Stop Using Black People As Props

Michael Cohen’s opening statement today at the House Oversight Committee hearing was stunning. “I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a conman. And he is a cheat,” Cohen said. Cohen added that Trump “once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a shithole. This was when Barack Obama was president of the United States.”

Keith Boykin - no props.JPG

Yes, we all knew that Trump is a racist, but this public confirmation from Trump’s own lawyer and fixer, who worked with Trump for a decade, reinforces all the other facts and evidence at our disposal. Apparently, however, this was too much for Republicans, who have, sadly, invested their careers behind a man they surely must know is not worthy to occupy the Oval Office.

Republican Mark Meadows of North Carolina tried to rebut Cohen’s argument that Trump is a racist by trotting out Lynne Patton, a black woman and Trump’s family wedding planner, who was appointed to a top HUD position with no HUD experience. Patton was not allowed to speak or answer questions. She was just there for show.

This is outrageous but not surprising. For the record, one black person does not negate Donald Trump’s decades of racism, his housing discrimination, his lies about the Central Park 5, his lies about President Obama’s birth certificate, his racist 2016 campaign, and his continued attacks on black leaders and black people. But this is the type of silly political theater that one might expect from a Republican Party that has 17 members on the House Oversight Committee (15 men and two women) and all of them are white. Meanwhile the Democrats have 12 members of color on the committee, 11 women and 7 women of color. Many of them were rightly offended by Meadows’s stunt.

As Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) said, “to prop up one member of our entire race of black people” to say that nullifies Trump’s history of racism is “totally insulting.”

Later, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) got Cohen to acknowledge that someone (Trump) could deny rental units to blacks, lead the birther movement, refer to black countries as shitholes, call white supremacists fine people, have a black friend and still be racist.

And then Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) argued that "just because someone has a person of color, a black person, working for them does not mean they aren't racist and...the fact someone would actually use a prop, a black woman in this chamber, in this committee, is alone racist in itself."

This did not sit well with Rep. Meadows, who accused Tlaib of violating committee rules about insulting another member. A contentious debate about House rules and decorum followed, but Tlaib’s larger point remains true. Having a black friend does not negate your racism, and bringing out a black person as a political stunt to rebut decades of evidence of Trump’s racism is, itself, a form of racism.

Black people are not props. Stop using us to prove your alleged lack of racism.