It's safe to say people were looking forward to watching Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face off in the first presidential debate of 2016. I was certainly eager to see how they would handle their one-on-one debate, but I was also eager to speak with some of Trump's supporters, like Don King. As a biracial millennial woman, I've been baffled by Trump's explicit racism and divisive rhetoric. So when King, a black man, endorsed Trump and began stumping for him, I wanted to try to understand how we could view someone like Trump — whose lack of interest in and empathy for minority communities was clear to me — so differently.
King has become an outspoken Trump supporter, which is not exactly a common position for a black man to hold. (Trump has polled as low as 1 percent of support from African American voters.) And Trump has openly embraced him, despite King's murder conviction in 1966, when he quite literally stomped a man to death for reportedly owing him $600. It's clear King has a questionable past, but when I saw him at the presidential debate at Hofstra University, I felt compelled to talk to him so I could try to understand why he really thinks Trump is the best candidate for black voters. After all, during our conversation, I was the only nonwhite reporter speaking to him.
King tells me that he didn't think it was racist for Trump to call for the death penalty for innocent minority men (as he did in a full-page New York Times ad after the Central Park Five incident). Instead, King tells me that "the baby is born corrupt; the system is corrupt," but he insists that he's not referring specifically to the black baby. I could push aside my own biases when King says that he doesn't think Trump's ad was racist. However, I couldn't possibly ignore when he tries to convince me that Trump cares about black men killed by police by implying that these same black men are somehow putting Trump "in harm's way."
I asked King to elaborate on how Trump was supposedly putting himself, his wife, and his kids in harm's way — not by running for president, and not by "jumping in front of a car" or "if somebody hits you in the head with a club," as King tried to somehow make the nonsensical argument. All King could say was: "Everybody knows what you're talking about when you say 'in harm's way.'" And I guess he thought I automatically knew what he meant because my skin is brown like his, but he went on to clarify: "I ain't going to say the word, because it'll be all around that Don King said it."
If you forgot, King said the N-word while stumping for Trump at a black church in Cleveland, Ohio on Sept. 21. It was quickly picked up by countless outlets, and became the subject of even more tweets:
I told Michael Jackson, I said, ‘If you’re poor, you’re a poor Negro. I would use the N-word, but if you’re rich, you are a rich Negro. If you are intelligent, intellectual, you’re an intellectual Negro. If you’re a dancing and sliding and gliding n***** — I mean Negro — you are a dancing and sliding and gliding Negro. So better not alienate, because you cannot assimilate… You’re going to be a Negro till you die.’
It's clear King was trying to spread the nasty stereotype that black men (Negroes or N-words, as he likes to put it) are inherently dangerous and harmful. And the worst part is that this exchange was King's desperate attempt to convince me that Trump cares about all the black men who have been killed by police.
Video courtesy of J.D. Durkin/Mediaite