I can’t bring myself to defend Omarosa
Whatever she’s selling, I’m not buying. Not now. Not ever.
Every once in a while, too often really, somebody black does something wrong. And other black people, especially those who appear to live their lives on social media, rush from their glass houses to open stone throwers’ concessions.
Usually, my heart goes out to the targets. I want to rush to the town square, rescue the tarred and feathered, those whose hair shirts have been emblazoned with scarlet letters.
But to Omarose Onee Manigault Newman (Omarosa), I offer these words: “I’m not your daddy.” Those words come from a family story that I hope helps define my relationship with my daughter.
More than 25 years ago, a colleague at the Hartford Courant decided to give me a kind of introductory class in Judaism. Among other things, he took me to different houses of worship, including one where the men and women sat separated from one another.
During the service, a little girl went from her side to join her dad. He picked her up and held her close. Even at the end of the service, the beaming man continued to hold his little girl, safe and content.
Later, I told my little girl, “You can always come to your daddy.” From time to time, I remind her. Sometimes she’s needed to come home. Sometimes, she’s just needed to hear the words. And she says, “I know,” as if she were not a tough, smart and resilient grown woman with two college degrees but still a little girl who used to sit at her window and look out at the birds and wonder what it would feel like to fly.
I’ve seen how difficult it is for black people to fly, with so many others ready to burden their wings with mud or stone them before they can get off the ground. Consequently, I won’t throw stones at Omarosa, former director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison in the White House, whom President Donald Trump apparently put in charge to be visible and black in the West Wing. I won’t seek to splatter her with you-should-have-known-betters. But whatever she sells, whether it be books or pleas for redemption, I’m not buying. Not now. Not ever.
And I won’t seek to protect her either, though I know the president’s attacks on her make her another black woman he’s used as a proxy to heap scorn and disrespect on black people, a people whose capacity to endure and forgive rises in the face of withering challenges and insults, again and again.
I know that not seeking to protect Omarosa flies in the face of black America’s most hallowed tradition: We have protected our own, the runaways from bondage and the freedom riders, the scoundrels and the prodigal sons and daughters.
But not this time, at least not for me. It will take someone with a greater capacity for forgiveness than I have to embrace Omarosa. She served a president who castigates protesting NFL players and assails the mainstream press as “enemies of the people.” On the other hand, he has found “some very fine people” among last year’s parading white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Omarosa has a new book out, Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House, and some audiotapes that’s she’s playing, one trick at a time, as if she were a skilled card shark. According to media reports, the book asserts that the president is in fraying physical and mental health. She’s released a tape that she says captures the events of her firing from her White House job in 2017.
Sometimes, black subordinates become “the help,” trusted, ubiquitous, presumed to be loyal and consequently not closely monitored. There’s no telling what Omarosa could say she saw or heard while working for the president, what she could have taped, or might imply that she has taped.
Earlier this month, Omarosa answered questions on NBC’s Today show. I watched with the sound off. I’m not ready to hear the voice of a woman who once wrote a book called The Bitch Switch: Knowing How to Turn it On and Off. She looked poised and well pulled together. She is a strong woman who has overcome the murders of her brother and father. Even if she does not prosper, she will survive.
Just before turning to another channel, I said to the screen, “I’m not your daddy.”
Trump, 72, is not her daddy either. But in 2017, when she’d been fired from her White House job, the now 44-year-old woman went to a man she’s known since she presented herself as a villain and failed contestant on The Apprentice, where Trump had played host. The president and Omarosa have known each other for more than a decade. While shilling for her book, she says she’s figured out that the president is a racist. He responded by saying she’s vicious but not smart.
Perhaps Omarosa is smart enough to trump the president of the United States in a mudslinging contest. But if she can, she will have to do it without me rooting for her.