By Taqua Ammar
Photography by Taqua Ammar
Strange fruit and C.R.E.A.M.
When asked about his ideas on our country’s current political situation he responded confidently: “Donald Trump is doing something great for the country because he’s allowing more talk, more thoughts to be expressed. I feel like if we had the same ‘Obama,’ ‘Obama,’ ‘Obama’ type, and if we didn’t have any change, nothing would change.”
Ironic that one of Obama’s campaign slogans was ‘Change We Can Believe In;’ Joseph Blackman prefers a modern philosophy of ‘Making America Great Again.’ Joseph is a Republican black man living in California, and yes he is also a Trump supporter. Although seemingly contradicting, Joseph believes that Trump’s political strategies are beneficial for the minorities of America.
“Like if we didn’t have someone to shake the trees, the low hanging fruit wouldn’t fall off,” Joseph said.
Speaking of fruit, it may be a Nina Simone song that plays in the background as we discuss racism and politics in a coffee shop in downtown Oakland. Not an unusual topic to be discussed in a city marked by revolutionaries. Still, I question how someone, especially a person of colour, can ignore this President’s blunt racist remarks and actions, despite the so-called good ‘he’ did for the American economy.
“I feel like with Trump in power, he’s getting people pissed off and they’re expressing themselves, and it’s good to be able to express yourself in a democracy,” Joseph explained.
But wait, did you actually vote for Trump?
“Yes, I did,” replied Joseph.
Understandable, I guess; conversation is always healthy and people’s thoughts should always be expressed, whether agreed upon or not. However, aside from the healthy dialogue, why the f*** would you ever want a person such as Trump to become and continue to be the leader of the free world?
“I’m a business guy,” Joseph said.
“And I feel like most of our ills in the country are because there are not enough jobs. Like all the murders in Chicago, all the people on welfare, the people crossing the borders are because there are not enough jobs,” he explained.
“Donald Trump, he’s a business guy, he creates jobs. So I feel like we don’t need another career politician who’s just only being a politician to win another term or to get reelected. He’s coming to do what he normally does, which is grow businesses; successful businesses.”
“When you better the economy and give more opportunities, then there is less BS,” he continued.
“If everybody in Oakland, for example, had a job there would be less crime because everyone is working, they’re not sitting on the couch. When you give somebody responsibilities, it allows them to feel more valued in the community. When you hand someone a cheque for doing nothing every month it allows them to not feel like they belong; to resent the higher powers.
“When you give somebody something they resent you like if you want to lose a friend, give them some money. You want to turn an enemy into a friend; you give them some money, once the money transfers hands, people feel a different way.”
In a world ruled by C.R.E.A.M. (cash rules everything around me), money is the king of all things. Should we tolerate someone like Trump leading our country if we thought it would put money in our pockets?
“A grown man will resent another grown man for taking care of him, every time. How hard would you work if you knew all your bills were paid for?” Joseph stated.
“[Trump] has accomplished the lowest unemployment rate in the last 70 to 80 years. It is under four percent.”
Hold up! Did Trump accomplish the lowest unemployment rate?! Or was it Obama? Here are the facts: during Obama’s first term in office the unemployment rate actually rose to one of the highest rates in American history. However, during his second term unemployment dropped from an average of 8.95 percent in 2011 to 4.35 percent in 2017, according to the National Conference of State Legislator.
The unemployment rate has shifted 0.1 percent, (yes, point one percent) since Trump took oath on January 20th 2017. Hey, 0.1 percent is still good, but let’s not get the facts f***ked up. Obama put in the work; Trump is taking all the credit. That seems to be Trump’s modus operandi anyway. He is never to blame unless the blaming is good.
Still, Blackman believes, “All the businesses that are staying here instead of fleeing overseas. I mean yea, who knows if it’s an overlap from Obama’s presidency, but Donald Trump is the president now, so he can actually claim that, and Obama can never claim that he got unemployment under four percent ever.”
Obama made the unemployment rate drop more than four percent during his presidency, but isn’t it like the colonialist white man to take credit and capitalize on other people’s labour, and then claim it as their own?
What about his racist views?!
Alright, let’s say Trump’s presidency has dramatically changed America’s economy for the better in the 19 months that he has been in office. What about his racist views?! The misogynistic commentary? The pure irresponsible and child-like form of composing himself in front of America and the world?!
“I can’t agree with that. No, no, I think that’s what they want you to believe, is that he is a racist,” exclaimed Joseph.
By ‘they’ he means the ‘fake news.’ Everyone already knows how America’s current president feels about immigrants. One example of this man’s hate is his ban on immigration from eight countries, most of them Muslim countries.
Trump’s travel ban has been revised three times and is still being reviewed by the Supreme Court. These types of laws may very well become a permanent part of United States legislation. But, how can a man have so much hate against immigrants when his own wife is an immigrant?! The current first lady is from the Republic of Slovenia and did not become a United States citizen until after she married Trump in 2006.
“Aren’t some immigrants criminals?” Joseph replied when asked about Trump’s immigration reforms.
“The last comment [Trump] made was that MS13 are animals. Did he say all immigrants are animals? No, he said MS13. It’s the news trying to spin that narrative.”
For those who don’t know, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) is an international gang originated in Los Angeles, California. Most of the gang members are of Mexican origin. Trump made a comment that MS-13 members are animals and the news spun it as if he said all Mexicans are animals. Alright, we all know the news can sometimes play to different stereotypes, but the man does want to build a wall to block Mexican immigrants coming in through California. Sadly, Trump hasn’t done enough research to know that most illegal immigrants come into the country legally and just stay past their visa expiration date. Still, Trump wants to waste American tax dollars building a wall, when that money could be spent on something better, like education.
