A week ago, late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert welcomed Sean Spicer to the Emmys stage to perform a parody of his infamous press briefings about Trump’s inauguration crowd. Spicer when working for Trump falsely claimed it was the “largest crowd in history to witness an inauguration.” It was just one of many lies the former White House press secretary told during his term as Trump’s mouthpiece. He was pilloried in liberal white circles during that time. The mouthpiece of a racist president was one to make fun of and to be an outcast of polite society.
Which is why the transformation from societal scourge to a loveable but misbehaving toddler to be welcomed back into the fold is so startling. Why was the man who made a name for himself lying to the American people given a platform to speak at the Emmys? Why, among a crowd as liberal as Hollywood actors, was he welcomed with applause, sounds of awe, and a notable lack of boos?
White men are given repeated chances to live down a bad reputation, regardless of how bad it is. Trump himself is a prime example of upward failure. Despite a complete lack of political experience and his support for a racist movement to deny President Obama’s legitimacy as a citizen, Trump became the president himself. His campaign slogan suggested America was somehow broken and needed fixing that only he could provide. While Trump may be ostracized, for now, by the liberal elite he is gainfully employed and allowed to prosper no matter what he says. As Trump tweets literally “force” a growing number of athletes to choose between their conscious and possible unemployment, white liberals face no such
As Trump tweets literally “force” a growing number of athletes to choose between their conscious and possible unemployment, white liberals face no such dilemma. Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick lost his job over standing up to injustice but is considered too controversial for the liberal establishment to embrace and celebrate.
Black celebrities are frequently attacked by their own industries for being speaking out against racism, white supremacy, and Donald Trump. This month alone we’ve seen Jamele Hill, who called Trump a white supremacist, attacked online and renounced by ESPN itself, while Miss Texas, who in so many words condemned Trump, in the same way, was praised for being socially aware. Munroe Bergdorf, Loreal UK’s first Black transgender model, was fired for saying all white people are socialized to be racist, while Kid Rock faced no repercussions for admitting that he uses the N-word.
Black people are expected to brand activism in a way that does not hold white people (or the American system itself) accountable. It’s easy to see how Trump’s team and the alt-right establishment would deflect responsibility. But what about the white liberals, who claim to be anti-Trump, but are quicker to welcome a compulsive liar like Sean Spicer on stage for a joke than they are to speak out in favor of the Black people risking their careers in the name of justice?
White America would have the country believing liberals are more invested in Black lives than conservatives, but in truth, white liberals lack the solidarity that allows them to directly tackle these issues alongside us.
Kaepernick being blackballed from the NFL seems like a warning to other players who might stand in solidarity with him. Yet a growing number of athletes are abandoning the industry to do just that. Even Stevie Wonder took a knee (two knees, in fact) before his show at the Global Citizens Festival Saturday night. NBA players are making headlines too after Steph Curry denied an invitation to the White House and LeBron James offered support to his decision, calling Trump a “bum” on Twitter. Kobe Bryant stated the president’s “name alone creates division and anger.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement about Trump’s comments on NFL players, saying, “Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”
The statements from Black athletes have been consistently bolder on social justice issues while white liberals have the privilege of speaking out knowing they can always take it back later. Even as #TakeAKnee became a trending topic on Twitter on Sunday, much more of the conversation revolved around Trump’s denouncement of protesting than it did around police violence, which is what Kaepernick first knelt to draw attention to. The movement was spun into a protest against Trump, even though Kaepernick first knelt before Trump was elected.
Solidarity is powerful. Trump’s effort to disempower these protesters comes out of his fear that they will make a difference. The white liberals meek devotion to justice is not powerful enough to shift the status dynamics they benefit from. Now more than ever it’s important to be bold and vocal about the issues afflicting our own communities and challenge white liberals to do the same.