Twenty twenty, you sly dog. You continually manage to astound and amaze me, and you’re only half over. Trump, or more likely one of his craven lackies — *cough*Stephen Miller*cough* — have decided that Trump’s first day back on the trail will be in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Juneteenth. I’m torn between whether this choice is the result of breathtaking ignorance or something even more sinister.
Before I go any further, for those not in the know, Tulsa was the site of a horrific massacre that took place in May of 1921. According to The Oklahoman, “mobs of white residents attacked, set aflame and ultimately destroyed the Greenwood District, which was at that time the wealthiest black community in the United States.” The district was colloquially known as Black Wall Street.
The Oklahoman goes on to say, “The unjust tragedy was covered up for decades and omitted from history books even in Oklahoma.” A truly astounding fact that speaks so plainly to the mood of the country today: racism is baked into the fabric of our society. It’s not a matter of bad apples, it’s the whole damn tree that’s rotten.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Trump campaign has decided to hold this comeback rally on Juneteenth, a day that commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States. Certainly an odd choice for a racist of his stature.
This is a man who called for black protesters to be shot, called majority non-white countries shitholes, has been taken to court several times for his racist activities, refused to condemn white supremacists and even called some of them “very fine people”, perpetuated a racist lie about President Barack Obama’s birthplace, and took out a full page ad in the New York Times calling for the death penalty to be brought back and to be used against the Central Park Five.
According to Bloomberg, the Trump Campaign is at least aware of the significance of Juneteenth saying that “As the party of Lincoln, Republicans are proud of the history of Juneteenth…” Here they echo a familiar sentiment that Republicans often employ whenever they are confronted with their appalling record on racial equity. This of course ignores almost two centuries worth of history between Lincoln’s emancipation and our current situation, most notably how the Republicans intentionally courted the very southern racist Democrats that they seek to cast aspersions on into their party in the 60s.
It ignores how Nixon and Reagan and even Clinton decimated poor minority communities with their war on drugs and war on crime. It ignores how “law & order” has operated for decades as a thinly-veiled racist dog whistle, signaling a politician’s intent to keep minorities in line. Finally, it ignores the long history of white people scapegoating others as a means to ignore the rot within the system that they built.
I could go on, but we’d be here for days if I listed all the times politicians cherry picked historical figures in favor of a problematic message. My takeaway is this though. It doesn’t matter what the reason is for this choice. Trump and his ilk are going to try their damndest to convince us that he’s not that bad, in the midst of a pandemic, an economic recession and widespread protests. He’s going to tell you not to believe your eyes and to not acknowledge your pain.