The historic impeachment of Donald Trump has captivated much of the American public, but I talk to black folks every day on my radio show, and for many African Americans, the impeachment doesn’t mean much.
Black folks watched as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led the effort to shepherd articles of impeachment through the House of Representatives. We absently listened to the tense back and forth between Trump, Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Then, when it was clear that virtually nothing about Trump’s presidency was going to change as a result of his impeachment, we went back to working our jobs and paying our bills. We went back to living while black.
For many in the black community, the stress of dealing with everyday racism is hard enough. Trying to decipher a system where a president remains in office even after he is impeached is an extra strain. That’s why, when black folks hear that Trump’s removal requires two-thirds of the Senate to find him guilty in a trial, that fact doesn’t add clarity. It adds another level of frustration.
African Americans who are dealing with daily racism have little appetite for looking beyond the bottom line. That’s true for economics. It’s true for criminal justice, and it’s also true for politics. That’s why we’re only mildly interested in what will happen now that Pelosi has decided to delay Trump’s Senate trial by withholding the Articles of Impeachment from McConnell. Pelosi wants McConnell to try Trump in a Senate trial that will include actual witnesses and testimony.
Black folks just want to know whether Trump will still be in office after the trial is over. The answer almost certainly is yes. That’s the kind of bottom line answer most African Americans are seeking, and once they get it, they do what blacks in America have always done. They go on with their lives.
For people in more affluent communities, Trump’s impeachment is a fascinating study in parliamentary procedure and political machinations. It’s a minor inconvenience; one that doesn’t matter so long as it doesn’t change the trajectory of the stock market.
But here’s the thing. Most black people aren’t rich. In fact, some — especially in a poor city like Philadelphia — are at the opposite end of the spectrum.
Impeachment is an afterthought when you’re working for eight bucks an hour in a job with no health insurance. Politics doesn’t matter when you’re juggling bills and trying to figure out whether you’re going to pay rent or buy food. Pelosi and McConnell are mere distractions when you’re living in places where it’s cold at night because the landlord won’t fix the boiler.
Perhaps that’s why so many black folks roll their eyes when Trump apologists try to tell us that Trump being impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress is somehow wrong.
You can’t expect to sway African Americans by telling us that Trump boosted the stock market when many of us don’t own stocks. You can’t expect us to believe Trump’s policies created jobs when the unemployment rate for black people is twice that of our white counterparts. You can’t expect blacks to believe the economy is great when so many of us are working for minimum wage.
That’s especially true for blacks in Philly, a place where houses fall down while prices go up, where politicians say they’re on our side while knocking us on our backs, where we’re too busy fighting each other to fight the ones who made it like this.
I wish more of my people had time to care about impeachment, but impeachment doesn’t put food on the table.
In a city where 1 out of 4 people live in poverty, and the people in poverty look like me, Trump’s impeachment doesn’t matter one bit.
Impeaching Trump doesn’t change any of that. But if black folks keep our eyes on the ball, maybe we can change it for ourselves.