We now know why South Park won’t even do any more schtick about President Trump. The commander-in-chief is making it harder to lampoon him because he’s constantly doing it to himself. But perhaps if Chappelle’s Show or even the classic The Richard Pryor Show were still on the air, they’d have a field day with the exchange between Trump and veteran American Urban Radio Networks White House correspondent April Ryan.
At a press conference, Ryan asked if Trump would include members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus regarding his inner city agenda. Instead of answering the question, Trump pompously asked her: “Do you want to set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours?” It seemed to take all the strength Ryan had not to tear the president a new one, not that it hasn’t happened to him before with reporters.
— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) February 16, 2017
Earlier this week Ryan was reportedly in a dustup with White House communications official Omarosa Manigault over e-mails she sent to Ryan, allegedly inferring that she had been on Hillary Clinton’s payroll. The argument became so heated that she initially thought the Secret Service might have to be called in.
In his own exchange with Ryan, Trump said that he tried to reach out to Rep. Elijah Cummings for a meeting on his agenda, but he complained that Cummings, probably influenced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, backed out of the meeting saying “it might be bad for me politically,” Trump said.
Responding to the president’s gall, the Congressional Black Caucus didn’t take his quip lightly. They tweeted Thursday afternoon:
— The CBC (@OfficialCBC) February 16, 2017
It’s unclear if White House officials have reached out to CBC leadership, but in Trump’s speeches about addressing issues in Urban America, he has yet to mention contacting any of its members. Perhaps the disconnect is really with Trump understanding how to communicate with the African-American community. So here are five pointers he could use if he wants to make inroads.
1. Trump should realize that not all Black people know each other. The president asking Ryan if the CBC were friends of hers was as insulting as a White college professor asking the only Black student in a class what the Black perspective is on a topic or an employer asking one Black employee another Black employee’s personal business. If he had any real cultural understanding he’d go through the right channels instead of guessing that one reporter can instantly set up a meeting of 47 legislators.
2. This may seem odd to him, but right wing Black leadership is not a gateway to the Black community. Earlier this month at his Black History Month event, Trump surrounded himself with people that he probably believed were Black America’s thought leadership, a council of Black right-wing advocates (COBRA, for short). It was really an opportunity to bash the non-conservative media as “fake news” and to have a photo op with Black people, the “I have Black friends” ploy that never fools anyone. Reaching out to Black people means reaching out to every walk of life where you find us. That means the church, the office, the community center, neighborhoods, the military, the list gets longer and longer, but he needs to do the work.
3. Black people do not take well to threats (really nobody does). Last month the president tweeted that because Chicago has an out-of-control violence problem — which everyone acknowledges — that he’d send in the Feds. It really sounded like he was willing to put an entire city under martial law as a method of solving the issue. But too many Black people have lived in communities where they had to be afraid of militarized policing. What’s more, nothing on his agenda addresses the issues that African-Americans have had to deal with regarding deaths of unarmed individuals at the hands of cops, but it does address bolstering police forces. If Trump wants to extend an olive branch, threats aren’t the way to do it.
4. But neither is calling for executing innocent Black boys. If you’ll remember, in 1989 Trump took out a full page ad in The New York Times all but calling for five teenagers falsely accused of raping a White woman in Central Park to swing from trees. They were exonerated when the real culprit came forward, but Trump never backed off of that, insisting in his presidential campaign that they confessed. The truth is they were scared kids who were coerced into confessing by NYPD detectives desperate to get an arrest. There are those among us who never forgave Trump for helping to create an atmosphere in New York where Black youth were criminalized just for living in poor neighborhoods, leading to policies like “stop and frisk.” Again, an olive branch would mean finally apologizing to those he placed under unfair scrutiny (we know, fat chance).
5. Quit patronizing Black journalists like we are children. This one is coming from an organization that has a proud, longstanding tradition in the Black press. The way Trump seemed to disrespectfully talk down to Ryan was infuriating to say the least. And having the nerve to ask her to create a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus indicated that he did not take her seriously because she was both Black and a woman. Tell ya what, it would be interesting to see if Trump has the grapes to appear at the next convention of the National Association of Black Journalists and pull the same nonsense. President George W. Bush actually did come during his tenure and won respect from all of the press. Is Trump willing to do the same? It remains to be seen.
Madison J. Gray is Managing Editor of EBONY.com. Follow him on Twitter @madisonjgray.