Bankole: A black manifesto for Trump

Bankole Thompson

For the next four years black people, the majority whom did not vote for President-elect Donald Trump, will have to deal with him and his policies. With the Cabinet he is assembling, Trump stands to change a lot of things that can affect progress for African-Americans.

Looking at Trump’s appointments, it is plausible to believe the next four years will be challenging to say the least, especially in areas like civil and voting rights, economic justice and education — all areas where blacks feel too little has been made.

If Trump is truly serious about being everyone’s president, he should develop a black manifesto with a comprehensive plan to address the socioeconomic challenges facing urban cities.

Such a plan should come from experts with track records of dealing with the myriad of issues in the black community. It should not come from individuals who delight or take pride in insulting the black community or using culturally insensitive language in TV appearances as the answer to the problems of blacks.

In other words, those experts should not be people who believe the black crisis is only a function of blacks alone, and that it has nothing to do with this nation’s legacy of racial discrimination.

There is historic precedent of incoming presidents calling a gathering of the nation’s top minds, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, to discuss the various issues affecting the black community.

In his autobiography, “The Gentleman from Ohio,” the late Louis Stokes, the first black U.S. representative from Ohio chronicles a March 25, 1971, meeting that he and other black members of Congress had with then-President Richard Nixon and presented him with the “Black Manifesto.”

Nixon initially refused to meet, finally giving in after Stokes and others boycotted his State of the Union. The media reported the fracas and other countries, including the Soviet Union (Russia) “exploited it as blatant proof of capitalistic racism,” during the cold war, Stokes wrote.

“Mr. President, we sought this meeting out of a deep conviction that large numbers of citizens are being subjected to intense hardship, are denied their basic rights and are suffering irreparable harm as a result of current policies,” the opening of the document read.

The recommendations from the “manifesto,” ranged from a jobs program, adequate health care, expanded efforts in early childhood education and regulations to ensure more opportunities for minority contractors.

“Our people are no longer asking equality as a rhetorical promise. They are demanding the only kind of equality that ultimately has any meaning — equality of results,” the document said.

What Stokes and his colleagues demanded then is similar to what needs to be done today. Trump has talked about opportunities in the inner cities. He needs to act on that.

His meeting last week with Jim Brown, the NFL legend and longtime civil rights activist, makes a surrealistic point. He also met with hip hop artist Kanye West.

It appears Trump is basically trying to pick the ambassadors who will serve as his emissaries to the black community. To do that, he would need individuals with strong and long-standing credibility among African-Americans.

Brown has credibility. He has used his stature to champion issues important to blacks. He was an earlier supporter of Muhammad Ali and a man whose life-struggles to the pinnacle of American sports can best be summed up as a battle against the forces of oppression.

In 2014, I moderated a conversation with Brown at the City Theatre in Detroit as part of a Mack Alive benefit. Brown talked about the socioeconomic challenges facing our inner cities. The conversation was timely because Brown had just returned from ceremonies marking the 50 years after the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

After the meeting with Trump, Brown shocked many saying he had fallen in love with the president-elect. I thought Brown was being diplomatic in the choice of words he used to describe the meeting. However that meeting should be extended to a larger gathering with black thought leaders and activists about a plan to address the crisis of black America if Trump is to keep to his promise as president of all of America.

Bankole Thompson is the host of “Redline with Bankole Thompson” on Super Station 910AM weekdays at noon. His column appears Mondays and Thursdays.