“We will restore the civil rights of African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and all Americans, by ending illegal immigration. No group has been more economically harmed by decades of illegal immigration than low-income African-American workers.”—Donald J. Trump
It’s not missed on me that included in the silent majority of voters that made Donald J. Trump the 45th President of the United States were disenfranchised African-American voters of the Silent Generation. In fact, if my grandfathers were alive today, I am pretty sure they’d have voted for Trump. Why? Because Trump, unlike his opponent, spoke their language—jobs for Americans.
Growing up during the 80s and 90s my interactions with grandfathers were usually brief. Both of my grandfathers were entrepreneurs and spent an incredible amount of time running their respective businesses—leaving at dawn and coming home for dinner before having a beer, watching the evening news and going to bed. My grandmothers were responsible for making sure that the house was clean, the laundry done, dinner was ready—and watching my sisters and I whenever we were over visiting. And before you more empowered and independent women from younger generations sneer, it worked just fine for them for over 50 years. That part.
My grandfathers weren’t mean but they were definitely serious men who were extremely reserved, conservative—but opinionated when it came to the direction of the country they loved. They both moved their families to Los Angeles from the South in the 50s in search of better employment opportunities. They both proudly served their country in the military—one in the U.S. Navy and the other as a sergeant in the U.S. Army. My grandfathers initially found work in Los Angeles like most Black men their age back then did in aerospace manufacturing and service industries. And like a lot men did back then, they worked for “the man” until they had saved enough to buy homes and strike out on their own. By the time my sister and I came along, my paternal grandfather, Granddaddy Fields, was the owner of Duke & Jo’s Garage, an auto repair shop in Compton that specialized in Audi, Peugeot and Saab vehicles —the first of several businesses he would eventually open up in that city—while my maternal grandfather, Granddaddy Gus, owned and operated the Athens Barbershop in South Los Angeles.
Fiercely patriotic, like most from their generation, my grandfathers believed that if you just worked hard and stayed on the right side of the law that you could carve out your piece of the American Dream—even if you were Black. And that’s exactly what they did. They worked hard—so hard in fact that they missed graduations, parent-teacher conferences and other milestone in their children’s lives.
My grandparents were a part of the wave of African-Americans who moved into Compton and helped usher in the white flight that took place after the Supreme Court struck down racist housing practices. They watched in silent horror as heroine ravaged their children’s (my parent’s) generation and produced a generation of grandchildren who were raised by their more responsible and able grandparents. By the time my sisters and I came along, my maternal grandparents who had watched the Watts Rebellion of 1965 and crime rates soar, had placed bars on every single window and door attached to their house to the point that you had to have a key to get into the house—and out. Once when I was young girl and being nosy in my grandfather’s bedroom while he was at work, I found his revolver in the top drawer of his dresser.
Granddaddy Gus, spent a number of years working on the railroad. And even though my grandfather couldn’t read or write too well, he did became an accomplished chef and worked for the Fox Hills Country Club, the Catholic Archdiocese, Clifton’s Cafeteria in downtown Los Angeles, and was the executive chef at Rockwell International for a number of years before opening his barbershop in Athens. He used to tell me all of the time to find me a good “guv’ment job.” Granddaddy Gus was not into rocking the boat and he most certainly did not believe in taking advantage of welfare or taking to the streets and protesting. No. My grandfather believed in getting a job, staying on that job and retiring from that job. And I’ll add that because I was a girl, he was also of the belief that I needed to find a husband at some point to take care of me and procreate with.
In his latter years, Granddaddy Gus spoke often of his anger about “illegal aliens” coming to America and taking jobs away from Americans. And before you fire off an email to me for not being politically correct, insensitive or racist—I am speaking about a generation of people who referred to all Asians as “Orientals” and anyone who was Latino as “Spanish ” or “Mexican.” Take it up with them.
For my grandfather, a good job was the key to success and how you obtained your piece of the American Dream. And let me be clear. My grandfather was a God-fearing Black man but if you asked him who he was, he’d say he was an American first. If either of my grandfathers were concerned about race issues between whites and Blacks, I didn’t know about it. In retrospect, as he got older Granddaddy Gus, seemed more disappointed and frustrated with the state of African-Americans as he saw it.
So yes, knowing all of this about my grandfathers, I am pretty confident that despite what many of us saw as Trump’s elitist, racist and misogynistic rhetoric on the campaign trail—that part about making America great again and jobs for Americans would have—and pardon the pun—trumped everything for them. Besides, I honestly don’t think my grandfathers would have been too keen on voting for a female president—Democrat or not.
I know that there are many African-Americans who supported Trump for the same reasons that my grandfathers would have. It’s no secret that many Blacks blame illegal immigration for their displacement from the labor market. Only time will tell if under a Trump presidency African-Americans fair better economically. I’m not that optimistic that we will and if we do, history dictates that it will most certainly be due to the disenfranchisement of someone else.
My grandfathers have since passed and don’t have to witness firsthand the next four years. Me on the other hand, as Donald J. Trump takes the oath of office Friday to become our nation’s 45th president, this fiercely independent, Black, lesbian Democrat who is rounding out her thirties still unmarried and childless will be commiserating with the other 65,844,609 Americans who voted for the other candidate.