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Trump, Kelly and the constant attacks on Black women

By Barrington M. Salmon -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Nov 1, 2017 - 12:04:01 PM

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Congresswoman Frederica Wilson. Widow Myeshia Johnson. Sportscaster Jemele Hill. Journalist April Ryan. Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Ambassador Susan Rice.

Each of these women share the dubious distinction of having, at some point during the first nine months of the Trump administration, been insulted, lied about or demeaned by the president because they deigned to speak out or challenge him.

In recent weeks, Mr. Trump was engaged in a war of words in an attempt to denigrate and smear Rep. Wilson (D-Fla.) and Gold Star widow Myeisha Johnson. Mrs. Johnson’s husband Sgt. La David Johnson, 25, was one of a quartet of Special Forces soldiers killed in Niger on Oct. 4 following an ambush. The Pentagon hasn’t released many details but officials say Sgt. Johnson was reported as missing, his body found two days later and then declared killed in action.

(Left to right) President Donald J. Trump, Representative Frederica Wilson and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly. Photos: MGN Online

Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, 39, Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, 35 and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, 29, were also killed in what Pentagon officials describe as an ambush.

On Oct. 18, Rep. Wilson criticized Mr. Trump after overhearing his brief conversation with Mrs. Johnson, mother of two with another baby on the way. Rep. Wilson accused Mr. Trump of being insensitive. She said the president told Mrs. Johnson her husband “knew what he signed up for.” Rep. Wilson was in the car with the Johnson family as they traveled to Miami International Airport to meet Sgt. Johnson’s body when President Trump called.

Mr. Trump said via Twitter and when questioned by the media, that Rep. Wilson had lied and strongly disputed her account, claiming the call had gone well and that he was respectful and extremely courteous to the grieving widow.

But in a televised interview, Mrs. Johnson said the president did not remember her husband’s name. She said when his call came in to the master sergeant in the car with her, she asked that it be placed on speakerphone so others could hear.

Mrs. Johnson, who lives in Miami Gardens, Fla., corroborated Rep. Wilson’s comments.

“Whatever Miss Wilson said was not fabricated. What she said was 100 percent correct,” Mrs. Johnson said.

 “It made me cry because I was very angry about the tone of his voice and how he said it. He couldn’t remember my husband’s name,” she told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “I heard him stumbling on trying to remember my husband’s name, and that’s what hurt me the most, because if my husband is out here fighting for our country and he risked his life for our country, why can’t you remember his name? The only way he remembered my husband’s name was because he told me he had my husband’s report in front of him, and that’s when he actually said La David.”

The following day, White House chief of staff, retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly—of his own volition—attacked Rep. Wilson. He fabricated a story that in 2015 she crowed about her political influence during the dedication of an FBI building in South Florida. He was dismissive of the former high school principal and founder of 5,000 Role Models of Excellence Project, refusing to call her by name, referring to her as “this woman” while characterizing her as an “empty barrel.”

Despite calls for him to apologize, Mr. Kelly, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Mr. Trump refused, doubling down on the lies, with President Trump continuing to attack Rep. Wilson for eight consecutive days.

“You know, I feel sorry for General Kelly,” Rep. Wilson said on CNN’s New Day. “He has my sympathy for the loss of his son. But he can’t just go on TV and lie on me. I was not even in Congress in 2009 when the money for the building was secured. So that’s a lie. How dare he! … He didn’t tell the truth, and he needs to stop telling lies on me.”

Rep. Trump claimed that Rep. Wilson eavesdropped on the call, an assertion Nana Akosua Bakeman Gyeaboa said is dispelled when one considers the manner in which Black people operate.

“He doesn’t know how the community works. It was not unusual for the congresswoman to be in the car,” said the trauma specialist whose father Dr. C. Vincent Bakeman, was among other things, a well-known Chicago educator, who marched with Dr. King and had Malcolm X as a guest in their home. “She was very hands-on and knew the family for years.”

The anger amongst Black women across the political, social and economic spectrums at the Trump and Kelly actions was palpable. A number asked where are White feminists, the hundreds of thousands of women wearing “Pink Pussy” hats who rallied the day after Trump’s inauguration and Black men?

“His behavior doesn’t surprise me. His disrespect of African women has been so horrendous,” said Nana Akosua, a clinical social worker and psychotherapist who has worked with the U.S. military since Operation Desert Storm. “I didn’t get angry with him, I just felt pain for the widow. The disrespect he showed Rep. Wilson is the same as him disrespecting the Congressional Black Caucus.”

“He doesn’t have respect for women and people who’re non-White by his definition of White. I wanted to say, ‘How dare you!’ For me to watch this is a nightmare. I have never seen anything so blatant and ugly. He attacks women because it’s the women who raise up the nation. He seeks to destroy and discredit Black women because they are the mothers, the mothers who create the Black nation.”

Women interviewed for this story excoriated Mr. Trump for his unvarnished attacks on people of African descent and other people of color in this country. During his 2016 run for the White House, he described Black people in sophomoric, stereotypical terms, saying they lived in ghettos and crumbling inner cities, were unemployed and uneducated.

And since Jan. 20, Trump and his administration has targeted programs of benefit to Blacks and announced policies designed to dismantle social welfare programs, education, Affirmative Action and doubled down on discredited criminal justice policies that could invariably lead to greater rates of police harassment, brutality and murder and of mass incarceration.

Side Lacua, a social worker who lives in Springfield, Va., railed at Mr. Trump’s lack of empathy and his penchant for lying.

“One lie begets another and begets another,” she said. “He called Sgt. Johnson’s widow with the amount of care a two year old would give that situation. He probably didn’t take a briefing. He’s appalling and disgusting. It’s not required for presidents to call families of the fallen but it is customary and he proves every day that he can’t handle customary.”

“He attacked the widow of a man who gave his life to this country. Sgt. Johnson is a hero, his wife is eight months pregnant. Trump’s behavior just shows he’s an imposter as a man and everything a president stands for. He is not a human being. What he said was unconscionable and truly disgusting. He makes me fear for my safety and that of my daughter. When will enough be enough?”

“The kids will suffer because of their father’s sacrifice. And their mother is going to have to do it alone without him,” she said softly.

“As a Black woman, I recognize that we’re at the bottom of the totem pole,” said Maisha Hyman, a mother of two and an international development professional who lives in the District of Columbia. “Rep. Wilson is a Black woman who dared open her mouth. She’s a Black woman and in their eyes, she doesn’t have any value. Black people within our society, we’re not valued and we don’t value ourselves, not in a way that’s valuable and productive.”

“The people who I’ve heard react the most are Black women. I haven’t heard much from Black men which is par for the course. Black women are often on the frontlines but they haven’t gotten the support of Black men. I’m not trying to generalize but it happens.”

Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever said Mr. Kelly has shown with startling clarity that he’s no different from the president. He and others in the administration are intent on maintaining the control and oppression of Black bodies, critics asserted.

“People have given him leeway saying he might have been confused but he’s just as void of a moral compass as that person in the White House is,” said Dr. Jones-DeWeever, a women’s empowerment expert, diversity consultant and career reinvention strategist. “Prior to this particular event, people pushed the story that he was in service to the nation protecting the U.S. but he’s an enabler and supportive of the person in the White House.”

“They continue to target and vilify Black women. They believe they can get away with it. This demographic doesn’t have the power in broad terms to garner public sympathy. What I find ironic is that in his speech Kelly said we used to honor women, then he launches into attack as if Black women are not seen as worthy of protection and honor.”