CNN debate: Does Trump’s diversity efforts consist of “mediocre Negroes”?

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Oh my. Donald Trump and campaign tried to respond to attacks on its diversity by making that a priority, putting small businessman Bruce LeVell in charge of those efforts. LeVell has become part of the transition as well, reaching out to minority communities and bringing people together with the president-elect. No one seriously thought that this would impress people on the Left, but perhaps no one would have guessed that CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill would have called those who engage with the Trump team “mediocre Negroes,” either. Lamont Hill also explicitly aims that epithet directly at LeVell (via RealClearPolitics):

MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN: I love Steve Harvey and I have respect for Steve Harvey and I think his intentions were accurate, appropriate rather, but my disagreement is the way in which he’s being used by folk like Donald Trump. Yet, his intention is just to have a seat at the table. But when you’re at the table, you should have experts at the table. You should have people who will challenge the president at the table.

I don’t care if Steve is there, but if I’m Steve Harvey, I’m bringing Michelle Alexander, I’m bringing Cornell West, I’m bringing Ahmadi Perry, I’m bringing , I’m bringing Eddie Glaude, I’m bringing Michael Eric Dyson. I’m bringing some folk with me who can challenge the president and inform the conversation…

They keep bringing up comedians and athletes to represent black interests is demeaning, it’s disrespectful, and it’s condescending. Bring some people up there with expertise Donald Trump, don’t just bring up people to entertain…

Unless Steve Harvey turns into a policy analyst in behind the scenes meetings it doesn’t matter what I’m saying. My concern is the people who he is trumpeting up and putting in front of the cameras.

BRUCE LeVELL, NATIONAL DIVERSITY COALITION FOR TRUMP: Marc, you weren’t even there. You don’t even know what happened. You weren’t in the room, sir. You weren’t there.

LAMONT HILL: How does that negate my point that he brought Steve Harvey and then put him in front of the camera?

LeVELL: Listen, let me tell you something. Here’s the deal, you don’t know what happened. First of all, Pastor Darryl Scott, Mike Cohen, they are in the process of bringing all types of people from all over the country, all different backgrounds, like we have. Remember the diversity coalition where we reached out to all different types of people?

LAMONT HILL: Yeah, it’s a bunch of mediocre negroes being dragged in front of TV as a photo-op for Donald Trump’s exploitive campaign against black people. And you are the prime example of that.

LeVELL: So now you want to name-call, Marc?

[CROSSTALK]

LAMONT HILL: No I wasn’t name-calling.

Most of us know that Lamont Hill could have used even worse epithets, and perhaps those are what he had in mind. Harry Belafonte and others are fond of using those more pointed terms when discussing African-American Republicans such as Colin Powell, whom he called a “house slave” serving his “master,” which itself is a somewhat cleaned-up version. At least “mediocre Negroes” dispenses with the slavery references.

However, it’s still an example of a tortured definition of diversity. Who does Lamont Hill want to see as advisers? People who march in lockstep with his worldview. Trump is actually doing a much better job on diversity than that, reaching out to people who sharply disagree with him on issues, such as Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio on climate change and even Barack Obama on health-insurance reform. Are those “mediocre white people”? (Oh, let’s not always see the same hands.)

Having Steve Harvey show up at Trump Tower doesn’t necessarily mean that Steve Harvey agrees with Trump on his policies. Is there a PR effect? Sure, but that’s politics, and it cuts both ways, not just in Trump’s direction. In this instance, it’s Lamont Hill prejudging people based on appearances in the context of scant information and dismissing them on that basis, while accusing Trump of a “campaign against black people.” Maybe we should wait to see the actual policies that Trump puts in place and their actual impact on all American communities, rather than impugn the people who respond to a call to meet with a president-elect. That would require maturity and a lack of prejudice, of course.

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