Leonard Pitts: But he wasn’t Black

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 19, 2021

By Leonard Pitts Jr.

To the Republican Party:

As the Trump administration stumbles through its final hours, it seems a proper time to offer a summation of the era just past. Ordinarily, this calls for analytical heavy lifting. One seeks to reconcile a mosaic of accomplishments, failures and compromises into a single coherent portrait.

With Trump, however, the task is not nearly so complex. Yes, you will exult that he delivered a number of items from your wish list, including a huge tax cut benefiting billionaires and three Supreme Court justices, two of whom aren’t even accused sexual predators. But let’s be honest. When history recalls this era, the achievement by which Trump will be defined, the one your base valued most and for which you were happy to overlook his stupidity, lies, incompetence and corruption, will be as obvious — and as rank — as the feces Republican insurrectionists are said to have smeared last week in the halls of the Capitol.

Unlike his predecessor, whom you so extravagantly loathed, the decent family man who didn’t embarrass himself and his country every time he opened his mouth, Donald Trump had the foresight to not be Black.

He bragged about committing sexual assault, spilled state secrets in the Oval Office, kissed up to America’s enemies, extorted Ukraine, obstructed justice in plain sight. But he wasn’t Black.

He campaigned for an accused child molester, called neo-Nazis “very fine people,” caged human beings, snatched children from families and oversaw the reported forced sterilization of immigrant women. But he wasn’t Black.

He botched the response to a pandemic that has sickened 23 million Americans and killed over 385,000 while he golfed, tweeted and mused about treating the disease with disinfectant. But he wasn’t Black.

So by your lights, the moment he took office he had already achieved the main thing you needed after eight long years of economic growth, international respect and general competence. And your base, the folks who demanded “their” country back, the ones panicked at the idea of losing demographic dominance, could now rest easy at the ascension of a man who not only was not Black, but who was lavish in his contempt for all people of color.

It’s disappointing to have to offer this analysis after a weekend that celebrates the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “I have a dream,” he famously said in 1963, “that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” You often invoke that line in jeremiads against affirmative action.

Indeed, one gets a sense it’s the only King quote you know, that you have no clue what he said about militarism, economic injustice or labor rights. And you fail to live up even to the words you ostensibly value. The youngest of King’s “four little children” is 57 years old now. Do you suppose the Republicans who carried Confederate flags and erected nooses at the U.S. Capitol would judge her by the content of her character?

No. Nor would Trump. After exhorting the rioters to action, he watched the melee on television. Seeing an assault on government, knowing lawmakers from his own party were in harm’s way, he did not send help and later told the rioters he loved them. It was an unspeakable betrayal of his country, his office and his duty. In other words, it was a Wednesday.

Trump leaves behind him an America in chaos, divisions deeper than living eyes have ever seen. But he was not Black. So one presumes you’re satisfied.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Miami, Fla., 33172. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com .