The House of Representatives voted to impeach President Trump; and you should know that ain’t nothing going to happen.
I got a phone call in 2010 from my Mom. She said that one of my friends was found dismembered in a suitcase at the bottom of a lake in my hometown near the North Carolina border. She told me not to make a fuss about it because nothing was going to happen. This was rumor in my community. My friend was in a romantic relationship with the sheriff’s daughter. He was black and she is white. So nothing was going to happen.
The nothing was a white man in law enforcement being held accountable for his actions. The nothing was white people breaking ranks to defend black people. For Ma, the nothing was a statement of acknowledgment and resignation. For me, it was a reminder and a warning that she was a black farmer’s daughter born a Negra child of Jim Crow segregation with no voting rights and no access to equal education; and that I needed to pay attention. My expectations for white people and their institutions should be low. The bar for justice is not just low; it does not exist. So I should not waste my time. I should know as my Granddaddy did that black people usually die before things change for us; and there is a constant mix of rage, hope and exhaustion that the blues and gospel music capture perfectly. Disappointment is just part of our, meaning black people’s, way of life.
So when Keenan Thompson quipped, “ain’t nothing gonna happen” during the first episode of Saturday Night Live’s 45th Season, I believe they got it right. And I think SNL knows it’s true because they did it again last Saturday at the top of the show with all the black cast members gathered around the dinner table unphased by the pending impeachment proceedings.
It doesn’t matter how excited white liberals and the Never Trump folks are. Ain’t nothing gonna happen to Donald Trump, Keenan reminded his white co-stars during “Inside the Beltway”. No matter how good the evidence is.
Donald Trump should be impeached and removed from office. But most black people know that’s not going to happen no matter how convincing Sondland’s testimony was and how many news outlets put BOMBSHELL on their websites to describe the inquiry so far. And Trump opponents should recognize that. Outrage doesn’t change systems and structures that have benefited wealthy, white, well-connected white men in the United States since before the formation of the Union.
White liberals might be shocked and angry when Mike Pompeo refuses to comply with congressional subpoenas but the majority of the black community are not. We (black people) know that there will be no meaningful consequences for his actions. After all, Pompeo’s stonewalling occurred the same time that Deandre Somerville did not show up for jury duty. But unlike Pompeo who was given another 30 days to produce documents and walks free, Somerville was put in jail for 10 days. Trump and his kids will continue to rake in an extra $1million in revenue per month for his hotels alone since taking office and there will be verbal disapproval from liberal media outlets but no meaningful pushback or accountability. (Emoluments anyone? Ivanka and Jared are totally qualified for their jobs) Kelley Williams-Barr wanted her child to get ahead, so she falsified her address. Authorities found out and put her in prison. Deandre Somerville and Kelley Williams-Barr are [the] black [people] in this paragraph.
Trump can jeopardize national security and buck international norms (Kurds, Iranians, Paris Climate Agreement, Gallagher pardon) and the most he will get is a disapproving letter or resolution from Capitol Hill. He can even invite Russia and China to directly interfere with the US elections on camera. Ain’t nothing gonna happen. The House may pass a resolution condemning his actions and the Senate just might too. But good luck trying to get the president to sign a bill to check his war-related executive powers because a majority to override a Trump veto is a pipe dream.
This is why Rice University Chair of African-American Studies, Quincy Maddox, played by Keenan Thompson pulled out his little notebook, chuckled to himself and for the 5th time he said, “ain’t nothing gonna happen.” Black people know that whenever white, wealthy, well-connected men and women commit crimes — nothing happens. There is a 400 year old list of acquittals, non-indictments, mistrials, and non-arrests. Justice is the exception, never the rule for dead black bodies killed by white hands.
Eric Garner was choked to death in broad daylight in 2014 and it took 5 years for the officer to be fired. Roy Bryant and J. W. Milum dragged 14-year old Emmet Till to the bank of the Tallahatchie River in 1955. They stripped him naked, gouged out his eye, beat him and shot him. Then they tied him to a 75lb cotton gin fan and dumped him in the river all because a white woman, Carolyn Bryant, lied to her husband about Till cat-calling her. There are no words for the photos of what was done to him. Nearly 5000 people were lynched in the United States before the end of Jim Crow and death by police is one of the leading causes of death for black men and boys. For 50 years, lynching postcards were produced in this country where images of scorched black bodies hung over celebratory white crowds filled with men, women and children. It has never been true that white people don’t know who the truly cruel people are. What is consistently striking is their unwillingness to do anything to stop the violence against black bodies; let alone hold white men accountable for murder, rape, and racial terror.
So if you are shocked by what you see daily coming out of the White House and the impunity with which Trump seems to operate, you may want to spend some time on Netflix watching 13th, schedule a visit to the Lynching Memorial, or read some books by Ida B. Wells. Perhaps then you will become familiar with what black people know so well. It may look like the case is open and shut, cut and dry, and oh so clear. But just like Keenan said, a sad lesson from black history about white crime in America is that “ain’t nothing gonna happen”. Trump could be impeached but he won’t be convicted by the Senate. No President has ever been removed from office. And black people know that Trump does not think he is committing a crime. He has been doing things that rich white men do his entire life and he isn’t going to change. Nothing happened to Wall Street executives who destroyed the economy through predatory lending in 2008. Nothing happened to the officers who beat Rodney King in 1991. Nothing happened to the prison guards who boiled Darren Rainey to death in a shower used to torture inmates in 2012.
So like my Momma knew and Keenan said, “ain’t nothing gonna happen” to Trump. He will tweet, fight and remain in office. Trump will run in 2020 and he will win. Black people know he is playing the race card and when it comes to political advantage nothing trumps that. So along with nursery rhymes, I’ll teach my daughter the spirituals that get us, black people, through. Because it’s those songs that give us faith and a freedom that a baton can’t beat, a gun can’t shoot, and a bullet can’t kill. These songs free us from white supremacy and one day they will free white people, too.