President Trump tweeted a video message to mark the 62nd anniversary of Rosa Parks’ historic act of defiance today, but there’s a major problem. While the video includes photos of the famed Civil Rights leader and others in the movement, the President fails to utter the words “African American” or “Black” even once, nor does he specify that she was fighting to overturn laws used by Whites to subjugate Blacks for generations.
Referring to her simply as a ‘brave seamstress,’ Trump goes on to say that, “Rosa Parks remained strong and stayed in her seat to defend the truth etched into our Declaration of Independence that all of us, regardless of the color of our skin, are created equal by God.”
But the embarrassingly transparent omissions don’t stop there. His monologue then shifts to discuss how Parks’ refusal to comply with segregation laws ‘inspired’ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the larger Civil Rights movement – without mentioning King’s race or the racial injustices he and others fought against.
“Her courageous act inspired a young Christian pastor, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., along with thousands of others in Montgomery, Alabama, to join the movement and boycott the city bus service,” he says.
“Soon, millions of others across the country joined the Civil Rights movement, and helped secure the freedom and the equality that is every American’s birthright,” he says. Yes, true, but what he failed to mention was that only people of color had been denied those rights, and it’s on their behalf that the fight for civil rights was fought, or even needed.
As shocking and disgusting at this cowardly portrayal of an important historical milestone is, it’s not the first time the president has failed to capture the gravity of an anniversary like this. On Holocaust Remembrance Day, he issued a statement that failed to mention the 6 million Jews who perished in the crime for which the word “holocaust’ had to be invented.
“It is impossible to fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror,” that statement read. Maybe, but because it might be impossible doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
While the failure to mention these details is troubling, this pattern of omissions suggests something far more nefarious. The president knows that the racist, xenophobic, racially triggered base of the Republican Party remains his only source of political relevance.
The messaging of these official statements and videos that touch on identity politics, therefore, must be carefully calibrated not to offend his angry White voters while still offering just enough historical context to not sound like he’s trying to revise history.
By omitting key words and phrases while including others, he’s able to thread that needle just enough to avoid a backlash on 4Chan and Breitbart. And by painting the struggle of African Americans and other people of color during the Civil Rights movement as one that benefitted all Americans – which it did in theory – he’s giving his base a way to honor the benefits that were gained without reminding them that they were, and are, on the wrong side of history.
You can see the pathetic tribute to Rosa Parks below.