If Donald Trump were Black, he'd be in jail already

If Donald Trump were Black, he'd be doing about four in the box by now. If Donald Trump were Black and poor, he'd probably be booked for the rest of his remaining years. But he's not. Trump is very white, very privileged, and therefore very free.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not an advocate for jail. I strongly believe the system doesn't work. I've had both family members and close friends spend long amounts of time incarcerated — decades, even — and none left felling reformed, refreshed, inspired and ready to contribute to society in the most positive way possible. Some were 100% innocent and lost time. A few others were fortunate enough to change their lives for the better despite the system's ills. But many of these relatives and friends ended up back behind the wall almost as soon as they made it out, hindered by little to no opportunity. The fact is going to jail is extremely easy in America, a country with over 2 million people incarcerated, the largest number of incarcerated people in the world. It's so easy to go to jail here — unless you are Donald Trump, of course.

Honestly, I'm at a loss for answers on why Trump has been protected for so long. Is he just lucky? Did the Founding Fathers hide a get out of jail free clause in the Constitution? Is racism or stupidity on the part of the people who operate the criminal justice system to blame, or is it a fear that his hair will incite a prison riot?

We know about Trump's sexual assault allegations. We know how Trump tried to disrupt the 2020 election to throw the results in his favor. We know about the dozens of FEC complaints lodged against him for campaign finance violations. We know he destroyed presidential records. We know in his January 6 speech he told a mob of angry MAGA protestors to march to the Capitol, and fueled by his words, they beat up police officers and broke into the building in hopes of finding public officials and disrupting the certification of the Electoral College votes. They were looking for the vice president, chanting, "Hang Mike Pence." We know Trump verbally approved of that sentiment. (That's not conspiracy?)

"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters, OK?" Trump said at a campaign event back in 2016. "It's, like, incredible." He should have added, "Not only would I not lose voters, but I probably wouldn't even be prosecuted."

I'm a USA-born citizen just like Donald J. Trump; however, it is so easy for me to be arrested, prosecuted and go to jail. I literally just have to go outside and I could be arrested. I remember stopping to see a friend who lived in Perkins Housing Projects in east Baltimore after a basketball game. About 40 of us were laughing and joking and enjoying our day when amped-up police officers pulled up with squad cars and cheese buses, jumped out like cowboys and locked up every Black dude in sight. Our charge was literally being outside while Black.

"You don't have to lock me up," I told the cop with a buzz cut as he shoved me into the cheese bus by the back of my neck. "I'm not even from Perkins. I don't even be around here!"

We were arrested and detained over the weekend because the mayor at the time was launching an outdoor festival near the projects and I'm guessing he didn't want us Black guys scaring away white patrons at the funnel cake booth. This happened in 2005, not 1962. None of us were charged with anything real, and we didn't have to go to court. But unlike Trump, we all had to sit in a cell. And it was very easy for us to end up there.

As a teen, I saw a guy named Otis clotheslined by a police officer whose forearm knocked him about six feet up in the air before he came crashing down and cracked his back on the curb­­, just for riding his bike on the sidewalk. Otis didn't even get a warning, and that was his first and last time in a jail cell.

How are we still being arrested for nothing while people like Trump can get away with anything in front of everybody and brag about it?

Earlier this year, my childhood friend Paul spent a weekend in jail because a disgruntled person he was dating told a commissioner that he was a violent burglar. (I didn't even know people still use the word burglar.) Paul had been to prison back in the day, but never for anything dealing with theft at all. Normally, your record matters in these kinds of situations, but Paul is Black, so I guess no one bothered to check. Police officers did not catch him on video, did not retrieve any stolen items from his car, on his person or apartment after they checked. Nor did they present any credible evidence against him. But Paul was still arrested. The case has now been thrown out.

How are we still being arrested for nothing while people like Trump can get away with anything in front of everybody and brag about it, then continue to live a sweet and happy life? How?

