In a radio interview yesterday with legendary New York Post political columnist Fred Dicker, Donald Trump said, “I have a great relationship with the blacks. I’ve always had a very great relationship with the blacks.” I heard this profession of being down with the people and immediately Tweeted the jarring comment with the hashtag #ohreally.
I was able to sound off on this a little bit last night with Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC’s “The Last Word.”
“He doesn’t have a relationship with me,” I said. The Donald was asked his reaction to a recent poll showing a racial disparity in support for President Obama. If you couldn’t figure it out, “the blacks” overwhelmingly support Obama. “The whites,” not so much.
Look, I’m a user of the offending phraseology. One of my favorites is “the gays.” As in, “I’m writing about the gays today.” Or “the gays are workin’ my last nerve today.” Anyone listening knows my tongue is firmly planted in cheek and my eye rolls are playful. Besides, being one of “the gays” gives me license to have fun at my own expense. Trump has no such license for “the blacks.”
When uttered by a non member of the tribe, the use of “the” in front of said tribe’s name is dismissive. It relegates “the” group to nuisance status that must be dealt with the way one deals with the litter box, income tax forms or Snooki. It either tries to make one the ambassador for the whole or it tries form a group of people into a smooth monolith despite that group’s obvious complexities. Well, they’re obvious to anyone willing to pay attention or ask questions.
For instance, I wonder if Trump understands — or cares about — the differences between light-skinned and dark-skinned blacks, blacks descended from slaves and those who came of their own free will from the Caribbean or Africa, suburban blacks and city blacks, “round the way” blacks and high-siddity blacks. And if you’re not black and know what high-siddity is, you may claim honorary status. It would also never occur to you to say “the blacks” in the first place and certainly not without being ironic.
Trump knows all kinds of black people. But he clearly doesn’t know them as well he thinks he does. Trump is a well known germophobe, so he might not know many people as well as he should. Then, again, maybe he just doesn’t care.