It is probably not especially politically correct to bring more race matters into the debacle that is also known as the Donald Trump quest for the presidency. He has called out and targeted racial and ethnic groups, as well as targeted individual women because of their appearance (or more, but we won’t go there). He has supported basic thuggery, offering to pay the legal fees for a man who sucker-punched an African American protester, and egging on others who beat up a protester. The latest goes from the amusing to the amazing. Although there is a video showing his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski putting his hands on former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields, he and Trump have said that eyes can lie. Even in the face of video evidence, he denied touching Fields. He and Trump tried to dismiss her as “delusional,” essentially “blaming the victim.”
Imagine that Corey Lewandowski was an African American man. Imagine that he nearly knocked down a White woman reporter. Can you hear the outrage? Can you hear the demands? Were Lewandowski African American, would he have been caricatured as a hoodlum or thug, pandering to the stereotypes? Or would Mr. Trump have had Black Lewandowski’s back as firmly?
I am not surprised that Mr. Trump has condoned Lewandowski’s violence, nor am I surprised that he’s taken the ‘wuss’ role by suggesting the reporter, who was attempting to get his attention, had ‘touched’ him (and that maybe he should press charges). It is entirely consistent with his other campaign behavior. He has suggested that his supporters might “riot” if he does not get the Republican nomination. His amazing incivility adds to the vaudevillian atmosphere of this bizarre campaign. How different would it be if Corey Lewandowski were Black?
A Black man could not have put his hand on a White woman with impunity. If he did, he probably would not have had to wait more than a week to be charged for his transgression. He might have apologized, whether he were asked to do so or not, both from civility and from cultural conditioning.
Trump and Lewandowski assumed that Michelle Fields, a White woman, could be thrown under the bus by two powerful, White men who called her a liar, delusional, and any other slur they could get away with. A Black man would not have had the luxury—he would have had to rush into rapid CYA (cover your hind parts) mode.
Those women who are supporting Trump need to be well aware of his propensity to disregard and disrespect women. Loyalty notwithstanding, Lewandowski’s untoward behavior deserves some reaction—maybe not a firing, but some form of suspension, or something that suggests that a ‘hands on’ campaign need not be literally hands on, or that the ‘ground game’ that Lewandowski is often praised for does not mean that he should knock reporters down to the ground.
Those African Americans (and there are a few), who are supporting Donald Trump need to ask themselves what the reaction would be if Corey Lewandowski were Black. Would Trump be as supportive? Would others? And just for the record, who are the senior African Americans on the Trump team? Just asking. Not complaining, if there aren’t any.
I am of the generation that used to play ‘what if’ all the time. Knowing, but determined to imagine and speculate, what would happen if you flip the script. What if the White McKinney, Texas police corporal Eric Casebolt had pulled a blonde White girl by the hair instead of pulling the braids of the Black Dajerra Becton? Or, what if a Black officer, not Casebolt, had pulled a White girl by her blonde locks? The very muted outrage that we heard when Becton was assaulted would have turned into a crescendo had a Black police officer had the temerity to assault a White teen.
Similarly, if a car full of Black plainclothes NYPD police officers had chosen to hassle a White mailman because he hollered at them, would there have been the same arrest and cover-up that has taken place in the White police officers in Crown Heights arrested Glen Grays and forced him to abandon his mail truck?
I am not sure why I play ‘what if’ or ‘just imagine.’ We know that race still matters, and that matters still aren’t fair. Still, as I watch Mr. Trump circle the wagon around Corey Lewandowski, I just have to wonder how different his reaction (and the public reaction) might be if Lewandowski were Black. Just wondering.
(Julianne Malveaux is an author and economist based in Washington, DC. Her latest is offering Are We Better Off? Race, Obama and Public Policy is available at or via Amazon.)