Essentially, Trump’s presence, personage, and politics goes against everything Howard University stands for.
By Jaimee Swift, Editor-At-Large
Posted 10:00 PM EST, Mon., Sept. 26, 2016
Rumors have been circulating that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump could be speaking at Howard University one day. While Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick has sent an email to select faculty and alumni members stating that “[his] administration hasn’t invited Mr. Trump to campus,” formally denounced the claim during Howard’s 149th Opening Convocation and having no formal student-wide email being disseminated to quell the speculation, some student leaders have asked Trump to speak on campus at the end of month. Whether fact or mere speculation, the tentative news has spread — and fast. A subtle outrage has ensued among many students about Trump’s possible presence on campus — ranging from disgust, to anger, to potential swirls of collective action to prohibit his feet from touching the grounds of what “Between the World and Me” author, Ta-Nehisi Coates, so adoringly reveres as “The Mecca.”
In this modern era where racialized state violence is at its zenith, with #TerenceCrutcher and #KeithLamontScott being some of the latest victims of Black police brutality and with racial tensions abound — from backlash to Colin Kaepernick’s kneel during the national anthem, to bananas discarded and drawn at the front of two Black students’ dorm doors at American University, the rumor about Trump coming to a historically Black institution such as Howard, has also elicited a sense of bewilderment amongst many students, questioning, “why us?” And we all know the answer: Political pandering in hopes to win over the African-American community — especially Black youth — to achieve enough votes for the presidential election.
With the Howard motto being veritas et utilitas (truth and service) and a goal of “the elimination of inequities related to race, color, social, economic and political circumstances,” Trump’s presence, personage, and politics are antagonistic to everything that the university stands for; and subsequently, a disservice to the pioneering Black political giants, who once graced and mobilized social movements on and off the campus.
And I for one, as a student at Howard, am here to make the message clear: I do not want Trump to speak at Howard University.
I came to Howard to seek a particular academic and social refuge from the pervasive anti-Blackness which is so embedded in American society. I am not alone in this; as admissions and enrollment at historically Black colleges and universities have escalated, due to heightened racial animosities. As a young, African-American woman, there is an intense pride and a resounding affirmation that my personhood is recognized at an academic institution; where I can freely address the realities of the Black human experience — my experience — in conjunction with educational and professional studies. In a world where my Blackness and my womanhood are perpetual moving targets, The Mecca, to me, is a safe space for Black cultivation and increased Black political, liberatory participation.
And Trump — just like police officers who are trigger-happy when in sight of unarmed Black bodies — is a threat to that safety.
While Blackness and political partisanship are not monoliths, nor do they do not exist in vacuums, needless to say, Trump has left an extensive and offensive timeline in regards to his sentiments about the Black community. Throughout his campaign trail, he has kicked out several Black students at his rallies, even those who attended in silent protest. In August, during one of his campaign speeches, addressing a predominantly white community in Dimondale, Michigan, he elicited a quipping question to the Black community: “You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed — what the hell do you have to lose?”
Most recently, in efforts to revitalize his “relationship” with the Black community and to distance himself from his father’s ties in Klan riots, Trump on Wednesday, Sept. 21, with former boxing manager, Don King by his side, who dropped the n-word while introducing Trump, visited the New Spiritual Revival Center, a predominantly Black church in Cleveland, Ohio. On Tuesday, Sept. 20. while in North Carolina, Trump, with a sudden ardor for Black people, said that “our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they’ve ever been in before. Ever, ever ever.”
In early September, Trump attended another Black church, the Great Faith Ministries Church in Detroit, Michigan. Singing along to the hymn, “What A Mighty God We Serve”, Trump then, in a volte-face to his “what the hell do you have to lose” question, claimed that the Black church is “one of God’s greatest gifts to America” and that “young Black men with tremendous potential” are not fully recognized as “our entire country misses out when we are unable to harness the potential and energy of these folks.”
Najja K. Baptist, a fellow doctoral student at Howard, is not impressed with Trump’s “appeal” to the Black community, and argues his possible speech on campus will signify that Trump’s political and offensive rhetoric is justifiable amongst Black students.
“His appearance on campus will give the impression to Black America and many others that his toxic values and divisiveness is acceptable,” Baptist said.
“[Trump] will just use it as fodder to gain credibility with the black vote and white moderate vote,” he continued. “A Trump visit betrays the mission, tradition, and spirit of Howard.”
His potential media-op on Howard’s campus could also be traced to his campaign’s African-American outreach director, Omarosa Manigault, who obtained a PhD in communications at Howard University and also has served as a professor for the university’s school of business.
Needless to say, I do not want Trump to speak at Howard—for it is sacred, Black ground. We are not Trump’s “African-Americans.” I do not want him to occupy a space where Thurgood Marshall, Toni Morrison, Vernon Jordan, Zora Neale Hurston, Kwame Ture, Frances Cress Welsing, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and countless other Black prolific scholars, politicians, and the like, have walked, fought, endured and built a pipeline for generational, Black excellence since 1867. It would be a detriment and a contradiction for Trump to occupy a pioneering space, such as Howard, where Black activism and the fight for racial equity abounds; as he has referenced the Black Lives Matter movement as just simply “a fuse-lighter in the assassinations of these police officers.”
Black lives matter on Howard University’s campus, and the souls of many Black folk — both past and present — see through his campaign’s counterfeit political production and puppetry. He offers no intellectual, political, or even moral substance to the Black community, and while the election for many, has raised much needed speculation and skepticism on both Democratic and Republican party ends, Trump’s political insertion and “concern” for the Black community — 42 days away from the election — speaks to the deceptiveness of his campaign at its attempts to swing the Black vote.
Whether it is just mere speculation or to be actualized, I do not want Trump to speak at Howard University because he does not recognize the fullness of Black humanity.
And that recognition, is something that not even his inflated net worth could buy.