By Hazel Trice Edney
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Only two days after President Donald Trump met with nearly two dozen predominately Black pastors, he tweeted yet another racially charged message calling CNN news anchor Don Lemon the “dumbest man on television”. In that same tweet, he insulted the intelligence of basketball star LeBron James, saying Lemon “made LeBron look smart, which isn’t easy to do.”
In yet another angry tweet days later, he called his former White House assistant Omarosa Manigault Newman a “crazed, crying low life” and a “dog” amidst her release of taped White House conversations as promotion for her new book.
This most recent public vitriole – despite private meetings with clergy and advisors – have added to a long list of equally unsavory tweets the President has unleashed – many of which appear to be racist at the core. What’s more, First Lady Melania Trump has unveiled a platform, “Be Best”, which in part, campaigns against cyberbullying.
He has also verbally or electronically portrayed the media as the enemy of the people, African nations as “shithole” countries; NFL players as sons of bitches; Congresswoman Maxine Waters as a person with a “very low IQ” and President Obama as establishing “stupid” policies.
These racial stereotypes – attempting to denigrate the intellect of Black people – and other obscenities and absurdities are among the reasons that Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, president of the Council of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), is organizing an ecumenical “Call to Conscience: Day of Action”, set for Lafayette Park across from the White House at 10 am September 6.
“We are calling pastors, congregants, and citizens from across the country to join us in Washington DC on September 5th and 6th, as we call the nation to conscience. Additionally, Sunday, September 2nd is designated as ‘Social Justice Sunday.’ We are asking every pastor to preach a sermon related to ‘social Justice’,” Jackson says in a statement. “There are some who think the Black Church is weak and has little strength or influence. This thinking is incorrect. We are at war, and we call all soldiers to active duty.”
The demonstration was largely inspired by the news that almost two dozen Black pastors, led by Trump’s spiritual advisor, Paula White, met with Trump at the White House Aug. 1, saying they had been invited to discuss criminal justice issues, including prison reform and other urban issues. But the meeting appeared to be little more than a photo op.
Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of the Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., was among those who attended the meeting. But, he says much of what was reported about the meeting was all wrong.
The White House only released an approximately 30 minute video from the meeting, showing the pastors introducing themselves and praising the president as if his vitriolic public behavior did not exist. But, Bishop Harry Jackson said there was a substantive meeting after the introductions. That meeting, he said, lasted approximately two and a half hours with Trump remaining in the meeting for as much as 90 minutes.
“It went on for at least two hours with others – the criminal justice reform people, the outreach people, and his staffers in the room with us. And we’re planning to have some ongoing dialog,” Bishop Harry Jackson said. He said he has maintained ongoing communications with the President about his urban agenda.
“I’ve been talking with the president for 15 months plus and with Jared Kushner about prison reform. So, the presupposition that this was just a photo op and you just ushered these Black guys in was not true,” he said.
But he conceded that no one in the Aug. 1 meeting brought up the destructiveness of Trump’s public conduct.
“So, yes. I think the concern is valid. Is anybody saying anything to the president?” Bishop Harry Jackson answered that question by noting that although he has not publicly criticized the president, that doesn’t mean he has not spoken to him behind closed doors.
Also, when violence broke out in Charlottesville last year and Trump went on television calling White supremacists as “very fine people”, Jackson said he and others did pull Trump’s coat.
“I personally talked with the president a few days after Charlottesville – about race – along with 15 religious leaders, and about how he could project himself better.”
Yet, a year later, some might argue that the daily tweets still coming from the President might need to be screened for suitability for children – and some adults.
“My question to Harry Jackson would be whatever you told him privately, how has it transformed him publicly?” asked the Rev. Jamal-Harrison Bryant, pastor of the Empowerment Temple AME Church in Baltimore, also an organizer of the Sept. 6 Call to Conscience. “Because whatever he said to him privately on Wednesday, on Friday he called [Don Lemon] the dumbest man … What is their prophetic impact? They don’t have any prophetic impact. The Bible says, ‘By their fruits shall you know them.’ So with all of that access and insight, we have seen no transformation?”
Both Bryant and Bishop Harry Jackson acknowledged that they were planning to sit down and meet with each other this week as a video of Bryant strongly criticizing the pastors is still circulating on social media.
Bryant says he has great respect for Bishop Harry Jackson as a committed Republican.
“He asked if we can get together. We are supposed to be meeting next week, but the meeting is his. I think we need some Black Republicans to give us a larger world view so that we’re not myopic because in many ways the Democratic Party has taken us for granted and has not delivered. So, I think that we need somebody on the other side of the aisle,” Bryant said. “If nothing else; then we need to talk, have dialogue and discussion.”
But the rising up of the Black church to publicly speak truth to power is crucial, Bryant said.
“I just want to underscore the importance of clergy coming Sept. 6. That it’s not just an AME call but all of us who are conscience of what’s taking place in our community and want their voices heard and felt. It’s not just for clergy but for all of us, including our Congregants. And I think it’s a critical moment for the Black church.”
As he prepares to lead the “Call to Conscience – Day of Action”, Bishop Reginald Jackson says the White House and the Black pastors’ failure to report any substantive part of the meeting was a disservice to the community.
“My only concern is the ones who went to the White House, in fact, when they came out of the meeting, why didn’t they say to us that we discussed this or raised our objections to this or disputed him on that?” Jackson questioned.
A release on the “Call to Conscience” concludes:
“Today the Black Church is again called to be ‘the conscience of the nation.’ To speak to the nation about the rightness or wrongness of its policies and behavior. This is particularly important when the so called, ‘Evangelical Christians’ appear to be the dominant voice for people of faith in this nation, supporting the nation’s leader who spouts racism, sexism, and repeatedly lies to the nation. They appear to be the dominant voice of people of faith in the nation, because the Black Church has largely been silent.
“It is time for the Black Church to speak, our congregations and the nation need to hear us. Therefore, Black denominational and faith leaders have scheduled a ‘Call to Conscience – Day of Action’ for September 5th and 6th in Washington DC, the nation’s capital. It is not only time for us to say something, we must do something. We must fight against, “spiritual wickedness in high places.”