Who’s Really Carrying the Masters’ Water: Pastor Mark Burns’ Black Face Tweet and Trump’s Problem with Black Voters

September 1, 2016


Who is Pastor Mark Burns? Until this week not many people knew or probably cared. But leave it to the master of manipulation and TV antics, Donald Trump, to propel this fast-talking, fact-challenged, Black preacher turned political surrogate into the national lime light for what we all should hope will be his proverbial “15 minutes of fame.” And like most of the “political surrogates” that have recently taken to cable networks to tout the Trump message, Pastor Burn’s foray into the world of political commentary revealed not only his lack of political acumen, but the flawed nature of Trump’s message and that of his cadre of surrogates.

Burns,Trump’s African American outreach specialist, who’d previously displayed an immense capacity for hysterical hyperbole by accusing Hillary Clinton of wanting a black genocide, somehow managed to dive even lower into the gutter when he tweeted an offensive, racist cartoon showing the Democratic nominee in blackface.  Burns initially defended the tweet in an eyebrow raising interview by saying the image was designed to illustrate how “Hillary Clintondo pander after black groups, after black people.”

The pastor apparently had second thoughts about the wisdom of what he called his “twit.” He quickly deleted it, saying he regretted the offensiveness of the black face “but not the message.” Like Tea Party fueled spokesperson Katrina Pierson, who’d previously blamed President Barack Obama for invading Afghanistan in 2001, and for the death of a Muslim war hero in Iraq, even though the soldier was killed in action five years before Obama took office, Burns’ “message” about why African Americans vote overwhelmingly democratic is devoid of facts. 

Burns’ “message” is one that’s been espoused by many conservatives, and one that was recently repeated on the campaign trail by Trump, himself: that black life is a miserable experience that’s lived in crime-riddled urban cities of America, and that African American’s have been duped by simple political tricks into voting for Democrats who give them nothing in return. In keeping with his blackface theme, Burns, and other Republicans, have decided to label black loyalty to the democratic party as a “plantation mentality.”

Burns apparently believes the “rugged individualism,” strong work ethic and independent critical thinking qualities that he and other conservatives pride themselves on are absent in African Americans who vote democratic. Ironically, could it be they who are actually guilty of group-think?  Could it be that the millions of black Americans who vote democratic actually make decisions based on what they hear and see?  Could it be that black voters are deeply disturbed by what Colin Powell once called the “dark vein of intolerance” in his party. Perhaps black voters have taken notice that it’s been members of the Republican Party who have resisted raising the minimum wage? Perhaps black voters have noticed in states such as Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Texas and Tennessee, it’s been GOP led legislatures and Governors who’ve led the effort to restrict voting access in ways so pronounced that a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled, in the case of North Carolina, that the new law “targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision.”  

Black voters have repeatedly made clear that their primary concerns are jobs, education, security, race relations, social justice and health care. And while the Democratic Party is hardly perfect on these issues, Democrats in Congress have attempted to advance many of these issues, including gun control measures in an effort to reduce gun violence, and have introduced bills to reduce student loan repayment costs, and legislation to restore the full weight of the Voting Rights Act. Moreover, Democratic presidents have consistently appointed Supreme Court justices who uphold the monumental gains made by African Americans during the civil rights movement rather than chip away at them as do conservative justices appointed by Republican presidents. African Americans can say good bye to a host of favorable rulings on everything from 4thAmendment search and seizure to 14thAmendment due process rights if Trump is elected and has an opportunity to appoint even one more conservative judge to the high court.

Based on Burn’s tweet and his vacuous and sometimes incomprehensible rants on cable news shows, its not clear that he has a grasp of the danger that Trump poses to the African American community. His statements that “we are one America” greatly minimizes the systemic racism that continues to exists in many of our most sacred institutions including well-documented disparities in public schools and the criminal justice system, for example.

It is clear, however, that Trump surrogates like Pierson and Burns are going to be permanent fixtures in this election given Trump’s horribly low poll numbers amongst African Americans and his planned visit to a Black church this Saturday. His campaign needs  as many folks as possible pushing his brand of crisis and his “Black savior message”, but hopefully the next time Burns and his black GOP pals accuse African American voters of having a “plantation mentality,” they take a look in the mirror and ask who really is carrying the master’s water?

Eric Anderson is an Emmy Nominated freelance journalist who has previously worked for CNN and ABC News.  He has recently written and produced documentary programs on Charles Manson, Michael Jackson and O.J. Simpson, and has recently co-written and produced a ten-part cable television series on the Kennedys.



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