“The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.”
Malcolm X said these famous words decades ago. Sadly, it rings true today. In recognizing the direct threat to their personhood Black women would face from a Donald Trump presidency, 94 percent of them voted against him in the 2016 election. And given his recent verbal attacks on Black women and the dangerous precedent it sets, they were right.
Since taking office in January, Trump and his administration have made it a point to demean Black women on a public stage, especially when that woman challenges White male authority. In February, April Ryan — a seasoned Black woman journalist from Urban Radio and a current CNN political analyst— asked the president whether he planned to include a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus as part of his agenda during a press conference. He promptly asked her to set up the meeting. Ryan reminded him that she is a journalist. Trump seemingly seemed to think that Ryan could function as a secretary and she knew all Black people. This question sought to undermine and embarrass Ryan in a professional setting and touch on a common stereotype that Black women are always seen as service workers, despite their professional achievements.
This summer when ESPN host Jemele Hill tweeted that “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists,” Trump and his administration again positioned themselves as an authority not to be questioned by a Black woman. White House Press Secretary called Hill’s statement a “fireable offense.” A day later, Trump took to Twitter to bash ESPN’s ratings and demand they apologize for the “untruth.” That a sitting president would encourage the firing of a citizen for expressing her views is appalling. Both ESPN and Hill issued statements in which they said that Hill’s comments were her personal opinion and not that of ESPN.
Weeks later, Hill sent a few critical tweets regarding Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys‘ stance on players standing for the National Anthem. ESPN suspended her for two weeks for violation of their social media policy.
But it was Trump’s blatant disregard for military families this month that really highlighted just how little Black women mean in his world. On Oct. 4, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, and Sgt. La David Johnson were killed in an ambush in Niger while on active duty. Trump said nothing about their deaths that day or the next. It would be 12 days before Trump acknowledged the deaths of the soldiers. In light of what he said next, he might has well have kept quiet.
First, Trump claimed President Obama and past presidents did not visit or call families of fallen soldiers. This is patently false. Video, photographs and personal testimony of family members of the fallen confirm that former Presidents Obama, G.W. Bush and others have comforted these families with letters and personal visits.
But Trump did not stop there. He had to be consistent and disrespect Black women as well. Congresswoman Frederica Wilson was on the call when Trump finally called the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson. According to Rep. Wilson, Trump told Ms. Johnson that her husband “knew what he signed up for.” Cowanda Jones-Johnson, Mr. Johnson’s mother, confirmed that “President Trump did disrespect my son and daughter and also me and my husband.”
All three women are Black.
Trump maintains he never uttered those words, never once saying Ms. Johnson or Sgt. La David Johnson’s name. He even referred to Rep. Wilson as “that Congresswoman.”
The image of a pregnant Ms. Johnson slung over her husband’s casket with their six year-old daughter staring off into the distance shall forever be ingrained in our minds. From April Ryan, Jemele Hill, Rep. Wilson to Ms. Johnson and Ms. Jones-Johnson, it’s evident that Trump finds it easy to disrespect Black women. He does so at a time when most would expect the president to show empathy.
Instead he shows callous indifference.
At a time when Black women bury their sons and daughters as a result of gun violence, police brutality and service to this country, the lack of respect from this president is unbearable. Worse, he sets a dangerous precedent on how Black women should be perceived and treated in America.
Trump is devoid of basic human emotion. The 94 percent of Black women who voted against him know he will not change.
He should know, however, that Black women are strong, resilient, persistent and will always rise.