Donald Trump is going to be president of the United States, and therefore people are going to have to talk with him.
Since Donald Trump is going to be in office for the next 4 to 8 years it’s a pretty good time to get a handle on the right and the wrong way for black public figures and celebrities to interact with a president who’s viewed as a physical and existential threat by most African Americans. In the last 48 hours comedian/show host/suburban-Hotep Steve Harvey and civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis have given us a crash course.
For the record, Donald Trump’s rhetoric throughout his campaign was implicitly, and at times explicitly, racist and anti-black. His supporters hold more racist attitudes than your average American or Republican. He selected a white terrorist sympathizer as his chief adviser and he nominated a lifelong opponent of civil rights as Attorney General. If one is choosing to meet with Trump these are publicly known, undisputed facts, and you will be associated with them one way or another.
On Friday, Harvey met with the president-elect at Trump Tower to discuss ‘mentoring’ programs and black inner-city issues. That same day during an NBC interview, Congressman John Lewis said he would not be attending Trump’s inauguration because he thought PEOTUS was illegitimate. Social media has been blowing up both men ever since for vastly different reasons.
First, there is nothing inherently wrong with Steve Harvey meeting with President-elect Trump to discuss issues of urban black poverty. There were poor black people before the Obama Administration and during the administration and there will be poor black people during the Trump administration. If you want to help poor black people, as Harvey claims, then certainly one of the avenues that can be explored is sitting with the president-elect and discussing initiatives.
Debating Trump vs. Lewis is pointless. As one tweet pointed out:
John Lewis was endorsed by MLK. Donald Trump is endorsed by the KKK.
— Marcus H. Johnson (@smoothkobra) January 14, 2017
However, Lewis demonstrates a principled, practical approach to Donald Trump and the failure on the part of Steve Harvey. No matter how nice the Trump Tower meeting was, the next morning Trump did something racist and vulgar. Now, Steve Harvey, who praised Trump as a “sincere” person on Facebook that he’d sit with “anytime” at best looks like a fool and at worse might be confused with another Steve.
Unlike Steve Harvey, Congressman John Lewis voices his complaints, refuses to be a part of Trump’s public relations message and will get down to the business of doing needed work in the black community even if he sees Trump as illegitimate. Meanwhile Steve Harvey is going to Think Like an Opportunist and Act Like a Community Leader.