Commentary: What Trump’s erasing of Obama’s work says to people of color

During the tyranny of apartheid in South Africa, there was the phenomenon of “black spot” removal. This referred to the dismantling of shanty towns or settlements set up by black South Africans in areas designated for whites only.

The dismantlement of the shabby, fly-by-night structures of these settlements was usually conducted forcefully by the police, whether necessary or not — and without prior notice to the inhabitants, who were generally immediately displaced and left with nothing but the clothes on their backs. These black stains seemingly had to be obliterated to maintain the purity of the whites-only area, to reinforce white dominance and control, and to eradicate the reality of native black South African existence.

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President Trump and his cohorts seem determined to remove the “black spot” left on the history of the United States by the administration of President Barack Obama. It seems not enough for Trump and associates to challenge and try to undo President Obama’s accomplishments — such as the Affordable Care Act, and now the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — but even the most minuscule Obama-era initiatives like the nutritional improvement of school lunches have been targeted.

The Trump removal or reversal of the Obama programs and policies proceeds regardless of how much Americans or the nation has benefited, or how antithetical the eradication is to traditional American values or principles. The process seems to know no limits or rationale other than if President Obama enacted or supported the legislation or policy, it must be obliterated. These actions in the context of Trump’s not-so-hidden appeal to white supremacists and racists make it diffi cult to believe that this is a campaign driven by Republican rebuke of the excessive or unconstitutional use of executive orders by President Obama.

President Trump issued more executive orders during his first 100 days in office than any other president in the history of the nation.

It should then not come as a surprise that reasonable people of color see and feel President Trump’s activity concerning Obama administration programs and policies for what it is: a black spot removal program. Trump’s hugging and kissing of black and Latino children in Texas flood shelters and misdirectional tweets about loving DACA children may ease his conscience and raise doubt in the minds of a few, but it does not change the appearance or intent of what Trump and his crew are doing.

Neither can the president’s actions be rationalized as merely fulfilling a campaign promise, nor as efforts to solidify or appease his base. The reality is that his base is neither the majority in this country nor the majority of those who voted in the last presidential election. However, if his actions do represent an appeal to his base, then apparently the president’s base does not share those American values and principles that speak to the ideal of a democracy of all the people, by all the people and for all the people.

Moreover, as the president continues to play the Obama race card, the more it becomes abundantly clear that what he and his supporters really want to achieve is an elimination, or at least the greatest possible diminution, of the Obama administration from U.S. history. This would be accompanied by a return to the good old days when everybody knew their place and everything was great — mostly for white people.

The message beaming from the White House is clear: if you are black or Latino, you are not wanted in America. That is, unless you are willing to play the role of the subservient second-class citizen — a role for which you will be rewarded monetarily as a sports player, an entertainer, a middle manager or even a presidential cabinet member. But to maintain even that status, you must know your place, as well as work to keep or restore the proper order of America. You must contribute to making America great as it was in the 1950s.

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For Trump and company, the Obama presidency and its legacy must be destroyed because, notwithstanding all of Obama’s faults and political shortcomings, his ascension and subsequent re-election confirmed their worst apprehensions about a black-Latino takeover of America. This also invoked the loss of white status — if not privilege — regarding an America in irreversible decline due to inferior nonwhite leadership.

Sadly ironic is that the more Trump and crew play the race card, the more America divides and deteriorates. There was a point of no return in South Africa about apartheid and black spot removal. There appears to be a point of no return here as well.

Soto is an assistant professor in the Behavior and Social Science Department at Hostos Community College in New York City. This column was published by the NiLP Report on Latino Policy & Politics.

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