These are not the best of times for race relations in America – perhaps the understatement of five lifetimes. A year after Charlottesville, 61 percent of Americans see an increase in racial tensions, according to a new CBS News poll.
It was perhaps inevitable that after eight years of the first African-American president there would be something of a Barack Obama backlash, given the history of this country and that there were some Americans who did not like him if for no other reason than his father was black. (As I have written before, I often wonder: What if Obama’s mother had been black and his father white, would there have been the same reaction? It seems that something about Obama’s presence in the still arguably most powerful job on earth as the child of a white woman fathered by a black man underscored for white men, and the women who derive their status from them, an inconvenient truth -- that in 20 years white people will no longer be the majority in the United States.
Into this inconvenient truth stepped the reality star for whom reality must shift daily, because while he is not always right, he is never wrong. The Muslim travel ban, Charlottesville and caged border babies form a triumvirate of evil to which President Donald J. Trump has reacted by reluctantly condemning “violence on all sides” and “all kinds of racism” – code for what he sees as the dispossession of the white man.
But there are not many forms of racism. There is only racism. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Trump’s Muslim travel ban, his tone-deaf response to the white supremacist march on Charlottesville that led to the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer and state troopers Berke M.M. Bates and H. Jay Cullen, the separation of undocumented families at the southern border, the constant harping on NFL players taking a knee during the National Anthem to protest police brutality against people of color, the labeling of female and black male critics as “dumb,” the assumption that Latino immigrants are gang members – all of this speaks to racism at best and misanthropy at worst. A Trump supporter recently told me I mustn’t be watching the right programs, because Trump regularly displays warmth and kindness toward others.
But to speak well of those who speak well of you is nothing. That’s not what leadership is. Leadership is transcendent. It’s President George W. Bush making the distinction between the 9/11 terrorists and the Muslim-Americans whom he had sworn to protect, along with the rest of the country. It’s Obama saying on more than one occasion that he was the president of all of America. When Trump wished “peace to all Americans” in his “racism of all kinds” Charlottesville tweet, it rang hollow.
Into this cesspool wades former Trump “Apprentice” co-star and White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman, author of the appropriately titled and titillating new tell-all “Unhinged,” which, not surprisingly, has exploded in the press. What are we to make of her? On “The Apprentice,” she was cast as the manipulative villain. A dozen years later ,she emerged on the Trump campaign and then in his White House only to be fired by Chief of Staff John F. Kelly in December of 2017. Doing the math, we must deduce that she was planning her Trumpian exposé all along. You don’t just suddenly write and publish a memoir in nine months. Books take considerably longer than babies, even hot ones.
We must also parse her notion that she was on the inside trying to reform the system. This is the motif of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s defense of himself in The New York Times Magazine’s Aug. 12 profile on him. It may appear that he wasn’t standing up to Trump but we’ll never know, he says, the saves he made behind-the-scenes.
But that is the material point, isn’t it? We don’t know, because we have nothing to show for it. Where was Omarosa during the chaos of the Muslim travel ban and the horror of Charlottesville? She was later fired and then took a principled stand, but that’s no different from being forced to resign and saying it’s to spend more time with family. Principles, family: They’re the last refuges of those who have nowhere else to go.
Would that she had made her stand first. Her dismissal might’ve meant something. Instead she was let go in the shabbiest of fashions and called a “dog” by the boss who didn’t have the guts to say “You’re fired” once more. No one deserves such treatment.
In response, she offers refried sensationalism. What’s new in her tale of an incompetent egotist obsessed with his eldest daughter and at odds with a wife who plays a passive-aggressive game of fashion as gesture politics? We know all this.
Just as we know that in her disloyal dissembling, past and present, Omarosa is the narcissistic reflection of the man she once served.