Service is the rent you pay for room on this earth.
– Shirley Chisolm
As 2017 comes to an end most people will make resolutions for the new year. Those changes will, no doubt, reflect changes people want to make. Still others will look at what they’ll take forward with them from 2017. I am one of those people. I want the lessons learned from one year to inform progress in the next. Two things from 2017 will go with me into 2018 – the ferociousness of the Republican Party and its members and the realization that attacks on people of color have multiplied.
We question what it means when Americans say they “want their country back” but we really know what it means. And those who didn’t know have been told, in plain language, by President Trump and the Republican Party. They said they would “Make America Great Again”. They promised to turn back the clock; to wipe out as much of the Obama legacy as they could. The greatness they speak of is shrouded in an alt-right, racial agenda that does not include people of color.
Having spent many years in service to my country – many times as the only person of color at the table – I have often struggled to grasp the nuances of change. I’ve worked for Republicans and Democrats. I’ve supported the office of the president with unwavering dedication and commitment as a public servant. If I’m honest with myself, there were two times I truly believed the country was turning a corner. One inspired my desire to serve – the 1972 presidential campaign of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm and the other inspired increased vigilance – the 2008 victory of Barack Obama.
As 2018 comes into view, the weather is cold and dreary. The sun peaks through the overcast sky only sporadically. Then suddenly winter reclaims the sky with grey clouds, rain and icy winds. Like the weather, America finds itself in a cold and dreary state with each day of the Trump presidency. The Trump rhetoric alone is proof enough. But look closely. Those who think the Trump administration has not been a successful one are grossly mistaken. Along with a Republican Party that has put party before country, the Trump administration has pitted us against each other in ways no other American president (or presidential candidate) has. That division has grown so strong that even his base doesn’t understand exactly how far backwards we’re moving.
First, you must understand how media savvy Trump is. We all saw it in his campaign. And we insisted, over and over, that he would never prevail . . . until he won. Now that he’s in office we insist that his presidency will implode and end soon. There’s just one problem with that idea – America needs the entire Legislative Branch to see a problem with the President. But we all know that the Republican Party has lost its way. Republicans feel right at home with President Trump whipping their base into a racist, protectionist frenzy while they sit back and not say a word. The late, great Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman to wage a major party campaign for the presidency was quite clear when she said “service is the rent you pay for room on this earth”.
Let’s face it, members of the Republican Party take up a lot of room. Too many pay little or no rent. What’s most repulsive is when those elected to serve our great country sit back blatantly default on the rent that’s due. Rent was due in Charlottesville . . . Trump and the Republicans defaulted. Rent was due in Alabama’s race for the U. S. Senate . . . Trump and the Republicans defaulted. Rent was due when Russia interfered with America’s democratic elections . . . Trump and the Republicans defaulted. Rent was due when athletes said people of color are disproportionately subjected to injustice and inequality by the criminal justice system . . . Trump and the Republicans defaulted.
Republican politicians and the Republican base, are clearly content with the divisiveness stoked by our president and others in his administration. Chief among those servants in default is Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III.
Under Sessions’ leadership we have seen the most blatant attack on people of color in America. Law and order has long been the dog whistle of oppression. The first year of the Trump presidency brought a chilly realization. It was no longer necessary to disguise the direction the country would go. They wanted it back from Obama, the American President that Donald Trump said could not possibly be an American.
With the help of the FBI, the administration placed a new name on anyone willing to speak out about injustice and equality in America . . . Black Identity Extremists. Each of us will take this label into 2018 with an understanding that the FBI has failed to clearly define what this term means. That leaves each of us vulnerable to targeted enforcement activity.
“It is incomprehensible to me, the fear that can affect men in political offices. It is shocking the way they submit to forces they know are wrong and fail to stand up for what they believe. Can their jobs be so important to them, their prestige, their power, their privileges so important that they will cooperate in the degradation of our society just to hang on to those jobs?”
― Shirley Chisholm, Unbought and Unbossed
Sessions immediately focused on the failed War on Drugs, an initiative that put a staggering number of African American men and women in prisons across America. He had no impediment to rolling back the clock to mandatory minimum sentencing. Both efforts were part of reforms implemented by the Obama administration. Republicans knew what they were getting when they confirmed him. Again, rent was due from the Republican Party and they defaulted.
And we will all take the Republican tax plan into the new year. Republicans touted the plan as a tax cut for the middle class but, let’s face it, pennies to the masses for a few years versus millions to corporations permanently is far from putting Americans first.