by Samuel James
by Samuel James

Racist cops love Trump

In the 1960s, in order to gain white political support in the South, there were many Republican candidates who deliberately appealed to racism against black people. This was called the Southern Strategy. It took advantage of the enormous, racist reaction to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That adorable, lunatic hooligan, Richard Nixon, was one politician who won big using that strategy. In the decades that followed, the tactic became so controversial that in 2005 the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ken Mehlman apologized to the NAACP for his party’s use of the Southern Strategy. But that apology continues to ring hollow.

In order for something like the Southern Strategy to work, there needs to be two sets of people: an entitled, but politically ignorant, voting bloc, and a disenfranchised group. Because it is ignorant, the voting bloc is easily convinced that all its problems are caused by the disenfranchised group.

You can see different versions of this today. It’s how people can fear that the sanctity of their marriage could be affected by the marriage of two people they’ve never met. It’s also how the descendants of immigrants become opponents of immigration.

There are many problems with the Southern Strategy, but the deepest is this: in order for it to work long-term, the entitlement and ignorance of that voting bloc has to be sustained. In other words, they gotta keep us stupid, and they have.

Which brings me to Donald Trump.

These days, no one is using the Southern Strategy better than Trump. Actually, that might be all he uses to attract voters. He doesn’t seem to have any substantive policies about anything — which is fine, because I’m not worried he’ll win. He won’t. At this point during the 2012 election cycle the leading Republican candidates were Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann, and I know many of you don’t even remember who the hell those two damn fools are.

What does concern me is all the worms Trump’s been digging up. They’re slithering out of the mud for him. They’re loud and they’re proud. In addition to all the contrarian bloggers and weird uncles, Trump also has earnest endorsements from a who’s who and what’s what of Who and What the Fuck?. We’re talking neo-Nazi websites. We’re talking white nationalist magazines. We’re talking white-supremacist secession groups. Trump’s got more hate groups around him than there are actual things to hate.

And he’s got the endorsement of the New England Police Benevolent Association, Inc.

The NEPBA is a union that represents between 4,000 and 5,000 officers from about 200 locals throughout the Northeast. More specific information is hard to come by. I called and e-mailed them, but messages were not returned. I learned via the Internet that cops in Caribou are represented by NEPBA, and the Aroostook County Deputy Sheriffs Union is a NEPBA local, but the majority of Maine’s law enforcement unions are not part of the association. Still, the endorsement means there are thousands of police officers in New England who have now publicly aligned themselves with hate groups.

I don’t know any black people who are surprised by this.

In the course of my travels all over this country, I’ve been pulled over 38 times. When I mention this to white people, many automatically respond by questioning my habits behind the wheel: “Well, are you a good driver? Maybe you speed all the time or don’t use your turn signal.” Then I have to go into my whole speech about how most cops vote Republican and how Republicanism is based on respecting tradition, but tradition is only good for white men in this country, because for minorities and women tradition has only fucked us over, and how the right-wing myth of “the good ol’ days” doesn’t include us, and how our exclusion from that myth leads to the fact that hate speech and hate crimes are perpetrated almost exclusively by right-wingers, and, again, cops are generally politically conservative, which makes them more likely to view us as “others,” but since there’s more accountability these days it’s less likely I’ll be killed just for being an “other,” yet out of 38 traffic stops I’ve only gotten one ticket which, though not written on the ticket itself, was absolutely for DWB (Driving While Black).

As you can imagine, it gets pretty exhausting having to explain this every time. I call it the “Not-all-right-wingers-are-klansmen-but-all-klansmen-are-right-wingers principle.” That’s not a short or particularly catchy title, but it’s accurate.

Anyway, my point is that the NEPBA’s endorsement of Trump is a relief to me — because it’s honest. Being a black person in this country, I’ve seen a lot of police dishonesty, more than most white people witness. A white racist cop will not pull over a white person for being white, so this dishonesty is not necessarily apparent to them.

Don’t get me wrong: there are good cops. I’ve seen police perform acts of genuine kindness. But anyone with a TV or the Internet has also seen them commit acts of remorseless cruelty. This is because law enforcement is a hard job. Cops generally see people at their worst. They experience the worst aspects of humanity over and over again every single workday. They have to be able to shake that off and somehow not let it affect the way they respond to the next call, or the way they live their lives when they’re off-duty. It takes a certain kind of person to be a cop. I couldn’t do it, but unfortunately, neither can too many of them.

We’ve seen the killing of Laquan McDonald and know about the Chicago cops’ failed attempt to block the release of security-camera footage related to the murder. We’ve seen Walter Scott get shot five times in the back and the killer cop try to cover his tracks. These incidents, and far too many like them, help the public understand why it’s difficult for black people to trust the police. But people had to die for that knowledge to spread, and that’s why the NEPBA’s endorsement of Trump makes me relieved.

We’ve all just seen upwards of 5,000 cops commit a racist act, and nobody had to die. A small miracle for the New Year.


Samuel James is an internationally renowned bluesman and storyteller, as well as a locally known filmmaker. He lives in Portland and can be reached at racismsportland@gmail.com.


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