Earlier today, it was revealed that the Black man who Trump once referred to as “my African-American” at a rally is finally turning his back on our racist president. PBS NewsHour reported that the man in question, Gregory Cheadle, has announced he will be officially leaving the GOP and running for a 2020 Congressional seat as an independent. The 62-year-old Cheadle has problems with the profound lack of people of color serving in top positions in the Trump administration as well as the president’s increasingly divisive rhetoric about race.
“When you look at his appointments for the bench: White, white, white, white white, white, white. That to me is really damning to everybody else because no one else gets a chance because he’s thinking that the whites are superior, period,” said Cheadle.
TRUMP once called Gregory Cheadle “my African American.”
But now Cheadle is leaving the @GOP, saying it's pursuing a “pro-white” agenda & using black people like him as “political pawns.”
— Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel) September 12, 2019
Originally a Republican because of the conservative party’s views on economics, Cheadle worries that the GOP is starting to actively pursue a “pro-white” platform and has little interest in black voters beyond exploiting them as “political pawns.”
“President Trump is a rich guy who is mired in white privilege to the extreme. Republicans are too sheepish to call him out on anything and they are afraid of losing their positions and losing any power themselves,” said Cheadle.
Now, President Trump has been asked what the thinks about Cheadle’s change of heart. Rather than grapple with the news, Trump claimed ignorance and said he didn’t know who the reporter was talking about. After she clarified who she meant, the president launched into rambling rhetoric.
“I don’t know. We have tremendous African-American support. I would say I’m at my all-time high. I don’t think I’ve ever had the support that I’ve had now and I think I’m going to do very well with African-Americans. African-American support has been the best we’ve had and I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that from an employment and unemployment… Both employment and unemployment…” he said.
The reporter interjected to ask if Trump believes Cheadle’s assessment is wrong.
“Well I think this, it’s very simple. We have the best numbers we’ve ever had for African-Americans in terms of employment and unemployment so I think we’re going to do very well,” Trump said, failing to answer the question.
For the record, the latest Gallup poll shows Trump’s approval rating amongst Black Americans at measly 7%.
Remember that guy President Trump called "my African-American" during a campaign rally?
President Trump doesnt. pic.twitter.com/TXy3UPnmS6
— Salvador Hernandez (@SalHernandez) September 12, 2019
Cheadle said he’s disturbed by the fact that so many prominent Republicans rallied behind Trump after he targeted four Congresswomen of color and told them to go back to their own countries, even though three of them are native-born Americans. Around the same time, Cheadle watched in dismay as the president attack another Congressperson of color, Rep. Elijah Cummings, and said his city of Baltimore was “disgusting” and “rat and rodent infested.” Cheadle also found that Republican friends of his on Facebook were too quick to defend the president’s clearly offensive comments.
“They were sidestepping the people of color issue and saying that, ‘No, it’s not racist. They were saying these people were socialists and communists,” said Cheadle. “That’s what they were saying. And I thought this is a classic case of whites not seeing racism because they want to put blinders on and make it about something else.”
With his new understanding of Trump and the racial animus swirling within him and coursing through his movement, Cheadle now has a different opinion of Trump’s infamous “my African-American” comment, which he took at the time to be a harmless joke.
“I’m more critical of it today than I was back then because today I wonder to what extent he said that for political gain or for attention,” explained Cheadle.
While he still refuses to call Trump an overt racist he says he believes he has a “white superiority complex,” which frankly seems to be a distinction without a real difference. In the next election cycle, Cheadle says he will consider candidates from every party and will base his vote in part on how he thinks their individual platforms will affect the African-American community.
Rob Haffey is a writer, filmmaker, and winner of the ScreenCraft Writing Fellowship. He is a graduate of Drexel University.