Sherrilyn Ifill is President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. On January 20, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, President Ifill appeared on MSNBC to discuss the meaning and significance of MLK Day with host Andrea Mitchell.
Mitchell asked President Ifill to respond to presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway’s earlier remarks as to what Donald Trump was doing to commemorate the holiday. So sayeth Ms. Conway:
He’s preparing for Davos; and agrees with many of the things that Dr. Martin Luther King stood for and agreed with for many years, including unity.
President Ifill was having none of Conway’s patented word salad. She responded to Conway with,
What an embarrassingly incompetent answer. There’s is no answer that she can give that would be acceptable because he’s doing nothing to commemorate MLK Day, and frankly, it would be hypocritical if he tried to do that.
President Ifill was just warming up, though:
Just in the last week, the tweets that he’s put up, knowing that [the pro-gun rally in Virginia] was coming today, knowing that the governor of Virginia had declared a state of emergency today because of credible threats of violence given what happened in 2017 in Charlottesville.
We’ve now reset what the president is supposed to do. He’s not supposed to call for calm and peace. He just gets to tweet whatever he wants, Ifill said.
And then President Ifill brought the thing home:
He’s not doing anything to commemorate MLK Day and that’s why it’s important that we do that work. We don’t need Mr. Trump to lead us in knowing what to do around equality and justice.
Attorney/President Ifill got it exactly right about Trump, King Day and Kellyanne Conway’s utterly disrespectful and downright ugly response to the whole thing.
Obviously Trump is doing nothing, saying nothing to even recognize, let alone commemorate, this hard fought for and universally observed holiday, a true holy day for black people of even more significance and meaning than most of the other federally recognized holidays.
Trump will not and cannot say or do anything to uplift King or his legacy because to do so would be to contravene the white supremacist/white racist sensibilities of a large swath of his most ardent followers and supporters — his so-called “base.” Trump simply will not risk alienating that base for the sake of a man and of a people whom both he and that base despise on a visceral level.
Both Trump’s and his base’s racism are on full and open display this day. As President Ifill mentioned, just down the road from Washington, in Richmond, Virginia, a basic white supremacist Ku Klux Klan-style rally (camouflaged as a peace-loving “pro-gun” demonstration) was underway even as she and Andrea Mitchell spoke. Trump’s response to that rally? Silence. And, as is usual in matters like this, silence is not just consent but approval as well.
Now that the presidential election is less than ten months away, Trump’s supporters will not stand for him doing or saying anything even remotely positive about Dr. King or the people he represented.
For Trump to honor Dr. King would be to dishonor and erode, if not lose altogether, the heretofore steady, reliable, faithful and rock-hard support of those many millions upon millions of white supremacists/white racists, especially whom Trump has liberated from their racist closets and to whom he caters and kowtows at every opportunity.