File this situation neatly to: Another U.S. Citizen Whose Dreams Are Crushed, Thanks to Donald J. Trump.
Kevin Durant’s sharp, yet insightful statements about the prospect of fulfilling a lifelong dream to celebrate an NBA Championship with a trip to the White House indicate he is of the same mind.
Then again, after business leaders from across the country fled Trump’s business councils in droves this week — forcing him to shut them all down to save face instead of endure continued humiliation — it is unlikely a celebratory invitation would be extended.
Confederate States of America
Trump’s seven-month presidency has put a spotlight on just how fragile his ego really is. He surrounds himself with people who worship him and tell him what he wants to hear and shuns those who dare not overlook the many troubling issues hovering over his presidency. These include Trump’s alleged treasonous path to the Oval Office with help from the Russian government and the apparent soft spot he has for neo-Nazis, white nationalists and members of the KKK.
On Thursday, Trump tweeted remarks opining the removal of confederate statues and monuments, showing exactly where his heart and mind really are, and where he would like for this country to be also — back in the hate-filled Confederacy.
The Confederate States of America lasted four years of the nation’s 241-year history and came to be made up of 11 states that sought to secede from the United States (the “union”) rather than abide the abolition of slavery. Confederate politicians asserted white-over-“negro” superiority was God’s law, that subjugation of the “negro” was in accordance with natural order. (Plantation owners seeking to continue reaping vast profits from free labor surely had nothing to do with it.)
It is no wonder so many Americans, Kevin Durant among them, are in a state of disgust.
Slavery’s lasting legacy
The “so-called” President of the United States of America — in 2017 — is essentially opining for those good ol’ days of slavery, back when things were in a “natural order,” with humans of African descent declared three-fifths human, and little more than upright work horses and glorified mules.
The shameful legacy of slavery is what created the conditions for a boy named Kevin Durant to be born into poverty with limited resources and opportunities with which to improve his circumstances for a chance at realizing the American Dream. The country is filled with millions of Kevin Durants. Some of them find paths to a better life, but many more have ended up in shackles, just like their ancestors, because the obstacles placed before them were insurmountable.
Boxed out of education and employment opportunities, many turn to crime. Crime, of course, is a pathway to prison — a perfect system for keeping blacks in their place: under the subjugation of whites.
But those are the lucky ones.
Others, of course, end up murdered even before arrest.
(It’s a good thing the American Dream is has been debunked as a myth.)
For the love of culture and history: The big lie about the Confederacy
Trump laments the removal of Confederate statues and monuments from public property on the grounds that the “history and culture of our great country [are] being ripped apart.”
Perhaps his claim would be true if statues and monuments had been erected to celebrate all U.S. history — including those 267 years that came before and after the failed Confederacy — and every U.S. culture.
If culture and history were really the issue, there would be statues and monuments of those at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, women’s suffrage leaders, advocates for the rights of the disabled, fighters for LGBTQ equality and, never to forget, the first Americans — Natives, who were on this land before the Europeans arrived to rape, pillage and plunder.
But we do not live in a society that has historically recognized and celebrated people of color — hence, the reason the country is in the mess it is in today.
The monuments to a one-sided history that Trump calls beautiful, others view as painful reminders that African Americans were once Africans taken from their countries against their will and stripped of their culture, language, food, values and way of life. These monuments were installed to mount psychological warfare against African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. They were put in public view to intimidate those seeking their true birthright: equality.
“You........can’t change history,” Trump tweeted. “[B]ut you can learn from it.”
Ding-ding-ding! We finally have a true statement and an opportunity to peer into historical evidence that debunks the idea that white Americans cherish confederate this-and-that so much because of “culture.”
The statues and monuments so beloved by Trump — which he refers to in a tweet as “beauty” that will be “greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced” — began to appear 100 years after the demise of the Confederate States of America.
The Civil War was in the 1860’s.
If we time-machine travel 100 years into the future, we find ourselves in the 1960’s — the era of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. It is no coincidence that the Confederate flag and monuments began to appear at the exact moment in time African Americans were demanding equal treatment under the law.
Emancipation was the beginning, not the end
Once emancipated from slavery, people of African descent still were not free. Those who had fought to the death for the right to keep slaves, who had deemed these people three-fifths human, had no intention of living alongside slaves or their descendants.
Serving as vice president of the Confederacy in 1861, Alexander Stephens gave what would come to be known as his “cornerstone” speech.
This document alone debunks any myth, fantasy or intentional obfuscation about the motives behind Southern whites’ desire to secede from the union and live under a separate Confederate government. In the words of Alexander Stephens himself, the Confederacy wanted to secede from the union to keep their slaves rather than risk losing them in a union that was likely to abolish slavery.
Although we cannot change history, as Trump proclaimed, we can and should confront the big “culture and history” lie that paints Confederate history into something that it never was. People use this argument to justify their continued wrongdoing. But there has only ever been one truth about the Confederacy, which Alexander Stephens makes very clear, in his own racist words.
In his 1861 speech, Stephens states:
“The new [confederate] constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution — African slavery as it exists amongst us — the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. ...
Our new [confederate] government ... its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. ...
They [in the North] assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. ... They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.”
A monument or statue to confederate leaders is a tribute to these ideologies.
Purveyor of hate
Durant said he believes Trump is “driving” the increased racial tension and division the country has seen in recent years.
“I feel ever since he’s got into office, or since he ran for the presidency, our country has been so divided, and it’s not a coincidence,” Durant remarked.
Proof that what Durant says is true came in the form of last week’s events.
Trump professed in front of an elevator at Trump Tower that there were some “very fine people” in the neo-Nazi/KKK rally in Charlottesville. He then turned to Twitter a few days later to say how sorry he is to see the confederate statues go — these idols, worshiped only by racists.
Other than to appear in public with a klan hood over his head, there isn’t much more Trump could do to make clear what “America” he wants to return the country to — the “again” in Make America Great Again. He wants to normalize the subjugation of African Americans and other groups, including Muslims, Jews and immigrants from Latin America.
Durant rightly addressed the issue of leadership in all of this because it is, in fact, the core of the problem.
“Leadership,” he said, “trickles down to the rest of us. So, you know, if we have someone in office that doesn’t care about all people, then we won’t go anywhere as a country. In my opinion, until we get him out of here, we won’t see any progress.”
Not to say that Durant’s former coaches in Oklahoma City did not provide the team with the kind of leadership that would lead to championships, because many factors were at play for the nine years he played for the Thunder. But signing with the Warriors has obviously provided him a very different understanding not only of leadership but team accountability as well. He knows what it takes for a team to succeed and he doesn’t see the proper ingredients in Trump or his appointed officials.
“My voice is going to be heard”
So, when Durant said he won’t visit the White House because “I don’t respect who’s in office right now,” perhaps he meant he can’t respect a man who not only will “grab [women] by the p*ssy,” but brag about it on video, too.
When Durant said, “my voice is going to be heard by not [visiting the White House],” perhaps he was referring to the chain reaction that happens when one person musters the courage to take a stand.
Just this week, it only took the CEO of Merck Pharmaceuticals to resign from one of Trump’s business councils for other executives, including Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, to leave in droves — leading Trump to shut down these councils and pull the plug on an infrastructure council before it ever got off the ground.
For his part, Durant has identified his area of social influence, and he appears committed to speaking up for those who have been cast aside as irrelevant in Trump’s America.
Durant is lifting up those for whom confederate statues and monuments are not celebratory pieces of history but oppressive symbols of pain.
“I definitely want to be the voice of where I come from, Durant said, “and [of] people who have come from my neighborhood and deal with oppression.”
It is disappointing that Durant will not get to fulfill his childhood dream of visiting the White House to celebrate an NBA Championship. But he should be commended for taking a strong stance against hate and doing what he always has done: use his stature and resources to support communities and foster social change.
With special thanks to Professor Kevin Gannon for providing these resources and encouraging the country to read them.