OPINION: We Celebratin’ Felonies Now?

This article was released earlier this week in Unmuted Echoes, a cultural newsletter by Alex Haynes. Get early access to articles by subscribing. Before I unpack the frustrations that have resounded in my head over the last several days, let me first thank you for your support. Any feedback, positive or negative aides me in [...]

OPINION: We Celebratin’ Felonies Now?

This article was released earlier this week in Unmuted Echoes, a cultural newsletter by Alex Haynes. Get early access to articles by subscribing.

Before I unpack the frustrations that have resounded in my head over the last several days, let me first thank you for your support. Any feedback, positive or negative aides me in gaining a better understanding of how we are seeing things as a collective community. If you’ve enjoyed Unmuted Echoes, please share it with a friend or two.

In a historical first, Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States, has been convicted of a felony. As he gears up for another presidential run, aiming to become the 47th president, the unwavering support from his base is as shocking as it is predictable. For years, Trump has been a race-baiting offender, flouting the law with impunity, and now he audaciously claims that his felony conviction is somehow boosting his support among Black men.

Trump’s tenure and his lack of oversight catalyzed some of the worst culture wars, exacerbating racial tensions and undermining civil rights across the United States. His administration emboldened states to engage in actions that openly defied the principles of equality and justice, further polarizing an already divided nation.

The aftermath of Trump’s conviction has been marked by an outpouring of fascist and Marxist rhetoric from Republicans. Senator Lindsey Graham called the conviction “a dark day for the rule of law in America,” while Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene claimed it was part of a “Marxist agenda to destroy our country.” These statements are not just misguided but dangerous, sowing seeds of distrust and disinformation simply because their preferred candidate—a figure who has consistently stirred angst and frustration—has faced legal repercussions. It’s a stark contrast to the real, historical injustices suffered by marginalized, and more specifically Black, communities, whose struggles have often been dismissed or ignored.

The journalist in me resists calling the aforementioned by their pop culture nicknames. In jest, I’m opting to use official terms for Graham and Greene. I feel strongly that my use of their nicknames lends greater insight into my personal feelings, at least regarding Lady G and bleached blonde, bad-built, butch body Madge. But they are elected leaders, due at least the minimum respect that the office and title hold, for at least the time that they hold it. Or do they? Those positions hold responsibility. The congressperson makes policy and directly aids the government in determining the future of Americans.

The recent outbursts from sitting senators and Congress members are disgraceful. They are boisterous, intentionally destructive, and bold-faced liars. A significant faction of these obstructionists, some of whom are eyeing the vice-presidential slot, as well as other reputable, influential, leadership roles in our government, refuse to commit to accepting election results. This obstinance echoes the events leading up to January 6th, serving as a chilling reminder of the potential for history to repeat itself soon.

On the other side of the aisle, Rev. Al Sharpton’s reaction to Trump’s conviction emphasized the importance of accountability, regardless of one’s status or wealth. Sharpton’s words were terse: “The law has finally caught up to a man who thought he was above it.” It’s nice of us to remind each other that no one is above the law, and that justice must prevail. It’s reassuring when the law is actually applied equally and stands up to the powerful.

Judith Browne Dianis, an American civil rights lawyer and the Executive Director of the Advancement Project, accurately highlighted the systemic nature of Trump’s actions. “Trump’s behavior is symptomatic of a broader issue of impunity among those in power. His conviction should be a wake-up call for all Americans about the importance of holding leaders accountable.” Dianis’s perspective underscores something I can’t stop thinking about: the necessity for vigilance and accountability in all areas of governance. We, more specifically, can’t afford not to be.

Anytime we see laws dismissed or discarded by the non-melanated, we find ourselves envisioning our own plight had we made the same or similar decisions. We do this because it’s become rampant. Normal. I believe we must stop imagining the rapid legal maneuvers and state violence that would be deployed to justify our eradication if we were the ones leading an anti-American campaign. Instead, we must focus on ensuring that the loud, distracting antics of the MAGA movement do not disillusion our families and friends. It’s shocking that after over 400 years of oppression, we still find ourselves trusting, forgiving, and sometimes even complicit. Our engagement must extend beyond voting in presidential elections. We need to be present at every local meeting, scrutinize our bylaws and covenants, and convene amongst ourselves to ensure unity in prioritizing our best interests. It’s crucial to call special sessions and amplify our demands to elected officials. I am not saying anything that would be new to us or our culture. We’re family, love, and usually God-centered. Those values are not foreign to our African heritage. As a Black American, I am concerned that perhaps we’ve bought too much into the proverbial American “we,” and data suggests we may be the only ones that have done so. I’ll cover this in more detail some other time.

The emphasis we place on presidential elections every four years often diverts our attention from the more immediate and impactful local elections. This oversight allows opportunists to infiltrate local and state politics, selling our interests to big pharma, tech companies, and private equity firms.

Convicted Felon

Trump, facing over 50 felony charges, continues to dominate the media landscape, detracting from more pressing issues. As highlighted by NBC News, Trump’s trials have “become a focal point of his political identity, rallying his base around the idea that he is a victim of a corrupt system.” He may be the right figure for some, but we must not waste precious time on his antics. Never have our mothers advised us to heed the words of a felon; let’s not start now. As the news broke of his conviction, the anticipation of ridiculous ratings is no doubt the focus of news organizations, but I shall not be moved. Exerting energy to listen to or watch a felon blow hot air in a presser will never be my lot. This country offers a blueprint for felon redemption: be contrite, accept responsibility, and show remorse. Hell could freeze over, and Trump would reach for his book of matches and a blow torch.

In our commitment to remain vigilant, we must also be attentive and receptive to the voices within our communities, not just those within our immediate families or social groups. As a community, we have to see and value the humanity in each other. This is how we push forward. If we aren’t seeing each other, what are we doing? The GOP is looking right at us and snatching legal protections, rights, and healthcare from women while lining their pockets with money they routinely claim will trickle down.

I am not preaching to you but just offering a stark and tangible reminder. Nothing is over. You matter. Your voice matters. Your actions matter. They matter most where you are. It’s imperative for Black and Brown Americans to remain vigilant and proactive. Trump’s conviction and the subsequent backlash from his supporters highlight the need for a renewed commitment to justice and equality. This is not just about resisting one man but about combating a broader, insidious effort to undermine our progress and maintain the status quo.

Trump’s conviction is a wake-up call. It underscores the importance of our continued fight against systemic racism and injustice. This battle demands our relentless attention and unwavering commitment to ensure that the lives lost in this struggle were not in vain.

Bonus: In lieu of my vacation last week, you will receive part two of We Celebratin’ Felonies Now? tomorrow.