The near universal reaction among Blacks to Omarosa Manigault’s announcement she was resigning from her post as assistant to the president and director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison was vilification, insult, ridicule and generally good riddance ― not to Trump, but to her. There’s no surprise here. The instant she showed her face next to Trump in the months before the presidential election, the print and verbal catcalls against her were vicious. She didn’t help matters when she flippantly said that Blacks should “bow down” to Trump and other such nonsense. She iced Black ill will when she verbally scrapped with the National Association of Black Journalists at its annual confab earlier this year.
The venom spewed toward Omarosa is not really new. When former BET founder and financial mogul Bob Johnson urged African-Americans to give President-Elect Trump a “shot” and “the benefit of the doubt.” Johnson was lambasted with a slew of printable and unprintable epitaphs from many blacks who raged at him for daring to say such a thing.
In fact, every Black who has ever served in a GOP administration or said a kind word about a GOP President stretching back to Richard Nixon in 1968 has been figuratively run out of Dodge by other Blacks. The choice epithets of “opportunist,” “sell out,” “uncle tom,” ’traitor,” and much, much worse are always routinely hurled at them.
Their comeback line is always some variation of “If someone Black is not in there with them, then they’ll ignore totally ignore Black interests, or worse.” It’s a tough one to get around. Suppose Omarosa had said no to Trump’s offer for a spot in his administration. Would this have made him more blatantly anti-Black than he’s already perceived to be, and shown himself at times to be? Or, conversely, by saying yes to his offer of a job, was she able to damp down some of the worst racial excesses of Trump and his administration cronies?
Omarosa, for her part, gave a partial answer to that when she said that there were things in the White House that made her “uncomfortable.” She gave the impression that she did challenge Trump on his de facto endorsement of white nationalist groups after the Charlottesville debacle. Trump did slightly back away from his make nice with them at least for a moment.
There may well have been other instances where she was able to influence Trump such as his acknowledgement of the importance of increased aid to Black colleges and minority businesses. That’s a story that she’ll have to tell.
Omarosa and the other Blacks who serve in GOP presidential administrations make the compelling case that no matter how much Blacks rail at GOP presidents, they are the president and it is foolhardy to do the Ostrich head-in-the-sand routine and deny this brutal reality. In Trump’s case, the Blacks who defend working with Trump say that there are millions in contracts, business and professional opportunities, administration appointments, vital federal job, education, health and civil rights protection programs at stake with the Trump administration. There’s simply no way to ignore that. There’s an unarguable point to that. Trump will be at the federal helm for at least three more years. That’s a lot of time to wreak irreparable program and institutional damage to those programs.
Omarosa’s point was that it’s absolute political insanity not to have a Black presence in his administration is well taken. But the even more brutal reality is that in Trump’s case it hasn’t changed anything. His administration is well on pace to top even Reagan’s record as being the most blatant foe of civil rights, public education and expanded health programs in recent memory. His appointments up and down the cabinet and administrative and judicial scale is a motley assortment of right-wing zealots, unreconstructed bigots, and hard rightwing military generals and Wall Street financiers. His furious assault on Obamacare, and the blatant tax giveaway to the superrich masquerading as tax reform, left no doubt that Trump’s so-called man-of-the-working class pitch is nothing but a laughable con.
Now in the days immediately after his election, Trump did put on the policy table what he branded a ten-point plan for blacks promising greater job creation, safe communities, business investment, and equal justice. That gave the appearance that he was at least thinking about the problems of the inner cities and poses what he considers solutions to those problems. This was a con too. He hasn’t uttered a peep about any of this since.
However, there was just enough there for Omarosa and a few other Blacks to take a step back and plead with Blacks to wait and see if Trump would go anywhere with this plan. He didn’t. Whether Omarosa pushed him to keep some of his promises when it came to dealing with the plight of the urban poor is questionable to say the least. She was there long enough to try though. And to anyone who verbally slaps her around, she’ll probably continue to make the case that if she hadn’t been there she wouldn’t have been able to try.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of The Obama Legacy (Middle Passage Press) He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.