As African American I’m surprised what ‘Black job’ is? - GulfToday

As African American I’m surprised what ‘Black job’ is?


Barack Obama

Jenice Armstrong, Tribune News Service

I’m stumped. It’s been a week since everyone watching the first presidential debate heard it, and I’ll admit, I’m still baffled: What exactly is a “Black job”? I’m African American and a female as well as a columnist for a major metropolitan newspaper. There aren’t many other Black women who do what I do for a living. I can count maybe a handful of us spread out around the entire country. So, does that mean I have a “white job”? Or is my position considered a Black one because I happen to be the one who currently holds it?

It was Donald Trump who sent me down this ridiculous rabbit hole when he mentioned during last week’s debate that “Black jobs” were being assumed by the “millions of people” who have been “allowed to come in through the border.”

“They’re taking Black jobs now,” Trump said (falsely, according to economists) of migrants. “And it could be 18. It could be 19 and even 20 million people. They’re taking Black jobs and they’re taking Hispanic jobs, and you haven’t seen it yet, but you’re going to see something that’s going to be the worst in our history.” It wasn’t the first time I’ve heard that phrase come out of Trump’s hyperbolic mouth. He brought up “Black jobs” during a rally at Temple University’s Liacouras Center in North Philly last month. I was sitting in the audience, and I found myself looking around to see if anyone else was thinking what I was. When he did it again during last week’s disastrous presidential debate, I had the same reaction. Stunned disbelief. Such an idiotic thing to say once, much less to have on repeat.

It was yet another occasion when Trump’s white supremacy was on full display, and with virtually any other candidate at any other time, it would be instantly disqualifying. But Trump? He still has a good chance of becoming the nation’s next president. Since the debate, I’ve been consoling myself about Trump’s ignorance — and the way so many millions of voters put up with it — by checking out the TikTok videos and memes on social media about his “Black jobs” comment. My favorite is an Instagram video showing members of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, a historically Black Greek organization, stepping forward one by one in their trademark purple and gold and announcing the various professional jobs they hold. It’s an impressive group. One is a retired nuclear physicist. Another is a real estate developer. One says he’s a deputy sheriff in Memphis. Another is an occupational therapist. There’s a psychotherapist from Houston. A dentist from Gainesville, Ga. An IT professional. An occupational therapist. A pastor in Phoenix. A consultant with the federal government.

It’s Black excellence personified. I don’t know these men. But I guarantee you not one of them is worried about an immigrant taking their job. Not one. It’s ironic that Trump, the ultimate anti-DEI candidate, is trying to frame his “Black jobs” comments as if he’s genuinely concerned about African American unemployment rates (which have been historically low). In actuality, what Trump is trying to do is use yet another racist dog whistle — only this time, he’s trying to pit the Black community against our brown brothers and sisters. If he’s trying to get African American voters motivated about the crisis at our borders, this is not the way to do it. Trump bullies Joe Biden about his age, but he’s the one whose mindset is stuck in the 1950s. Back then, Black people were largely relegated to certain low-level, menial jobs, due to Jim Crow and systemic racial discrimination. Those are the so-called good old days Trump seems to want to get back to. Those days weren’t all that long ago. My parents lived through them. So did their parents. And their parents. Unfortunately, Trump and many of his followers still see the world through that outdated prism, despite the fact that rates of Black poverty are at record lows.

Trump kicked off his political career by taking advantage of the racial backlash created by the nation’s election of its first Black president, Barack Obama. Before placing the Republican Party under his spell, Trump led the birther movement, in which he claimed Obama was born in Kenya and therefore ineligible to be president. He was wrong about that, too. Shortly after The Inquirer hired me as a metro columnist in 2017, I’ll never forget seeing a reader post something on Facebook about my new position, saying something to the effect of, “Look who they are letting write for The Inquirer.” Even without his elaboration, I knew what he meant. He was taken aback at seeing someone with my racial background holding a position in what traditionally is a white space. He wasn’t used to it. Nor did he like it. But that’s his problem. Not mine.

America is evolving; our great national tapestry is becoming ever more colorful. Black Americans make up about 14% of the overall US population, with about 46 million people claiming some form of African ancestry. The Mad Men era Trump and so many of his supporters pine for is long gone. Our eyes are open. We’re woke, as they say, and proud of it. Proud, yes. But when it comes to “Black jobs,” many of us are confused. As State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D., Philadelphia) quipped on social media recently: “Did we ever figure out what a Black job is? Asking for me.” And for 46 million of us.


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