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Somebody Needs To Be At The Table With Trump
1/18/2017 2:58:38 PM

By Barney Blakeney 

Someone recently observed that Donald Trump’s election as president seemingly consumes every conversation – perhaps even more so than Barack Obama’s election. I was at breakfast the other day when a lady I admire struck up a conversation about it. My mind was on sawchis and grits, but I indulged her because this woman always is on point.

Good thing I did because unfailingly, she brought up several good points about black folks’ concerns about Trump’s election. Everybody’s objecting, with good reason she noted, but nobody’s coming up with any strategies to respond to Trump’s initiatives. Black folks complain, but usually don’t offer solutions, she said.

That’s a real tragedy because I think if we put our heads together, we can come up with some really plausible solutions to many of the problems we face - including Donald Trump. There’s some real talent among black folks, especially our young folks. They’re surviving in a society that’s using every imaginable tactic to destroy them. And doing it without much help from the older generation!

I’m a little concerned about what I see coming out of our leadership. Okay, I understand why so many feel they shouldn’t participate in Trump’s inauguration. But when I hear stuff like he’s not a legitimate president and promises to block everything he proposes, I’m reminded of similar words at Barack Obama’s inauguration and subsequent promises to block his initiatives. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m getting the same vibes now as I got eight years ago. It’s eerie.

Like a lot of people, I’m quick to shut down on stuff I don’t agree with. If I don’t see the merit in something, I’ve got a tendency to quickly dismiss it. I’ve learned that’s not always smart. Usually it’s a good idea to hear the thing out. There may be something to it. And trust not to thine own understanding! You gotta think outside the box. And sometimes there may be more to a thing than what you know. You gotta look for the silver lining. So I’m looking for silver linings in Donald Trump’s cloudy atmosphere. As they say, there’s some good in everything.

My mom use to say, “Tom may be drunk, but Tom ain’t fool.” I think it would be foolish for black folks not to sit at the table with Donald Trump. It doesn’t matter who else may be at the table, we need to be there. My friend at breakfast was saying that by not going to the table with Trump, we can’t articulate our agenda. Of course she emphasized that black folks first need to develop an agenda.

I just read something from some online advocates for social justice. Heather Gray of Justice Initiative International wrote, “Nonviolent social change requires long, hard and sustained work, research, development of solutions, and, importantly, on-going commitment. It demands far more than bringing folks together to march and wave banners … It appears that King's involvement in massive demonstrations is invariably touted as his ultimate method for change, which couldn't be further from the truth. Mass mobilization or direct action, in fact, is only one part of the non-violent methods for social change. Based on the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, the Kingian method for nonviolent social change is a systematic one.”

She offered a brief summary: (1) once the problem is identified it is essential to research the issue (i.e. define the problem, who are the key players, who or what is being affected) - the research and analysis should be above reproach as disputed or incorrect facts and figures can completely undermine the efforts for the evolving campaign; (2) based on the research, state clearly what needs to change to solve the problem and identify the strategy for solving the problem; (3) recruit others to join the struggle, share your findings and strategies, get their input if necessary, but essentially seek a commitment from them (i.e. this is the problem, this is what we intend to do, are you with us?) (4) teach them in nonviolent tactics (i.e. being non-confrontational during direct action); (5) attempt to resolve the problem through negotiations (i.e. negotiations with whoever controls the policies needing to be changed); (6) if that doesn't work, apply pressure through direct action techniques, which at times need to be sustained for a lengthy period (i.e. boycotts, mass demonstrations); (7) negotiate again, if necessary engage in direct action again - often more research is required or more clarity on the solutions needs to be developed; (8) finally, if the problem is solved, seek reconciliation.

Okay, that’s what Gray said. But I also read Julianne Malveaux’s column printed in the Jan. 11 edition of The Chronicle. She was talking about participating in the Jan. 21 “Million Women’s March” in Washington, D.C. Malveaux said at first she didn’t support the march, thinking it was about white women’s desire to be considered. Then she realized that black women needed to be at that table also so their agenda would be presented.

That’s how I feel about Donald Trump. We have elected black people to represent us in Washington – Jim Clyburn and others – who have a seat at the table. I don’t think it’s smart for them to give up those seats. Somebody has to be there to speak for us. Never mind how futile it may seem, if we’re not at the table we have no chance.

I love John Lewis. I’ll love him just as much if he attends the inauguration. I’ll love him and Jim Clyburn even more if they’re at the table fighting on my behalf over the next four years.

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