All of this becomes even more blatant after watching the sentencing of insurrectionist Trump supporter Mark Ponder, who is Black, for his role in January 6. Ponder was the idiot caught on camera striking a Capitol Police officer with a red, white and blue pole. He got 63 months in federal prison. I am not interested in defending Ponder, nor any of the MAGA insurrectionists, but isn't it strange that out of 850 people arrested, a Black guy gets one of the longest sentences?

Meanwhile, Trump is still free.

Following the revelations of Trump's role and reaction to the insurrection in the January 6 hearings and other reports is me feel like Trump will never be held accountable for anything. This is disheartening for several reasons. As a Black man, I obviously know that I live in a different America. Countless life experiences, the police brutality I've endured, the history of racists controlling the power structures that make up this country, and the limitless studies on how people who look like me are treated has made me well aware of the ways in which this society functions. I can honestly say that I don't expect equality. But it's 2022. How much longer will we struggle to treat Black people fairly and punish people who clearly deserve it?

Noted historian explains how Ted Cruz's 'political life rests on racist propaganda'

Can a Black person be racist? In my humble opinion, the answer is no, because there is not a strong enough power structure in place to allow Black people to systemically, socially and physically oppress a complete racial or ethnic group. However, Black people are totally capable of perpetuating racist ideas — my family and myself included.

I have an uncle who blames all of his financial problems on Mexican people — that is a racist idea. I once graded a paper by an older Black student who argued that all the new rappers are dangerous, trigger-happy thugs –– that is a racist idea. And I recently made a joke about my distain for tardiness­­ — praising myself for always getting to meetings early, while my colleagues stay on CPT— which is also a racist idea. Spreading that idea isn't right, even in the form of a joke.

I understand where these racist ideas come from; they are learned behaviors passed down from previous generations who were also raised on the same racist ideas. The beauty of learned behaviors is that you can unlearn them as well.

Ibram X. Kendi has dedicated his life to helping the world unlearn dangerous racist ideas that continue to hurt us all. Kendi is a National Book Award-winning and #1 New York Times bestselling author of 10 books and the founding director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. In 2020, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world. The recognition and global praise has not derailed Kendi's mission. On this episode of "Salon Talks" he explained why it's important to continue to do anti-racist work and his latest book "How to Raise an Antiracist."

Watch my "Salon Talks" conversation with Kendi here or read the transcript below for Kendi's response to Sen. Ted Cruz mischaracterizing his book "Antiracist Baby" on the Senate floor and his plans for adapting his work for television.

The following conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

You are the top scholar on race in America. I have been watching your rise and watching the impact that your books have had on so many people. How do you gauge the success of the work that you've been doing?

One of the things that I've really tried to do through my work is to not only conduct a tremendous amount of historical research that would not only allow people to understand this nation's history of anti-Black racism, but also trying to point a way forward in a way that we can actively seek to deconstruct racism and thereby be anti-racist. I've really attempted to try to make my books and my work accessible to everyday people.

One of the reasons why I admire your work, D, is the way your books are just so accessible to regular folks. For me, I've been trying to ensure that everyday people can have an understanding of this larger complex structure of racism, but more importantly, have the language to understand it and express and imagine how they could and should be.

Seeing people, regular folks, reading the work and being impacted by the work and joining and organizing and pushing against racism, that's the reason why I do it. That's been exciting to see. Of course, it's also brought a tremendous amount of hate, but that's part of the work.

I got upset when I saw Ted Cruz using your book as a talking point. How did you process the experience of watching him display pages of your "Antiracist Baby" book during Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's Supreme Court hearing?

In the moment, I didn't know what type of impact his weaponizing of my book would have. I was deeply concerned and it was just part of a larger effort to weaponize my work—well, first distort it and then weaponize it and then use it to attack people and certainly to attack me. I think in the moment, I was just like, OK, what's going to come out of this? But obviously when people rallied around the book and recognized that he was distorting my work, and of course, Judge Jackson would go on to be confirmed, I was fine.

"It's hard to know whether what's happening now is the last gasp of white supremacy or whether it is the turning into a new nation."

But I think it's just an example of just how badly and cruelly and crudely they're distorting the work because they don't really have an argument. All they can do is change what we're saying, and then argue against what they've changed. They can't really directly respond to us when we're like, the problem is racism and we need to eradicate it.

