Bankole: Omarosa tiff highlights black divide on Trump
Not many in the black community will be losing sleep over the announcement last week that Omarosa Manigault Newman will exit the White House in January as the highest ranking African-American.
Don’t expect protests either by activists and civil rights leaders against the Trump administration for reportedly relieving Omarosa, the controversial director of communications for the White House Office of Public Liaison who was reportedly in charge of African-American outreach.
That is because Omarosa as a black gatekeeper did not deliver as the person Trump needed to seek advice from regarding his engagement with blacks.
There is little to show that her time in the White House led to significant initiatives or groundbreaking developments that would help advance the interest of the black community.
If anything, Omarosa is an example of what not to be when you are a high-ranking black in any White House: You don’t brag about the role without successfully executing the duties and responsibilities that come with such an important assignment.
Moreover, Omarosa also was carrying with her the burden of race, whether she recognized it or not. With her in the White House, it was an expectation of many in the black community that the administration would have better handled the response to the white nationalists protest at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
The president’s comments faulting “both sides” in Charlottesville, which appeared to equate the neo-Nazis, white supremacist and racist marchers with the peaceful demonstrators, dealt a blow to an already fractured relationship in the black community. The president’s remarks were perceived as a reluctance on his part to single out the white nationalists for condemnation.
As the only black in Trump’s inner orbit, many wondered what kind of influence Omarosa commanded as Charlottesville unraveled before the nation. We have no idea of what she actually did. Maybe she will tell us someday in a book.
Still the White House’s disturbing response to Charlottesville was an important marker and a defining moment that should have warranted any conscientious black Trump insider to either resign in protest or in principle.
In a recent interview with ABC’s “Nightline,” Omarosa offered this about her soon-to-be former boss.
“Donald Trump is racial, but he is not a racist. The things that he says, the types of pushback that he gives, involve people of color. These are racial exchanges. Yes, I will acknowledge many of the exchanges — particularly in the last six months — have been racially charged. Do we then just stop and label him as a racist? No,” Omarosa said.
Her comments offer insight into the mind of the black woman who could have reset the relationship between Trump and the black community after the bruising 2016 presidential campaign.
Since the relationship between Trump and blacks was already in bad shape, it was clear that a much-trumpeted meeting with over 60 presidents of historically black colleges and universities at the White House was not going to yield anything productive.
The meeting, billed as a discussion around Trump’s executive order on HBCUs — which basically moved the initiative for those universities from the U.S. Department of Education to the White House — was largely a photo-op showing Trump surrounded by smiling black educational leaders.
One attendee, John Silvanus Wilson Jr., a former president of Morehouse College, the alma mater of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., penned a scathing assessment widely shared online.
“Many had high hopes about this meeting. There was much advance chatter about it being ‘historic,’ and there were many signals from key Trump administration officials that they would surprise HBCUs with favorable treatment,” Wilson said.
“But, instead of the long-awaited executive order containing or signaling any of those outcomes, the key change is a symbolic shift of the White House HBCU Initiative from the Department of Education to the White House. It is not possible to measure the impact of this gesture anytime soon, if ever.”
In his conclusion, Wilson wrote: “In general, the meetings were a troubling beginning to what must be a productive relationship.”
In the dwindling relationship between Trump and blacks, the HBCU fiasco is one of the most telling and it brought question on how effective Omarosa was in the administration. Also she engaged in a rather surprising shouting match with black journalists at the National Association of Black Journalists conference defending Trump. The exchange, which went viral, was a drama made for TV especially from the former “Apprentice” star.
Detroiter Kerry Leon Jackson, a black Republican, said he isn’t going to miss Omarosa at the White House.
“Omarosa was hired because she was a very loyal Donald Trump cheerleader. That was her role each time she returned to the ‘Apprentice.’ That was her role when she traveled with him on the campaign trail. That was her role during the PBS documentary where she made the now famous ‘bow down to president Trump’ comment,” Jackson said.
Now in an apparent attempt to reinvent herself, Omarosa is talking to anyone willing to listen.
“But when I have my story to tell, as the only African-American woman in this White House, as a senior staff and assistant to the president, I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people. And when I can tell my story, it is a profound story that I know the world will want to hear,” she said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Even the usually gracious and magnanimous co-anchor Robin Roberts did not buy her story.
“She said she has a story to tell. I’m sure she’ll be selling that story. Bye, Felicia,” Roberts said, referring to a line in black vernacular from the comedy “Friday” released in 1995, which is used to sarcastically dismiss anyone who isn’t believed.
That’s exactly how many blacks feel about Omarosa.
Catch “Redline with Bankole Thompson,” which is broadcast at noon weekdays on Superstation 910AM.