On John Lewis: Unsolicited advice for Donald Trump

This isn't about being politically correct – this is about being Presidential.

Photo Credit: Zach D. Roberts

Mr. President Elect,

On Saturday you tweeted out a message to Representative John Lewis, it said:

I know that his comments questioning the legitimacy of your Presidency hurt you. But let’s talk about Congressman Lewis for a moment. I’m not sure if you’re fully aware of who he is. If there’s one thing that Lewis can’t be criticized for is a lack of action.

Several months I was in attendance at the African American Museum of Philadelphia where Congressman Lewis was being honored. He told of the struggle in the 60’s, times where he was beaten nearly to death on the Edmond Pettis Bridge. I think you were in boarding school then? Was that before or after your foot injury so that you couldn’t serve in the Armed Forces?

He also spoke of being refused a library card and the discriminatory Jim Crow signs that he hoped children would only see in history museums. Sadly I’m not so sure that he’ll be right. After going to many of your rallies, seeing your fans physically assault African Americans, hold up Confederate flags and you, yourself kicked a black man out of a rally in Kinston, North Carolina. He ended up being a supporter of yours, and was just excited to see you speak.

If you haven’t noticed your rhetoric during and since the campaign has brought about a resurgence of hate and bigotry. I know you said you don’t know who David Duke is. Even though you previously said that you do. And that you don’t know of the KKK, but c’mon we know that one’s not true. But either way – you need to say something about the shit going on in the Republic right now.

Southern Poverty Law Center has reported an uptick of violence against the very people that you decried in your campaign speeches – muslims, black people and hispanics (aka “mexicans.” As a straight white guy, I’m not scared I’ll make it through fine. But the calls I’ve received from my friends that are on your lists do scare me. And it’s time you did something about it.

I understand that you ran on an anti-PC campaign, but this isn’t about being politically correct – this is about being Presidential. When President Roosevelt gave his one of his fireside speeches he didn’t tell the part of America that didn’t vote for him that he “won and everyone should just get over it.”

I recommend that you look to a supposed hero of yours. The man that embodied your “Make America Great Again” slogan: President Ronald Reagan. In 1981 he spoke to the NAACP, even though it was a not so friendly room – he showed up. I’m not a fan of Reagan, I’ll be honest with you, but anyone who has the power that he has, and gives a speech like this gains my respect. At least for the moment.

Just look at the way that Reagan speaks about racists in America. He doesn’t caveat, he doesn’t hide the word or use coded language like “alt-right.” President Reagan, who was no friend of the NAACP acts in this moment more presidential than you ever have.

“…And while our communication should always deal with current issues of importance, it must never stray far from our national commitment to battle against discrimination and increase our knowledge of each other.

A few isolated groups in the backwater of American life still hold perverted notions of what America is all about. Recently in some places in the nation there’s been a disturbing reoccurrence of bigotry and violence. If I may, from the platform of this organization, known for its tolerance, I would like to address a few remarks to those groups who still adhere to senseless racism and religious prejudice, to those individuals who persist in such hateful behavior.

If I were speaking to them instead of to you, I would say to them, “You are the ones who are out of step with our society. You are the ones who willfully violate the meaning of the dream that is America. And this country, because of what it stands for, will not stand for your conduct.” My administration will vigorously investigate and prosecute those who, by violence or intimidation, would attempt to deny Americans their constitutional rights.”

And if you can’t do that, and I suspect you’re not capable of that level of humility (or at least that level of acting ability) then maybe you should just shut the fuck up.

Oh and Happy Martin Luther King Day. I recommend just letting one of your staffers tweet for that one.


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Zach D. Roberts is a photo/video journalist for NationofChange.org. His photojournalism has been featured in Time Magazine's Top 100 Photos of the Year, People Magazine's Photos of the Year and was awarded at FotoDC. Zach is co-produced Greg Palast's full length documentary, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. He is currently working on a book about the #resistance of 2017.