Somebody like Ted Cruz, who benefits off of racism — is there ever a way to address a person like that and to help them see that if they had more understanding and more love, how better we would all be?

I think it would be tough to address someone like Senator Cruz, because as you stated, his political life rests on racist propaganda and making particularly white and, to a lesser extent, Latinx male voters like him, believe that the problem are people like me and that he's then going to save his constituents.

He really won't have any political standing if he didn't have the ability to manipulate people. But what we can do is we could protect people through information and knowledge and through systematic forms of anti-racist education, including children so that they won't grow up and become vulnerable to the propaganda of somebody like Senator Cruz.

In a way, their negativity has had a positive impact because more people are paying attention to the work because they want to know why it's being rejected the way it's being rejected. Have you seen that?

I have. I mean, and I think that is precisely what happened with "Antiracist Baby" because many people were like, "Wait, hold up. I got to see this for myself." And then when they actually read the text of the book, they realized that it was encouraging the youngest of people and their parents to recognize racial equality and to be anti-racist in that sense. I think it actually made him look worse. At the same time, it made the book look better.

Why would you want your baby to not be anti-racist? Is the real question.

I think what's the problem is that we as adults and parents, we're taught that race and racist ideas are these extremely sophisticated concepts that apparently the youngest of people can't understand. But I think if we were to really break it down, the idea that dark skin is ugly, is bad, that's a very simple idea that even a two-year-old can understand. The idea that light is beautiful. That's a very, very simple idea.

"They can't really directly respond to us when we're like, the problem is racism and we need to eradicate it."

That's why in "How to Raise an Antiracist" I wanted people to understand what young people are experiencing at different ages. And indeed by three years old, according to studies, kids are already attaching negative traits to dark skin, because in many ways, that's the environment in which they're being raised in.

Do you feel like we'll get there in our lifetime?

I mean, that's the hope, because if we can get there in our lifetime then our children will be able to build from it. But we're in a pitched battle right now. It's hard to know whether what's happening now is the last gasp of white supremacy or whether it is the turning into a new nation. But we don't have anything else other than to try to create that type of anti-racist society.

You recently moved to Boston with your family. How has Beantown been treating you?

We really like it. I think for me in particular, I just really like the all sorts of radical Black history that's here in Boston and all of the people who came through here, going all the way back to people like David Walker, who appealed "To the Coloured Citizens of the World" in 1829 to throw off the yoke of slavery, to people like W.E.B. Du Bois and Malcolm X. Especially in this moment when it's easy to feel hopeless. I'm really trying to remember that those people didn't feel hopeless and they still fought the good fight.

I heard you might be breaking into television. Anything you can talk about?

Some of my book projects, we are in the process of transforming them into film and television. And so we've also decided to create a production shingle that could not only steward those, but even steward projects of other writers and creators and thinkers. It's a completely different, new, scary field. But there are many people who won't read one of our books, but they will watch a show that is going to convey similar ideas.

I can't believe I pay taxes for this

You ever look at your paystub and get depressed? Am I only one who sees my paycheck deductions and feels like I'm not gettingmy money's worth for the government services provided?

This article first appeared in Salon.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying we shouldn't pay taxes. I'd like to think any good citizen would be happy to contribute to a healthy functional society. I just feel like I'm not getting my money's worth. Especially when I know the ridiculously wealthy, the true welfare queens, are not contributing 33% of their incomes in the years they even pay income taxes at all. When I look at my depleted stubs, analyze the deductions and see the job that my city, state and federal governments are doing with those funds, I can't help but think the juice ain't worth the squeeze.

Let's talk about basics — roads and bridges. I have traveled to countries where some roads are left incomplete — as in, you are driving on the highway and then the highway just stops — so I appreciate the infrastructure we do have in America. However, I live in Baltimore City, where the streets are crumbling like a damp cookie. Don't think about drinking a cup of coffee on the way to work because the truck-sized potholes will guarantee multiple stains all over your shirt. Sometimes I feel like I should buy my daughter a helmet because the uneven grooves make her bounce up and down. (Thank God we sprung for the expensive car seat.) One of the main roads to my house literally looks and feels like some sort of sick virtual reality video game. I have to bob and weave between orange traffic cones and city workers and dump trucks and excavators before slowing down to drive over the chunks of earth that have been gutted and try not to collide with the construction that has been going on for over three years. And the only thing that has been broken longer than that road to my house is funding for our public school system.

