Saturday Night Live” kicked off its first show after Donald Trump was elected president with the perfect host: Dave Chappelle. As both African-American and Muslim, Chappelle stands at the intersection of two discriminated against minority groups. If Chappelle had also been Hispanic and a woman, he would’ve been every group Trump demonized in this campaign rolled into one. (Well, almost.)
Chappelle concluded his opening monologue about Trump’s victory by saying, “I’m going to give him a chance, and we, the historically disenfranchised, demand that he give us one, too.” Chappelle may be right that minority communities could be willing to give Trump a chance, but only — and this is a really big but — if Trump gives minority communities that same chance.
Now just so it’s clear, Chappelle didn’t go on “SNL” with the intention of currying favor with Trump. Chappelle delivered a hilarious monologue that comically fileted Trump. He even joked, “America’s done it; we’ve finally elected an Internet troll as President.”
And then Chappelle did something that hopefully more will do. He made it clear that despite Trump’s win, we are not giving him a free pass for his expressed bigotry and sexism. Chappelle accomplished this with a daring joke, telling us that he was staying in a Trump hotel and when the housekeeper walked in his room, he grabbed her genitals. He then told her, “You know, boss said it was OK.” (On “SNL,” Chappelle actually used the same “P word” that Trump used in the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape.)
After a litany of jokes about Trump, white America and Black Lives Matter, Chappelle closed his monologue with some deeply personal reflections. He spoke about recently visiting the White House and thinking about how there was a time that blacks couldn’t even visit the White House, let alone dream about being President. The comedian noted the fact we now have a black President “made me feel proud to be an American, and it made me very happy about the prospects of our country.”
In that context, Chappelle offered Trump a chance conditioned on him reciprocating and providing minorities with a similar chance.
Now there is a way that Trump could possibly get many — not all — of those in communities who opposed him to keep an open mind. But it will take more than Trump making a short victory speech, in which he said he wants to be “President for all Americans.” It will take action. And, to me, that is what Chappelle meant when he said we “demand” that you give us a chance. It’s not, as some headlines have suggested, that Chappelle was saying that he unconditionally wants to give Trump a chance. Rather, his point was that it was conditioned on Trump doing the same.
So, if Trump truly wants to be “our president,” then it’s time he visits the communities he has demonized and apologizes. True, Trump rarely ever apologizes, but that would be an excellent first step. He has to at least make it clear that he realizes his remarks about Latinos, Muslims, women, the disabled and Black Lives Matter were wrong.
Next, he should name real leaders, not his surrogates from these minority communities, to visible places in his administration. This will send a message that he is giving our communities’ respective voices a chance to be heard.
Now to be blunt, being Muslim American, I’m not even sure that even if Trump did both these things it would be enough for me to have an open mind. After all, during this campaign, Trump demonized us countless times, from lying that “thousands” of Muslims cheered in New Jersey on 9/11, to irresponsibly stating that “Islam hates us,” to wrongfully claiming that Muslims are not informing law enforcement when we see suspicious activity in our community. But it would be a good start if he did.
While most doubt Trump would follow either of these steps, most of us have been mistaken about Trump every step of the way. Maybe, just maybe, Trump will actually earn our support. But, as Chappelle said, that will require that Trump give us a chance, too. It’s now President-elect Trump’s move.
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