This week we are commemorating the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
One of the ways I commemorate Dr. King’s legacy is to think about the times we live in, and, given current events, wonder what Dr. King and other Black historical figures would think, say, or do!
Maya Angelou, for example, said, when someone shows you who they are, believe them. Having said that, I understand why Donald Trump might be extremely frustrated right now. Every day he tries to tell us who he is, and every day we find creative, unusual and irrational ways to not believe him. We keep using euphemisms to deny the obvious when describing Trump’s comments about race: racially loaded, racially charged, racially tinged, racially sensitive. It’s like Alice in Wonderland, where we believe what isn’t, is; and what is, isn’t.
Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign by accusing Mexicans of being rapists. He was telling us who he is, and we didn’t believe him.
Donald Trump supported a Muslim ban. He was telling us who he is, and we didn’t believe him.
Donald Trump believed in the equivalency between White supremacists, Nazis and the people who oppose White supremacy and Nazis. He was telling us who he is, and we didn’t believe him.
Trump took out ads in New York newspapers urging the death penalty for five Black and Latino teenagers accused of raping a White woman in Central Park, and argued that they were guilty as late as October 2016, more than 10 years after DNA evidence had exonerated them. He was telling us who he is, and we didn’t believe him.
According to a former Trump executive, Trump criticized a Black accountant: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. … I think that the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault, because laziness is a trait in Blacks.” He was telling us who he is, and we didn’t believe him.
Trump promulgated the lie that the President Barack Obama was born in Kenya. He was telling us who he is, and we didn’t believe him.
He as retweeted white nationalists without apology. He was telling us who he is, and we didn’t believe him.
In June 2017, Trump said 15,000 recent immigrants from Haiti “all have AIDS” and that 40,000 Nigerians, once seeing the United States, would never “go back to their huts” in Africa. He was telling us who he is, and we didn’t believe him.
Last week, Donald Trump cast the entire continent of Africa, as well as Haiti and El Salvador, as being “shithole” countries. Now, what do these countries have in common? The inhabitants of those countries are Black or Brown. Once again, Donald Trump is telling us who he is.
What will it take for us to believe him?
I’m pretty sure I know what Dr. King would say about Donald Trump. I’m pretty sure Dr. King would have understood who Donald Trump is and, most importantly, he would have believed him. He would urge us to stand up and to resist and to fight for the promise of our country, even in the face of our failings.
Dr. King spoke about the “beloved country” and never stopped fighting for it no matter what the obstacles, no matter what the risk. He paid the ultimate price in search of it and for us to do any less is not just dishonoring his legacy, but it is a disgrace.
Thomas Jefferson once said, “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” A flawed messenger can still have a solid message. There will be a day of reckoning and those who perpetrate hate will not be the only ones judged. Those of us who sat by and either did nothing or not enough will also be damned!
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman,” Dr. King once said. The Black AIDS Institute is going to continue to fight injustice, particularly in the health space. Just last week we participated in a statewide PrEP training in Florida and we continued our work in Mecklenburg County (the Charlotte, N.C., metro area) health department to develop a county-wide PrEP delivery system.
Later this month, we will be cosponsoring a screening of the film “90 Days” that addresses stigma, HIV disclosure, treatment and prevention, and PrEP. And this week, our board member Jussie Smollett released his first single, “Freedom,” celebrating the power of love, no matter how it manifests itself. Proceeds from the single will benefit the Black AIDS Institute.
In this issue, we run Black AIDS Institute mobilization coordinator, Marie-Fatima Hyacinthe’s, response to President Trump’s outrageous December comments about people from Haiti having AIDS. Little did she know when she penned the piece, that Trump would double down on those offensive comments with his “shithole” comment less than one month later.
We also run a story about the impact of the opioid epidemic upon the hepatitis C epidemic, as well as encourage our readers to take appropriate precautions to protect themselves from the flu, which is particularly deadly this year. New science suggests that gene therapy may one day have the potential to eradicate HIV in people infected with the virus. And we run a piece from our friends at ProPublica about the crisis in mental health care in Mississippi.
Yours in the struggle,