Former ‘Apprentice’ star Kwame Jackson ‘broke’ from Trump long before N-word claim

“There has been a history and a track record and a certain repetition of racism over Trump's career,” Jackson said during an interview with theGrio.

Years before last week’s revelation that Donald Trump allegedly referred to him by using the N-word, Kwame Jackson said he knew his former boss on “The Apprentice” exhibited racism. 

“There has been a history and a track record and a certain repetition of racism over Trump’s career,” Jackson said during a recent interview with theGrio.

Jackson, a Season One finalist of the NBC show, said that while he did not experience “direct” racism from Trump on the set of “The Apprentice,” he was not surprised by the recent claim from former producer and friend Bill Pruitt, who wrote in a Slate magazine article that, in 2004, Trump used the racist slur when referring to him. 

While working with Trump on the reality competition show that launched the career of the show’s ultimate villain and former Trump White House official Omarosa Manigault Newman, Jackson recalled that the future U.S. president appeared “uncomfortable” around Black people, particularly with him.

“I think he was always trying to figure [me] out,” he shared. “Given the fact that I was a Wall Street veteran from Goldman Sachs, that I had attended Harvard Business School, that I didn’t necessarily fit into the bucket of Black people maybe he had dealt with before, whether they were celebrities or athletes or whatever,” he shared. 

Though Jackson said he “cannot verify” Pruitt’s claims about Trump’s use of the slur, he believes there was a “permission structure” that allowed his racism to go unchecked. 

Kwame Jackson (left) a former contestant of “The Apprentice,” said he was not surprised by allegations that former President Donald Trump (right) used a racist slur. (Photos: Getty Images)

If the claims about Trump are true, it wouldn’t be the first time that Trump disparaged an Ivy League-educated Black man. Trump’s political rise was fueled in part by racist attacks on President Barack Obama, the first Black American elected to the White House. He also challenged the qualifications of Obama, a graduate of Harvard Law School and Columbia University. 

“He started calling into question all these things with the birther movement and asking for his papers … almost like a South Africa apartheid ‘show me your papers to be here,’” said Jackson, who “broke” from Trump over his overt racism toward Obama. He saw the personal attacks as “undercutting all Black professionals.” 

The Harvard Business School graduate continued, “[It was] calling into question our credentials, calling into question our training, our wisdom. And I felt as though that was a disgrace, and I didn’t want to be part of it.”

Jackson, who said he became one of the first in Trump’s orbit to speak out against his candidacy for president during the 2016 election cycle, noted that “way before” Trump pushed a racist political campaign to question the legitimacy of America’s first Black president, “there was this whole notion of how does he deal with a professional Black man in a television media setting,” referring to the dynamic between him and Trump at the time. Jackson said he believes it was an early sign of what would come years later. 

“Unfortunately, not enough people listened to me, and we are where we are,” Jackson lamented. “But now we’re going to focus on the future and the 2024 election and the work that I’m doing with the TOGETHER! PAC.”

Now, Jackson aims to thwart Trump’s political power ahead of the 2024 election in November. Along with fellow PAC co-founder Jason Palmer, the Democratic presidential candidate who beat President Joe Biden in the primary election in American Samoa, Jackson aims to mobilize voters, especially young voters.

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“What we’re really trying to do is amplify and engage Gen Z voters on a political basis and a cause-driven basis,” Jackson said of the tech platform. “We also want to give them voter participation tools, where they can go out in their community and register people to vote and partner with great organizations.”

Jackson said he is also concerned about Black voters, who, according to national polling, are waning from their 2020 level of support for Biden. As much as a fifth of Black voters are considering voting for Trump. Jackson said Black men, in particular, “fall prey to the false bravado [and] false toughness that they see with Trump.” However, he said, the “perceived swagger” of Trump is not “really” there. 

“What’s more important here is to think about the collective and to think about overall what we’re doing if we wind up giving our vote to Trump,” he said, describing the Republican presidential candidate as “a man who doesn’t respect our community [and] a man who has a track record of racism.”

Jackson also slammed attempts by Trump and his allies to compare his recent felony conviction in New York to the historical injustices Black Americans have faced in the criminal justice system.

“If you think about who has always been on the short end of the stick of justice, we know that being a white man … who is also a celebrity, who’s also rich, you’re at the top of the pecking order in terms of the justice system,” he explained. 

“Now he has to wear that same scarlet letter on his shoulder and on his neck as what I call a ‘Donvict,’ … and not a convict.”