Why aren’t more black men outraged into action when President Trump insults black women?
For months now, Trump has been targeting black women with white supremacist tropes. “Low IQ,” “nasty,” “losers,” “dogs,” “stupid,” he calls them. “Sit down,” he scolded a black female reporter at a recent news conference, his tone as contemptuous as a plantation owner whose black maid had dared to question his judgment.
I’ve been searching social media and other outlets for signs of a concerted response by black men. A new favorite quote of black women, from Beyoncé to Gen X bloggers, seems to be one from Malcolm X, uttered back in 1962:
“The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”
And Malcolm concludes by saying that a black man should be willing to lay down his life to support and protect her.
Is there even a hint of that spirit in reality?
What I found was mostly black women once again organizing in self-defense — with a relatively few black guys giving shout-outs and “way to go, girls” on Twitter and Facebook.
Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, was not satisfied with the responses.
“Trump’s insult of [black female journalists] goes too far. And I will not accept the ‘weary with outrage’ that is supposed to excuse the failure to stand up and refuse to accept this racist treatment of a professional doing her job,” Ifill tweeted. “There are so many serious issues we must confront in the coming days. But we cannot let this pass as business as usual.”
She came up with a hashtag to continue organizing: #EnoughIsEnough.
The actress Anika Noni Rose tweeted a suggestion:
“Dear news outlets, you want to do something radical and powerful? Next white house press event with the president, only send your Black woman reporters. #IfYouHaveAny.”
Michelle Norris, a former colleague at The Washington Post and an NPR reporter, replied: “Please make this happen: a room full of black women . . . gathering information.”
Others chimed in:
Renee H said: “what I don’t understand is that not one of their colleagues stood up for them.”
Abiola said: “Their companies and professional organizations/affiliates should speak up.”
What about the black man speaking up? Nobody even asked.
“If Trump had treated three or four African American male reporters the way he did the women, would they denounce him then?” Kimberlé Crenshaw, a professor at the UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School, asked during an interview.
There you have it. Of course we would — with black women still organizing on our behalf, of course.
Barbara Arnwine, executive director of Transformative Justice Coalition, said Trump’s attacks on black women had led to a flurry of organizing efforts — by black women.
“We had conference calls about how to support these women, how to make our voices heard,” Arnwine said. “What is interesting is that black men don’t do the same. We should be coming together, raising our voices in solidarity. There are some black men involved, but we need more. We need them to be more organized and vocalized, loud enough to be heard. Not mealy-mouthed and silent.”
Crenshaw noted that Trump’s attacks on black women are rooted in fear, his own allegiance to patriarchy and an especially toxic brand of masculinity.
“Trump is more vulnerable to them because black women are the political constituency that is the least persuaded by anything he has to say,” Crenshaw said. “They know that a vote for Trump is not a vote for the working class because no group is more working class than them. So, it is not surprising that at the very moment people are starting to recognize that black women are onto something, he sets out to undermine their intelligence and professionalism.”
And since black men benefit so much for black women’s political efforts, enlightened self-interest should propel more support. Black women continue to cajole black men into voting. And they never seem discouraged — even though 13 percent of black men ended up voting for Trump.
Which brings us to a recent event that ought to be serve as a wake-up call for black men: Kanye West’s embrace of Trump during a visit to the White House.
“Listen carefully when Kayne says to Trump, in effect, ‘Dad, where have you been?’” Crenshaw said. “What has allowed Kayne to wrap his arms around a man who would have had the Central Park Five in their graves by now? What allows for an African American man, one who is reasonably aware, to look at Trump and be more attracted to strong patriarchy than repelled by the racist in him?”
Black men have some soul-searching to do.
Natalie Hopkinson, a professor at Howard University, summed it up.
“A lot of black men are just not hearing what black women are saying because they are too busy complaining about their own situation,” she said. “When it comes to really supporting black women, nobody has our back but us.”
To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/milloy.