I've been feeling this way about the system and its return on our investments for a while, but the recent Supreme Court decisions just made everything feel more urgent.

I have been very vocal about my love for public schools and public school teachers. Many of them are beyond excellent. They work extremely hard and have made giant strides in elevating the lives of our children. But those same excellent, hardworking teachers may still never reach their full potential because school funding depends in part on local property taxes, which means the ones in poor neighborhoods who need the most almost don't have a chance at competing against schools in wealthier neighborhoods full of resources.

And in some of those underfunded, overwhelmed schools, it can be easier for some poor administrators and teachers to slip through the cracks than it would be in institutions with fewer overall stresses on their systems. I once dreamed of sending my daughter to public school so that she can have an experience like mine and be socialized in diverse realities. But my experiences have also forced me to consider private schools. I feel more and more like this is yet another institution I pay into but will never be able to use, like the police.

I have a history of joking with cops when they confront me: "Offer me top rate service, officer, I pay your salary!" But I never call the police myself unless I need to file a police report because it's needed for insurance reimbursement. Other than that, never. For one, they tend to be bad at their jobs. And two, they might shoot me.

Once I called the cops after someone slashed all four of my tires. I was a broke grad student at the time, no drama in my life that would have provoked an act of spiteful vandalism. Honestly, I think the slasher targeted the wrong car. But when I called the cops to have one come down and fill out a report, the joker got mad at me.

"I'm not sure these tires were slashed, buddy," the short unibrowed officer said, circling the car in his tiny work boots, scratching his head with the brim of his hat. "These look like pretty standard flats to me."

"You think I got four flats at the same time? Are you kidding me?"

"Listen here, buddy, my dad owns a garage in Detroit," he said. "So I like to think I know a thing or two about tires."

"Detroit, what? Just write the report." I laughed to suppress my anger, to avoid an argument that could turn ugly, and to get the paperwork I needed to file my insurance claim.

The cop begrudgingly wrote the report.

When will these broken systems be held accountable like the rest of us already are?

If a person puts a gun to my head and robs me of my belongings, I will not call the police even though my taxes help pay for their services. I don't expect the police to comfort me, listen to me, or to solve the crime. And even if they were likely to solve the crime, I don't think jail would solve the problems that caused the person to rob me in the first place. And that's another thing we have to pay for, too.

I've been feeling this way about the system and its return on our investments for a while, but the recent Supreme Court decisions just made everything feel more urgent.

Last week, the court reversed Roe v. Wade, declaring that a woman's constitutional right to abortion, precedent that has been in place for nearly a half century, no longer exists. This happened after justices responsible for the change had denied any intentions of overturning the landmark decision during their confirmation hearings. Donald Trump appointees Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, along with Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, also just curbed the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to mitigate climate change by setting limits on how they regulate power plants. And we paid their salaries while they did it.

Our hard-earned money pays for their homes, the island vacations they take their families on, the cars they drive, the meals they eat. Associate justices make $274,200 a year; the chief justice brings in $286,700. Which may not be a lot of money in the grand scheme of the federal budget, but let's remember the estimated average salary of the American worker last year was $58,260. And who among them has a job guaranteed for life?

I'm sure I'm not the only one feeling, in this moment, like the judicial branch of the government might have been one of the greatest mistakes of the nation's founders, filed right below allowing slavery to exist in this new country they fought to create. Maybe they imagined those lifetime appointments would always be held by somber experts in jurisprudence who would put the good of the nation first, and not an assembly of ideologically-drunk, politically-motivated clowns. How can checks and& balances exist when the majority on the court's goal appears to be serving the interests of one political party? And we get the bill!

Again, I'll proudly pay my fair share of taxes because I believe in accountability and doing my part. But when will these broken systems be held accountable like the rest of us already are?

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