I was almost Trump’s African-American
Gregory Cheadle, a black man, is leaving the Republican party after 18 years to run for office as an independent. A former Trump supporter, Cheadle now believes Trump has a “white superiority complex” and that the Republican party uses conservative black men like him as political pawns. Cheadle gained notoriety when, at a Trump rally in Redding, California on June 3, 2016, Trump pointed at him in the crowd and exclaimed, “Look at my African-American over here! Look at him! Are you the greatest?”
The truth is I could’ve been Donald Trump’s African-American. Two days prior to Trump’s singling out Cheadle, I attended a Trump rally in Sacramento, California at the Sacramento International Jet Center. I’d gotten tickets for the event as a lark just to see the spectacle of a man I just knew would never become president and the cult who followed him. I admit I thought it would be cool to see a celebrity I’d watched as a faithful viewer of “The Apprentice.”
By the time I’d arrived, there was a line of hundreds standing out in 100 degree heat waiting to get into the hangar where the rally was held. I parked in the disabled section since I had a placard due to some health issues. As soon as I stepped out of the car I heard the back and forth from pro-Trump and anti-Trump folks, mostly consisting of F bombs.
By luck, an older woman working for the venue told me I didn’t have to wait in the long line, that I could wait in the disabled line. She took me all the way to the front of the Jet Center. When the doors opened, I was probably the tenth person in. I had to be searched, wanded and walk through a metal detector. What laid before me was an empty metal barricade at the front of the stage. I went up and took my space and waited for hours.
Talking with Trump supporters, they championed him “telling it like it is” and loved that he was politically incorrect. One woman said she’d been praying God would send us a strong leader and her prayers had been answered. I took all of this in without agreeing or disagreeing. There was no way I was going to let on to this crowd that I thought their savior was a xenophobic, misogynistic, bigoted con man. If they couldn’t see it, I couldn’t convince them of it. And if I’d let on that I was a member of the dreaded media, the enemy of the people, I’m sure I would’ve been banished back to the caged-in area in the back of the hangar reserved for reporters. No, I wanted to keep my spot right in front to take in the three ring hate circus up close.
When Trump’s black, red and white 757 rolled up to the gate with majestic music blaring, I had to give it to him. It was quite the entrance. The crowd whooped, hollered, applauded and chanted “USA! USA!” It was a political rally meets WWE. The moment was somewhat anticlimactic when the doughy, pasty Trump waddled down the stairs from the ramp putting on a red MAGA hat. When he stepped up to the podium I could see that his skin looked bad.
The speech was the same one he gave everywhere. “Build the wall.” “We don’t win anymore.” Slams of Hillary and Barack Obama. Endless boasting. He asked the crowd how they liked his plane and they roared their approval. It was a huge, sloppy narcissism sandwich and he encouraged all to take a bite.
But during his remarks I noticed him repeatedly looking down at me. I’m not paranoid. I could chalk it up to a few things. I’m a large man and you’re going to notice me in the front row of your rally. You’re also going to notice that I’m a large black man because frankly, I’d spotted less than a handful of blacks at the rally. So it was probably really unusual to have a black man front row at a Trump rally.
Gregory Cheadle may have been more acceptable as Trump’s African-American because Cheadle is a decade older and was dressed in a suit for the rally. Perhaps Trump felt I looked more like the blacks he kept out of his apartments in the 70s and was there to disrupt the rally since I was wearing an Oakland Raiders hat and shirt and no Trump memorabilia.
On the way into the venue, I’d passed people hawking Trump merchandise and considered buying a red MAGA hat as a disguise. I just couldn’t bring myself to hand his campaign twenty of my hard earned dollars.
Trump finished speaking and after the rally people crowded around to shake his hand. I realized I was getting painfully close to handshaking distance and had no desire to shake his hand, so I left.
Two days later when Trump pointed out Cheadle as his African-American, I instantly knew that it could’ve been me. Cheadle laughed along with the crowd when it happened but now wonders if Trump said it for political gain or attention. Bruh, you’re on the right track.
I wonder, if Trump had made the remark about me, what I would’ve done. Would I have smiled and laughed it off or shot him a double bird and been hustled out of the venue? I don’t know. I do know, unlike Gregory Cheadle, it didn’t take me 18 years to see today’s Republican Party for what it is and see that Donald Trump was a demented charlatan.
And I’m also glad that neither one of us is Trump’s African-American.