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On Monday, November 30, 2015, Donald Trump met with black pastors. The aftermath of the meeting was an incredible display of ego and opportunism. The news coverage focused on the meeting’s nature, its goals and the public perception of the meeting. Since, the Donald Trump campaign has used a message and tone that is arguably racist, extremist and divisive some politically naïve ministers met with him to confront him. Other pastors met with him to get a private glimpse of the public Donald. A few pastors attended the meeting for more personal reasons. Here are a few lessons that can be learned from the Trump meeting.

1. The black religious community did not initiate the meeting.
Paula White and other white evangelical leaders were the key catalysts and organizers behind Trump’s meeting with African American religious figures. The history of blacks in America demonstrates that other whites often mediate most black interaction with privileged white society. Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Dubois and most recently republican hopeful Ben Carson are key black leaders that didn’t organize the black community, but were ushered into power by whites looking for a black constituency.

2. The black community is not homogenized.
Donald Trump’s attempt to woo black voters was fundamentally flawed from the start because he assumed that the black community is monolithic. However, there is no monolithic black community or black church. Notwithstanding attempts to portray blacks as a single race, ethnic group or culture, the black community is full of divergence and difference. Our community is full of the prophetic, the pathetic and many shades of grey. There has never been and won’t be a single black leader. There have always been and will be multiple leaders. The idea that a single black personality can speak for and organize all blacks is a persistent myth perpetrated by both liberal and conservative whites.

3. Rich black clerics typically seek power, not solutions to black problems.
No community wants to be embarrassed in public. Still, the embarrassment caused by this fiasco exposed the goal of most prominent ministers – power and money. Even ministers that declined to meet with Donald Trump still praised his access to financial resources and economic acumen. It is clear that most ministers are chasing a dream of fame and fortune. They don’t serve to solve the persistent problems in the communities that house their ministries. They serve to acquire power and money. Certainly, Donald Trump represents an opportunity to access both power and money.

4. In the end congregants lose.
There have been apologies, criticisms, denials and optimistic responses to the Donald Trump meeting; however, in the end the congregants lose. Pastors get an elevated profile, but the people suffering in poor, forgotten and looked over communities get nothing. We have a politics that increasingly doesn’t deliver for the middle, low and no classes in America. If elected officials and divine clerics won’t speak for these constituents, and these citizens don’t speak for themselves, then they lose.

5. Politics needs a prophetic voice.
Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X are dead. Minister Louis Farrakhan is aging and has never been really focused on electoral politics. Reverend Jesse Jackson is closely allied with the Democratic Party. The meeting with Donald Trump demonstrated the lack of a national black voice that intersects electoral politics and a prophetic preaching tradition. These days being prophetic is less about speaking truth to power and more about criticizing powerless black preachers. As most pastors continue to seek to appease, defend and become patrons of the powerful there will continue to be a void. Our country needs a group of prophetic clergy that speak against the status quo and forsake their checkbooks and preaching invites.


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