not believe that Trump is a racist nor does he feel like Trump’s “token.” Instead, he said that Trump’s policies will be good for the Black community. When asked which ones, he said the one about cutting taxes for job creators in Black communities, which will help give Black people jobs.
I know what you are thinking, but trust me, it ain’t that word.
Anyway, also on the CNN segment was Rev. Jamal Bryant of Baltimore, who offered a counterargument to Davis’s endorsement. No, he didn’t scream out, “These H**s Ain’t Loyal!” But close.
He called his brother in Christ, as well as the 99 other clergymen and women who met with Trump, “pawns.”
More specifically, he said, “I think he is a pawn. I am here regrettably as a preacher and a Black man to say that I vehemently oppose the candidacy of somebody who has been outlandishly offensive to every minority group in the country. From the Latino community, African-American community, women, physically challenged and all the more.”
Naturally, Rev. Davis objected to Rev. Bryant calling him a “pawn.” He also took the opportunity to confront the Baltimore preacher about previous derogatory comments he made on Twitter in which he called the pastors, some of whom being women, “prostitutes on the pole.”
To which Bryant responded, “I want to apologize because prostitutes get money. And the 100 who went in there walked away with nothing. They did it for free. So there is another word for that, and I would not use that language on a family channel.”
Prostitute is not exactly the word I would use either. And on a side note: I know folks like Rev. Bryant, but he has to stop calling people “hos” and “prostitutes.” It is not only distracting, but it is also disrespectful to hos and prostitutes.
I know plenty of “h**s” and one admitted prostitute, and none of them would vote for Trump. They’re just not that kind of people.
But like Bryant, I believe that there is a better word for that kind of people. And to understand where I am coming from, let me share with you all a short story:
Years ago I was a staff reporter for a weekly newspaper assigned to cover the casino issue in Philadelphia. What was the issue? Well, the state was forcing two casinos on the city, and many of the city’s residents and some of the local politicians were like, “Nah, that’s an issue.”
As you can imagine, it was a political mess.
One of the proposals up for consideration was from Trump Entertainment Resorts, which wanted to build a multi-acre casino and entertainment complex off a major roadway in the Northwest section of the city.
Trump came to town, putting on a spectacle and giving us all the ego and grandiose he is giving us now nationally (minus the racism, sexism, and xenophobia). Much like the tax incentive angle that he sold to Rev. Davis, Trump made a bunch of promises about jobs and incentives to the nearby communities, which were largely low-income and Black and brown.
Still, many of the people were not buying it. They worried about crime (including the organized kind), traffic, gambling addiction and decreased property values, which usually comes with living around a casino. They also worried about the predatory nature of putting a casino near residential neighborhoods, including a housing project that would have been located right across the street from the proposed Trump casino. The community also wanted a supermarket. And very few were convinced that Trump could deliver on the jobs he had promised to the nearby community considering most jobs at a casino require a clean criminal record.
In short, many in the community made it clear that they did not want a casino.
How many is many?
I can tell you that the coalition against the proposal consisted of no less than 27 neighborhood and civic groups. And they were a cross section of folks from all sorts of racial, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.
That coalition proved to be a worthy adversary, but Trump was relentless. He was cutting deals left and right. First deal was with the nearby Tastykake factory, which was going to sell Trump Entertainment Resorts a portion of its property to help eradicate its debt (He also made the same offer to the Philadelphia School District for one of its public school buildings. No, seriously). Then he co-partnered with Pat Croce, former owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, on the project.
And then he obtained his supporters.
Six neighborhood groups to be exact. He made community benefit agreements, or CBAs, with them. They included annual donations by way of grants to their organizations. He also promised them seats on a community board meant to act as a liaison between the neighborhood and the casino. Naturally, things got pretty ugly, and there would be serious friction between the coalition groups.
It was clear from my eyes that Trump was making a divide and conquer play, which sought not only to sway the final decision of the city’s planning commission but make the community itself look less than unified.
Thankfully, it did not work. And the city eventually opted to put the casinos downtown and in South Philly near the rest of the entertainment complexes, which made the most sense. Today, the site for the proposed Trump casino is home to a Salvation Army community center. Also, a supermarket.
I bring up this story for three reasons: First, as evidence that we can beat Trump. Despite what we have been led to believe, particularly by him, the rich and well-connected don’t always get their way.
Secondly, Trump brings division wherever he goes. And what he is doing with the Black pastors is pretty status quo of not only how he operates as a businessman but how he deals with those who oppose them. He is both shrill and without conscience. And that is what makes him dangerous.
And third, as for the right word to label the kind of people who would pledge their allegiance to Trump and his agenda, they are not necessarily Uncle Toms (although some are). And they are not pawns or prostitutes either. But they are opportunists.
I can’t – and won’t – speak for Rev. Davis or the 99 other Black clergymen and women. Although I believe they do have a lot to answer for. But I will say that those neighborhood groups who signed on to support the Trump casino did so because they saw an opportunity in a situation, which at the time, seemed like a done deal.
Casinos were coming to the city whether the people wanted them or not. And for financially struggling neighborhood organizations, many of which provided valuable services to their constituents (and I can’t stress the need for these groups enough), those CBAs they signed would have at least ensured a dedicated funding stream for them to continue to support themselves and the community.
It wasn’t revolutionary, but it was reality. Folks don’t like to acknowledge it, but sometimes you have to make deals with the devil.
Again, I am not trying to excuse the clergy members who are rallying around Trump. But rather, my aim is to shed light on what we are up against. When faced with the choice of fighting for what’s right and survival, some folks are going to opt for the latter. And while it is misguided, it does not necessarily mean that they are bad people. What it does mean is that they are naïve in their opportunism.