Dr. Kevin Ahmaad Jenkins

historian | sociologist | social epidemiologist

Vice-Provost Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania

It may be Lincoln’s party, but Klan is the DJ

There is a moment when you simply cannot take anything else! Unsoothed by violence or words, a moment that disappointment crumbles your sheltered anger. You are honestly so stunned that immediate actions could be volatile while passivity almost certainly guarantees doom.  Watching that crowd of white men push a young Black woman out of a Donald Trump rally was my moment. Even if you read about this incident nothing surpasses the imagery itself.

Trump deputized this attack with his caustic tone. The primary assailant was an old veteran who was aided and abet by a “known” White supremacist, at least one young man who appeared to be a teenager, and presumably a police officer with his hands affixed to his pockets. It seemed like a scene from “Mississippi Burning,” but it actually happened at a republican presidential front-runner’s campaign rally. As I watched the aftermath on cable news stations, one pundit decried the undeniable racism with the GOP by proudly stating, “We are the party of Lincoln. There’s no place for that!”

Can I keep it real? Like Sophia in the Juke joint when Squeak called her a “big fat heffer,” (Color Purple in case you don’t know about Ha’po)? Or maybe like Savvannah Jackson walking away from that burning BMW (Waiting to Exhale for the lost)? Republicans, it may be Lincoln’s party but the Klan is the DJ! Today’s political climate directly radiates from the Barry Goldwater’s 1964 “Southern Strategy” that stoked the racism against Black people. The “Southern Strategy” came from the optics of the Ku Klux Klan’s cinematographic shrine, “Birth of A Nation.” The KKK and Democratic Party were happily married until the Civil Rights Movement and republicans have chosen an approach that mirrors modern Ghost riders whisking away any Black person in plain sight. For some reason, Trump and his republican colleagues refuse to bite the “Klan” that feeds them. Both parties play to the idea of a doomed America when it is convenient. Both parties historically invoke Negro terror and resentment, but why are Republicans so unabashedly good at this now? This piece displays how both parties politically bartered votes for victims (in that order). Finally, it is time for Mr. Trump to acknowledge that his campaign’s glow comes from the burning cross an angry group of racist people.

Lincoln’s assassination insured a rigid century of White supremacist rule.  Andrew Jackson, a democrat, had no desire to allow Black freedom and equality to be the same. Following emancipation, predominately Republican lawmakers brought forth civil rights legislation to undo the pervasive and constricting second-class citizenship assigned to Black people. The enforcement of this social standing could not happen without the Ku Klux Klan. The federal government utterly could not overpower state and local governments’ law and de facto social codes. Up until the 1960s, Democrats were opposed to equal rights for Black people. Each election year republicans handed off very public failed attempts at civil rights equality that made Black people feel vindicated.


Source: http://www.factcheck.org/2008/04/blacks-and-the-democratic-party/

The Truman experiment forever changed politics in America. President Harry S. Truman desegregated the military and successfully garnered the political trust of the Black electorate. He finally gave a group who has survived on political gravy a democratic bone. The changing legal status of Black men in the military provided federal hope even through state resistance. Boycott after sit-in followed by a town lynching screamed injustice. According to an unreleased memoir on by Ronald Kessler, President Lyndon B. Johnson infamously revealed the truth just before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He said: 

“These Negroes, they’re getting pretty uppity these days and that’s a problem for us since they’ve got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we’ve got to do something about this, we’ve got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference… I’ll have them niggers voting Democratic for the next two hundred years.”

Democrats were outvoted in both sides of Congress when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was brought to Capitol Hill [House: (D) 63%, ® 80% | Senate: (D) 69%, ® 82%]. Notwithstanding, President Lyndon B. Johnson got the “win” for his party despite the overt snub. Their newfound morality finalized their divorce from the KKK.

Trump and the Klan

Currently, republicans have sweepingly demonized the Black voting block through these odd Jim Crowsian conversations about “real Americans” and “Take Back Our Country” and even “Back to the Good Ole Days.” The strategy republicans chose to crack this new “Political Black Code” takes a page out of the Democratic playbook: racism. It didn’t work for them and certainly won’t work at the sunset of the first Black presidency.  The narrative of “Making America Great Again” only works when you define our current America as inferior. It was great when Black folks were not seen dancing with Usher in the White House. It was definitely great before Chelly showed off those beautifully sculpted arms. When we were so deep into a recession that you needed a second mortgage to get gas but you cannot pay your first mortgage because companies were laying off at historic rates. Yup, that was greatness. Black women being viciously pushed by grown White men…Black students escorted out of a rally for simply being there…Photographers tackled for documenting the White thugs…Seeing Nazi salutes…folks being encouraged by their “leader” to “get them outta here” is not only dangerous but certainly illegal. Donald Trump has incited violence by the standards of Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 and elicited “imminent lawless action" due to his speech.

Mr. Trump, why can’t you simply say, “I’m doing this racism thing for the votes”? I appreciate seeing your racist friends so I know what they look like in the 21st century, but I simply need you to acknowledge that you only like them because they hate me! Use that big mouth to be honest about sounds coming from your rallies. I don’t buy the two-party system, but you’re making it a scrimmage versus a real game.

One party proposes freedom without equality because it’s your fault if you are not successful. The other supports freedom without independence because you do not know what you need so we can give you anything, and you will like it. I kind of see our political choices like that moment I needed to go to the 25th floor and yelled, “Hold the elevator!” The one who courteously and slowly motioned toward the button, but let the doors gently close was a democrat. Look, you tried and that’s all that matters. The person who yelled, “No,” is a republican. The one who yells, “Hell, no, coon,” is headed to the Trump rally bumping that KKK mixtape!  No matter who is in that elevator, I’m still taking the cotton-picking stairs. Drop the games. Latinos, Gay/Lesbian, and Muslim are all in that stairwell too. Cut the crap, it may be Lincoln’s party, but the “Klan” is the DJ!


Dr. Kevin Ahmaad Jenkins | 2019