By Julianne Malveaux
According to the Washington Post, the 45th President told 19,126 lies between his inauguration in 2017 and June 1, 2020. By now, the number has likely edged toward 20,000, as his Tulsa “rally” yielded dozens more. This President has no allegiance to the truth, but that’s no surprise. Leading up to his ill-timed gathering, amid the coronavirus, he projected more than a million attendees. Instead, the Trump campaign could not even fill the 19,000-seat stadium. And because the Trump campaign has no one to blame but itself for its spotty turnout, 45 instead blamed “bad people,” the media, and others.
The President’s bizarre bloviation was more evidence of his instability, but also illustrated his venom toward a sizeable portion of the people he purportedly represents. I was especially struck by his constant ridicule of “looters and lowlifes,” wondering if he comprehended the similarities between the behavior he would describe as “looters and lowlifes” with his conduct in office. Not only has he derided “looters and lowlifes,” but he has also threatened the full force of federal law enforcement to threaten people’s legal right to protest. As soon as he uttered those threatening words, 45 was a looter who threatened the civil rights and civil liberties of lawful protestors who have legitimate complaints against nationwide police brutality.
Who’s looting who? If we carefully examine history, it is clear that Black people have been looted (defined as “stealing goods from a place, typically in a war or riot”). From my perspective, Black people have been at war with white supremacy forces as long as we have been on these shores. We have been subject to violence, exploitation, expropriation of fair compensation of our wages, further exploited through Jim Crow, and other laws. There are documented cases of economically envious looting of Black communities (Wilmington, Tulsa, Rosewood) because of economic envy, plundering our homes, and then using the power of the majority media to turn a Massacre into a “riot.” Accounts from Tulsa 1921 survivors document a massacre, not a riot.
All it took to light the match was Black men standing to speak up for themselves.
White folks could not stand Black self-determination or Black wealth. They destroyed the thriving Greenwood in 1921, but Black men and women are still standing up for themselves. That’s why folks have taken it to the streets, protesting night after night, wearing shirts that say, “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe.” They aren’t just Black folks. If you have a heart, it could not help but shatter just a bit when you saw the inexcusable 8:46 minute knee to George Floyd’s neck.
If I could have just 3 minutes with Mr. Trump, I’d like to ask him, “who’s looting who.” Changing the tax code to benefit your friends and the wealthy are looting the rest of us. Taking food from hungry people is another form of looting. Losing tax dollars to support your decrepit lifestyle and multiple golf trips is looting. Taking money from public schools to help your pet private schools is stealing. You see looting when people set fires and break windows. Why don’t you think about the fire that ran people out of Greenwood, the broken windows that destroyed Black presses, the looting that has stolen Black wealth?
And then there is the term “lowlife.” The dictionary describes such folks as people who have “low social status” or “low moral character.” So what kind of moral character does a man have who brags about grabbing women by their genitals? What kind of moral character does a man have who derides people because of their race or gender? What kind of person calls people he disagrees with “sons of bitches?” He doesn’t know their mamas, but he has insulted them. At 1600 Pennslyvania Avenue, the House that Enslaved People Built, our tax dollars are housing the Lowlife in Chief. We have endured over three years of this man’s venom, vituperation, name calling, and contempt of the people who are merely exercising First Amendment rights by taking it to the streets.
Many of the so-called “looters and lowlives” are descendants of enslaved people who have had enough. I stand with the looters and lowlives, the people who, in the shadow of the poet Langston Hughes, ask “What happens to a dream deferred.” It explodes. Since 1619, since 1865, since 1964, it has been exploding. Still? I stand with the looters and lowlives and reject a man whose unfamiliarity with truth is a vexation, abomination, and a despicable affront to decency.
Dr. Julianne Malveaux is an economist, author, educator, and writer.