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Closson: Trump’s latest attacks on black people illustrate deeper issues

Troy Closson, Opinion Editor

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In the latest edition of “What black person will Donald Trump attack this week?,” LaVar Ball, LiAngelo Ball and two other UCLA basketball players were subjected to one of the president’s infamous tweet storms.

According to Trump, LaVar Ball did not accept his generosity in getting LiAngelo out of China and complained that he “should have left them in jail.” Amid countless more important issues in the United States and abroad, one might think Trump would spend his day talking about problems that actually matter.

But no.

Instead, Trump came after another black person — not that this is anything new. In September, the president lashed out at Stephen Curry, Colin Kaepernick and black NFL athletes as a whole. It’s easy to think his attacks are limited to black athletes, but they’re not. He eviscerates black people whenever they voice concerns, whether it’s the cast of “Hamilton,” a soldier’s wife expressing disappointment over Trump’s condolence call or Barack Obama becoming president.

And clearly deeper issues exist beyond Trump’s own turbulent relationship with black people, which can be hard for some to understand. On Alex Schwartz’s column about the ridiculous “IT’S OK TO BE WHITE” posters that showed up in Crowe Hall, a commenter wrote, “In light of the fact in this day and age a person of colour can be elected into the highest office in the land and perhaps the world, it’s time for people of colour to explicitly reject the notion that they are in any way disadvantaged.”

The fact that we don’t often see overt racism anymore doesn’t mean everything is fine. Trump’s widespread attacks on black people illustrate that there’s still a belief we need to “stay in line.” Moreover, just because some cannot see the everyday impacts of racism and discrimination, many deeper structural and institutional issues still exist.

The NAACP and Clean Air Task Force recently found that black people are 75 percent “more likely to live in communities close to industrial facilities than the average American.” And that’s not a simple coincidence nor the fault of black people. The report showed that Trump’s environmental regulations disportionately impact people of color. This is not to imply that Trump conspired to target non-whites; it shows that his administration likely failed to consider the regulations’ impact on black people. Other structural problems exist in America from education to criminal justice, so it’s just false to claim that people of color don’t face disadvantages.

And when black people react to these issues, many including Trump like to throw around the term “ungrateful” — NFL athletes should just be glad they make millions and keep their mouths shut, Jemele Hill should be thankful she works at ESPN in the first place and stop stirring the pot. But these situations more broadly illustrate how black people are expected to stay silent — and how when we don’t, we’re challenged. When Trump inevitably unleashes another fury of tweets against another black person, don’t just laugh it off. Recognize that his actions are representative of deeper problems, which work to silence and disregard the concerns of people of color.

Troy Closson is a Medill sophomore. He can be contacted at troyclosson@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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