Commentary: Donald Trump brings Malcolm X to mind

Commentary: Donald Trump brings Malcolm X to mind
August 06
00:00 2015

In above photo: Malcolm X and Donald Trump

Bill Turner, Guest Columnist

Those who want to understand why Donald Trump is so popular going into this week’s Fox News-sponsored Republican debate for the 2016 presidential nomination need look no further than back to the life and times of Malcolm X, the much maligned human rights leader of the 1950s and ’60s, who, to the shock and annoyance many Americans, was much loved in the American black community during similar times like these.

Malcolm X, like the blacks whose cause he championed, had nothing to lose and everything to gain as does Mr. Trump; who, by similarity, might as well amend his political slogan “Make America Great Again” by adding Malcolm’s tagline, “By any means necessary!”

Donald Trump is all the rage because he says whatever he wants without fearing the loss of financial support from deep-pocketed Republican political action committees, the Super PACs.

Trump’s Republican challengers are like –although quite cautiously – the so-called respectable black civil rights leaders who disparaged and devalued Malcolm, mainly because they depended on white liberals for money.

Malcolm had the Nation of Islam behind him; while Mr. Trump, by contrast, is among America’s richest entrepreneurs, with real estate around the world, to which he flies to aboard his name-emblazoned private aircraft, decked out, no less, in red, white, and blue.

Mr. Trump rides the wave of his charisma, celebrity status and independence; and like his fiery forerunner, works the media to his advantage.

Mr. Trump’s Malcolm X-like raw rhetoric and belligerence reflects and appeals to a large segment of the white conservative electorate; his intense dread for politics-and-politicians-as-usual are the same anxieties felt by the right wing of the GOP.

In the same way, but for obviously different reasons, Harlem’s ghettoized blacks in particular hung onto their homeboy’s every utterance: “Say it!, Tell ’em!, Brother Malcolm!”

Malcolm was not short on creating a whirlwind of controversy every time he opened his mouth, from calling the assassination of President JFK “nothing but an example of the chickens coming home to roost,” to the regular use of “cracker” when referring to whites or as when he described the 1963 March on Washington as “nothing but a circus, with white clowns and black clowns!”

A master at wordplay, biting humor sarcasm, and black idiomatic signifying and speechifying, Malcolm had no peer.

Donald Trump, likewise, has no equal on the presidential stump when it comes to contentious and divisive comments such as he made about “rapist immigrants” from Mexico or his attack against “no war hero,” Sen. John McCain.

Many Americans do a hue and cry when Mr. Trump spews his broadsides, but plenty of people also respond with uproarious agreement when their deliberately confrontational leader is at his best!

Speakers like Malcolm X and Donald Trump make moderates and middle-of-the-roaders more plausible and acceptable.

But, as Malcolm might have put it, “Ain’t nothing in the middle of the road but white lines and dead ‘possums!” Mr. Trump agrees.

The main differences between Donald Trump and Malcolm X lie in the dissimilarity of their backgrounds and between their beliefs, values and ideas about the social, economic, and political landscapes of America and the world.

Also, Minister Malcolm X was not incendiary just to be provocative, nor was he ever, like Trump, pompous and full of himself, and he was much smarter and more well-read; but, as givers-of-speeches, Malcolm X and Donald Trump – who, unlike Malcolm, also doesn’t have a political platform to speak of – are cut from the same cloth.

Whatever Mr. Trump’s run for the White House looks like at the end of the day, his supporters should study the life and times of Malcolm X and they will see that The Donald, when it comes to turning up the heat, is not too unlike the man some called Brother Malcolm.

If not that, they might thank their lucky stars that Malcolm X isn’t here today, speaking unbridled and unbought truth to power and privilege.

Dr. Bill Turner is a noted educator, writer and thinker who called Winston-Salem home for many years. Reach him at William H. Turner (c) 8-2-2015

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