This is an excerpt from the chapter entitled "Trump's Vision of America":
Trump’s Vision of America
“Americans are deeply, and for the moment immutably, divided by whether or not they’re nostalgic for what had long been a White-dominated country. Trump’s better-than-expected showing, particularly among White evangelicals, merely shows that he turned out more of the nostalgic.” (Milbank, 2020)
I was watching President Trump’s pre-emptive victory speech on election night, and I saw it again. I have seen it before at many of his rallies and press conferences. What did I see? I saw a room full of white people. It jumped out at me, and it was striking, unsettling. Several days later, I dreamt about that gathering again, and I realized that I was so disturbed because this gathering reflected a Trumpian America. An America where whites were like an elite ruling class in which an occasional token black would flit by like a spec in the background. In this Trumpian vision of America, blacks and other minorities had no significant roles, no leadership responsibility, and certainly no voice. It reminded me of what I envisioned the 1950s to be like. In my vision of the 1950s, white people owned/led mostly everything, and black people had a place out of view on a lower plateau.
It reminded me of a scene from Lee Daniels’ movie “The Butler” in which President Johnson uses the word “nigger” and the black servants in the room had to tolerate it because black people were an afterthought, a lower class and certainly did not have rights and privileges commensurate with whites.
The president has famously and often stated that he has done more for black people than any other president. I tried to reconcile that claim with what I saw in his victory party room and then mentally ticking through his cabinet and key leadership posts. I could recall one black cabinet member Ben Carson, a famous medical doctor—running housing. This 1950ish Trumpian throwback white utopia seemed to be what the Republican party and even prominent Christian leaders were serving up for me to unquestioningly accept.
In my book, “The Air Force’s Black Ceiling,” I talked about what it’s like to be in a conference room where all the senior leaders are white, and the men in all the pictures of the previous senior leaders on the wall outside the conference room are white. I described it is as a small voice that whispers, “you don’t belong here, and you will never be one of these leaders.” I have that feeling at times when I look at a company’s organizational chart, and I see that all the senior leaders are white or when I look on a church’s website, and all the leaders are white. Right or wrong, it says to me, as a black man, you can be with us, but you can’t be us.
I had a similar feeling when I watched the COVID-19 version of the NBA draft. The telecast featured live video footage of all the players' home settings and many of the draft war rooms. What struck me first was the tremendous struggle that most of the players had endured to make it to the NBA. The 1st overall pick lost both his caregivers to cancer, his mother and grandmother, within a few months of each other. One of the other top picks had lost his older brother, who had been a mentor and inspiration to him, in a terrible skateboarding fall that left him brain dead. Most of the first-round picks were black or foreign. It was a stark contrast to the war rooms. Most of the war rooms looked like President Trump’s victory party, rooms dominated by white decision-makers accented by a black spec here or there.
I wish I could say that I only experienced this Trumpian vision of America, this vision of what America would look like when it was “Great Again,” only in secular settings. Sadly, I began to experience these same feelings of isolation and exclusion in my church settings as well.
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