Speaking of waste, Trump sure does have the ability to trash talk anyone who doesn’t like him and state his thoughts openly at 4am in the morning on Twitter, without a second thought about what the repercussions may be. So why didn’t president Trump ever denounce white supremacy?
“How can you denounce something if you don’t renounce it?” responded Joseph.
“I don’t think the burden of proof is on him.”
So as the leader of the largest world power, you don’t think Trump has just a little bit of responsibility to his people and the people of the world to denounce a major white supremacist event that took place on U.S. soil during his presidency?
For those who do not remember: the white supremacist riot and the terrorist attack that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia in August of 2017, claimed the life of an innocent person and injured many others. Trump had a chance to show the world that he is not the white supremacist the ‘fake news’ portrays him to be, but he didn’t. Instead, he claimed that “both sides” were to blame for the tragedies of that day, although not one death or major injury was reported from the white supremacists’ side.
“No, no, no. Trump is allowing all these feelings to come out. So you’re going to get the white supremacy and you’re going to get the anti-white people. Yes, we are getting both of that. But I’m not going to sit here and tell you it’s not healthy. It is actually a good thing that we are getting that. Now we can actually see where people really stand,” Joseph said.
A Tough Subject
In 2013, before Trump became president, he tweeted: “Sadly the overwhelming amount of violent crime in our major cities are committed by blacks and Hispanics. A tough subject must be discussed.”
Vague as fuck. Most people would read this tweet from a white corrupt businessman and think, “He is being racist,” but not Mr Blackman. Trump’s current political actions, comments and tweets are evidence that his ideas of minorities in America have not changed.
Joseph replies, “Is that false? So what? Aren’t Black people committing most of the crimes in the major cities? Most of the crimes in the cities are done by minorities. That’s facts.”
The facts: statistics show that hate crimes in America continue to rise, with the majority of the hate crimes being committed by whites, and the majority of the victims being African-American and Middle Eastern/Muslim. However, research does show that a majority of crime such as theft is committed by majority Hispanics and African-Americans. Why is that?
Perhaps the poverty rate and massive economic gap between whites and minorities have something to do with it? According to the Federal Safety Net statistics on poverty for the year 2017, African-Americans are burdened with the largest amount of poverty at 22 percent and Hispanics with the second largest at 19.4 percent. If you’re born and raised in poverty how do you break free?
“From the womb to the tomb”
Our heated debate is coming to an end, and although I massively disagree with Blackman’s political views, there are pieces of truth. But enough about your political views, who are you? Where are you from?
“I grew up in Pittsburg California, that’s where I have been my whole life, from the womb to the tomb,” Joseph said.
“I guess we were lower-middle class; I remember times when we didn’t run the heat because it was so expensive, but then again I remember that if I needed new cleats for baseball we’d get it.”
“I played sports. Went to church all my life. My dad is a pastor. Mom works at home. When we needed money, she would go find employment. My dad was a black panther. He was down with the civil rights movement.”
If your dad was a black panther, how could you have such political views?
“There is a difference between pro-black and anti-white and a lot of people cross that line,” Joseph stated.
“I see it every day. It’s ok to be pro-black. I’m pro-black and I want people to thrive. When somebody like me can get out of Pittsburg and travel the world and make a ton of money and do what I have done, it shows the other kids at my church that they can do the same thing.”
“My dad taught us that we are not oppressed,” Joseph said.
“Yes there are certain times and points in life when you won’t be wanted or liked, but it’s up to you to get past that. He would have never told us, like don’t even try because you’re not going to make it.
“Black Panthers are going for the same thing Trump is going for; equality. He wants everyone to be equal.”
Freedom: a state of mind
Joseph believes: “I’m a firm believer of personal responsibility. I’m black just like every other black guy. It just happens to be that blacks and Mexicans are the poorest.”
It just happens to be that? By coincidence, all blacks and Mexicans are born into poverty? Not because of their origin or colour of their skin, but just because?! And this has nothing to do with the way our governmental systems are designed?
“No, no, no. Not at all. I mean we had a black president. You can do whatever you want in America. This is America; the land of opportunity,” Joseph said.
“So we did go through slavery. That was bad, right? We did go through the civil rights movement, that was kinda bad. Blacks only, whites only, different water fountains; all that stuff. There is no reason why a black person can’t be exactly who he wants to be in this country. We had a black president. We can do whatever we want to do. It’s just up to us to do it. I would never tell my son or daughter that you’re being oppressed.
“We are all innately built with prejudices, right? Prejudices are a good thing. Back in my primitive days, I be walking through the jungle you know. I got a bone through my nose or whatever. I’m a Neanderthal. I’m primitive; no cars, nothing. And if I hear something in the bushes, I have to automatically prejudge that it’s a leopard trying to kill me, vs. a muskrat trying to run away from me. I have to think that, because if I didn’t, then I would die. It’s actually a good thing that we do pre-judge because historically speaking, yeah, if it’s a negative we should treat it as a negative. If it’s a positive we should treat it as a positive. We can’t go into everything thinking 50/50, that’s when you get hurt.”
Conclusion: Joseph and I will not be able to see eye-to-eye on many things. He frankly pissed me off the evening we discussed racism and politics. However, Blackman has made a valuable and unforgettable point. We are not oppressed. The past was bad, but the future will be better. The power to make a change is in our hands, slowly but certainly. Not by protesting, not by fighting but by building ourselves and our people up. Greatness is a state of mind. Do you believe it?
Joseph Blackman is a 31-year-old entrepreneur from Pittsburg California. He believes that oppression is a state of mind. He would like to see himself and his people freed and wished to see a greater future for America.