Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Omarosa can no longer do anyone harm since she’s no longer in the White House. That was hardly the case when she was there. In fact, the problem was that she was there. She gave a veneer of quasi legitimate racial cover to an administration that is the most aggressively anti-Black administration in recent memory. When she resigned, or was fired, whichever version of her summary departure one wants to believe, she gave a tiny hint that the Trump White House is everybit the supremely hostile enemy territory for African-Americans that’s been well-established. She took a kind of, sort of backhand slap at her former boss by saying pretty much that there was some racial animus in the calculations and actions of Trump
Now, she’s doubled down, telling an interviewer that she would not under any circumstances vote for Trump if the election were today. Presumably that means that there’s also no way she’d lap up a position in his administration again. That’s not going to get her any apologetics, let alone applause, from many African-Americans. She’s still on blast from most Blacks with the storehouse of catcalls and pejoratives reserved for the parade of Blacks from Clarence Thomas to Ben Carson who spout the conservative line.
That doesn’t mean, though, that Omarosa doesn’t have a case for forgiveness. Start with she’s basically an entertainer, not a political operative. She cut her spurs with Trump on Apprentice, and he liked her and tooted her horn. This is celebrity, star gaggle stuff. So, when Trump bagged the Oval Office, it was a logical move for him to offer and her to accept a job with him there. It really never amounted to much since if one believes Trump’s Chief of Staff, the embattled John Kelly, and other Trump insiders she never had much of a role or even much access to him.
The few ventures out into the public policy world she made, for instance to the National Association of Black Journalist’s confab in 2017, was an unmitigated disaster. The rest of the time, say the insiders, she squabbled with White House staff over trying to get Trump to damp down the more virulent of his race baiting. On her departure, she pointedly said that there were things in the White House that made her “uncomfortable.” Her bosses’ unbridled bigotry was obviously that “thing.”
This is not the only reason to consider forgiveness for her. Omarosa has a point when she, as just about every Black that grabbed a job in the Nixon, Reagan, and the Bushes administration, have loudly argued for being there. That’s “If someone Black is not in there with them, then they’ll ignore totally ignore Black interests, or worse.” The brutal reality is that if Omarosa had said no to Trump’s offer for a spot in his administration, it would not have made him any more blatantly anti-Black.
Now there’s no evidence that in taking the gig with him she was able to damp down some of the worst racial excesses of Trump and his administration cronies. However, there’s also no evidence that she didn’t try. And she gives the strong impression that she at least made the effort. The one instance cited was his virtual tout his of white nationalist groups after their Charlottesville rampage. Trump did slightly back away from his make nice with them at least for a moment.
There may well have been other instances where she was able to influence Trump such as his acknowledgement of the importance of increased aid to Black colleges and minority businesses. That’s a story that she’ll have to tell.
Now, almost certainly at some point Trump will appoint another Black to some position in his administration. When he does, it will evoke the same avalanche of name calling, jibes, digs, and vilification from many Blacks. However, the dangling question will still remain: “Is it politically dense not to have an African-American in every presidential administration, no matter how repugnant? And, should any presidential administration have few or no Blacks in it? It’s a tough one, and there’s no easy answer.
Omarosa may have been driven by shameless opportunism and the absolute lure of seeing her name in the even bigger lights than on a TV show when she said yes to Trump’s job offer. However, she did represent, for better or worse, a Black presence in an administration that’s about as lily white as anyone in 2018 could imagine a White House being. That’s past. And maybe given the little damage she did while there, and her plea that she really did have the interests of Blacks at heart, maybe, just maybe, it’s time to at least consider forgiving her. Is it?
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of the forthcoming Fifty Years Later: Why the Murder of Dr. King Still Hurts (Middle Passage Press) He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.