One of the first major appointments made by President-elect Trump – that is, indeed, a difficult title to attach to that man’s name – has us reflecting on our mission as advocacy media for the black community in St. Louis. That is because Trump appointed as his senior advisor and strategist, one of the most powerful people in our federal government (and the world), a former advocacy media mogul – though, to be sure, he has not advocated for the black community. Quite to the contrary.
Trump’s senior advisor and strategist is Steve Bannon, former executive chairman of Breitbart News. Bannon may even still co-own Breitbart; a spokesman for the media company would not confirm or deny that to The New York Times – making this appointment part of a first wave of the conflicts of interest that we expect will come to define the Trump administration. Breitbart does original reporting and aggregation of other published work from the perspective of the “alt-right,” which the Southern Poverty Law Center summarizes as “a euphemism for a male white supremacist point of view.”
For example, under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart published a story titled “Why Equality and Diversity Departments Should Only Hire Rich, Straight White Men,” which includes the argument, “When you allow identity politics to run rampant and you’re too terrified to question someone just because they have a certain skin color, gender or sexual orientation, you create monsters.” Another Breitbart story titled “The Solution to Online ‘Harassment’ Is Simple: Women Should Log Off” includes the following pearl of wisdom: “Women are – and you won’t hear this anywhere else – screwing up the internet for men by invading every space we have online and ruining it.”
Even from this tiny sampling of the site, it’s clear that to Breitbart – to Bannon – to one of our next president’s closest advisors – white men are an oppressed, aggrieved demographic that need an advocacy voice to help them survive and prevail in the face of multiculturalism and women’s rights. But Breitbart goes considerably farther than that.
For example, on July 1, 2015 – less than two weeks after the massacre of nine African Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina church led to a cry to take down the Confederate flag from government grounds – Breitbart ran a story about the controversy. “The American left is in a feeding frenzy, cynically exploiting the tragic murders of nine black worshippers in a Charleston church to promote its agenda of cultural genocide against conservatism, tradition and the South,” the story reads. Breitbart advocated a response: “defiance. Every tree, every rooftop, every picket fence, every telegraph pole in the South should be festooned with the Confederate battle flag.” Given that Washington, D.C. was once slaveholding territory, will Bannon advise Trump to “festoon” the White House with the Confederate flag?
Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G. K. Butterfield (D-NC) said the appointment of Bannon “sends an alarming signal that Trump remains loyal to the animosity and hatred that was the core of his campaign.” It shows that Trump does not seek rapprochement with the majority of American voters who voted against him and won Hillary Clinton the popular vote. It’s a terrible (and possibly catastrophic) sign for the country that Trump claims to want to make “great again” that he is willing to deepen the divide between himself and the diverse, dynamic urban electorate that opposed him, but is most responsible for this country’s towering economic global and cultural dominance.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) went even harder on Bannon’s appointment, saying it “signals that white supremacists will be represented at the highest levels of the White House.” Of course, for those of us who followed the mechanics of Trump’s campaign, the appointment might alarm, but it did not surprise. Bannon managed Trump’s campaign in what became the winning home stretch and was responsible for one of its most dramatic, if tasteless, moments, which happened right here in St. Louis. Bannon smirked in a room at the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis when Trump did a Facebook Live segment before the presidential debate at Washington University, joined by women who claim to have been sexually assaulted by Bill Clinton – a key stroke in Trump responding to and recovering from his own sexual assault campaign scandals.
It took Trump less than a week after his election to issue a wake-up call to Black America that we need to stay woke, defend our every right, tighten our circles, protect one another, and prepare to vote this man out of office at the soonest opportunity. We have no reason whatsoever to rally faithfully behind Trump, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s all-white editorial board urged, a shocking abdication of the media’s responsibility to hold Trump accountable for the dangerously divisive campaign he waged, that was rejected by the majority of Americans who voted – and overwhelming rejected in urban areas like St. Louis. To the contrary, we urge those who rejected Trump to continue your dissent and loyal opposition to a president who has brought a media mogul who caters to white supremacists into the White House.
Speaking of the Post, it finally has added a black political columnist – the first since Sylvester Brown Jr. was fired in 2009 on a pretense shortly after describing the tactics of the Slay administration (under Jeff Rainford’s direction) as “thug-like.” Unbelievably, the Post’s new columnist is a black woman who supported Donald Trump, conservative radio host Stacy Washington. It’s amazing that they could find someone like her, given that only 4 percent of black women voted for Trump. Washington recently appeared on local public television, just before the November 8 election, alongside a white print journalist who said Trump was running a racist and xenophobic campaign. Washington objected that a white man could not call the Trump campaign racist when she, a black woman, supported Trump. This is the black voice that the Post-Dispatch thinks St. Louis needs. We would wonder if Steve Bannon is now editing St. Louis’ daily newspaper, until we pinch ourselves and wake back up to a reality that’s so much worse: He is advising the president of the United States. That a messenger of the hard white right is advising him shows that the president-elect has already failed his first test of leadership.