As we celebrate Black History Month, one thing is certain: President Donald Trump knows absolutely nothing about Frederick Douglass.
Listening to Trump at the White House Black History Month breakfast last week with African-American “leaders” such as Omarosa Manigault, Pastor Darrell Scott and Dr. Ben Carson, one would have thought the iconic statesman and abolitionist was still alive.
Maybe he is a reality show star… or perhaps Trump is going to give him a job!
“Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice,” Trump said in front of cameras.
When translated, that means absolutely nothing, because Trump doesn’t have the first idea who Frederick Douglass is. Just ask the alleged White House staffer who’s leaking inside information on Trump:
To set the record straight, the President had zero clue who Frederick Douglass was. Had to be briefed after.
— White House staffer (@AngryWHStaffer) February 1, 2017
Ultimately, Trump made his Black History Month “listening session” more about himself than the contributions of African-Americans in this country.
But while we’re on the subject, who exactly was Frederick Douglass? And what would he have to say about Donald Trump?
In Trump’s America, black people have very limited roles, often limited to athletes, entertainers or criminals. President Trump lacks fundamental knowledge and, in his own words, is “low energy” from an intellectual standpoint. He won’t even take the time to educate himself on the most prominent black Republican statesman in American history.
Douglass was a refugee who fled the state-sponsored terrorism that was U.S. slavery. He was a runaway slave, an undocumented alien — or what Trump would call an “illegal.” He was an author, an activist, an abolitionist and orator. He was also a preacher in the AME church and an ambassador who served as U.S. consul-general to Haiti.
Simply put: the man was great. So great that his face should be on a U.S. bill by now. His advocacy work and contributions to dismantling the system of slavery solidifies him as an American hero, one who should’ve been president.
As an orator, Douglass’ words were powerful. “The white man’s happiness cannot be purchased by the black man’s misery,” he once said.
On the absurdity of slavery and oppression, he said, “No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man without at last finding the other end fastened about his own neck.” And on the implications of challenging one’s First Amendment right, he declared: “To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.”
Frederick Douglass had much to say about tyranny, power and injustice — all of which certainly speak to the times in which we live today.
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress,” he proclaimed. “This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
He added: “Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”
If he were alive today, Frederick Douglass would’ve likely given Trump a verbal beatdown. Had Trump known who Douglass actually was and what he represented, it’s doubtful that he would have praised him as he did.
Ultimately, as the president, Trump should be familiar with this American hero, who was a radical freedom fighter. But as a leader who’s invoked white nationalism across the country, Trump couldn’t care less, and need not bother.
Trump is not alone.
A nation that does not value or respect black people does not care about their history. Black history is an afterthought, if anything at all, and regarded as a sideshow distraction rather than an integral part of the whole… a nuisance white folks must endure each February as a concession to keep black folks happy and quiet.
Sadly, very few white Americans truly know who Frederick Douglass is, or any other black historical figure, for that matter. They aren’t taught the truth about slavery, Jim Crow and 400 years of oppression and exploitation. They don’t see the countless images of lynchings that are forever engrained in the memory of African-Americans. They don’t know about black achievements in building this country.
Schools don’t teach children about America’s multicultural history and its implications for today. And they certainly won’t learn it now that Trump has taken America back to make it great and white again.
Because America fails to learn history and the lessons it provides, we are doomed to repeat it, just as we are doing right now.
Who was Frederick Douglass? A strong and great man. Everything that Donald Trump could never be.
Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove.