Shaun King: We Need To Be Smart About The 2020 Election

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As you no doubt saw, the 41st President of the United States, George HW Bush, who was also the father of the 43rd President of the United States, passed away this past week, and his funerals have been this week.

I need to give some perspective here. I think Donald Trump, with his overt bigotry and lies and general nastiness, has so turned the world upside down so much, that we are now confusing general civility with good policy. Let me explain.

Listen, I agree with allowing people to mourn in peace. I do. I also agree with giving grieving family and friends space to reflect and honor their loved ones, no matter what you think about them. But if your loved one was directly involved in the oppression and brutalization of my loved ones, then I might have to chime in. Listen, I know George HW Bush was “more civil” than Trump. But he was a civil oppressor. He explicitly oversaw and grew the war on drugs as Head of the CIA, then Vice President for 8 years, and then President for 4 more. I don’t mean this figuratively, from 1976 until 1992, which were the most explosive, painful years of mass incarceration in this nation’s history, most history books will tell you that no single person was more involved in the war on drugs across three different decades than George HW Bush. Last week the Washington Post published an explosive story showing how when he first became President, he staged a fake arrest of a young Black teenager right outside of The White House, then held a press conference about how people were selling crack on The White House lawn – all to justify the war on drugs – which we know was never really a war on drugs but a war on black and brown communities. It was all a hoax -and the fake arrest he staged weaponized Blackness in the war on drugs in a major way. To this very day, if you ask people to describe what a drug dealer looks like they will normally tell you “a young Black man in a hoodie” when the average drug dealer in America is actually a middle aged white man. Bush had everything to do with that.

His racist Willie Horton campaign ad during the 1988 presidential election, to this very day, is held as perhaps the most racist campaign ad in American history.

His role in military scandals and unnecessary wars that cost thousands of lives is real. All over the world, people still view him as a war criminal.

Again, I get that compared to Donald Trump George HW Bush had manners, but that’s it for me. He presided over the empire and made sure he never took the foot off of our necks in the process. I’m not glad he’s dead. I don’t celebrate it. None of that. I won’t be sharing classless memes or jokes about the man. But I also won’t be silent about meaningful critiques.

And I needed to say all of this because it’s painfully clear to me that we are too easily swayed. We are too easily convinced that somebody is our friend when they aren’t. We are too easily convinced that somebody loves us when they smile and don’t call us names. We are too easily convinced that when somebody criticizes Donald Trump that that means they love us or even respect us, but that just isn’t the case. Many Republicans who criticize Trump, simultaneously fight for policies and nominations that cause us great harm. While George W. Bush was passing Michelle Obama candy every chance he gets, experts said he worked harder to get Kavanaugh on The Supreme Court than any other single politician. We can’t be swayed by smiles and candy, y’all.

And we are coming up on presidential campaign season and I need us to be discerning. A lot of people are going to smile in our face, a lot of people are going to visit Black churches, a lot of people are going to criticize Donald Trump, but I need you to have two questions in your head with each of those presidential candidates. And I’ll close with this.

The number one question we need to be asking every presidential candidate is this:

  1. What have you actually done on behalf of Black people in your political career? Show us your receipts. Because it can’t be enough for people to show up wanting our votes when they don’t have any real verifiable history of caring for us outside of campaign season.

The second question we need to be asking every presidential candidate is this:

  1. Who have you hired on your team that is going to make sure you do right by us? I don’t mean who are going to hire, but who have you already hired, what’s their name, what are their receipts, and how are they going to help you shape your policies that will impact us in a very real way?

Those are the questions – what have you done for us before now and who have you hired that will represent us? We have to be smart about this!

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