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President Trump made a direct appeal to suburban women during a campaign rally in the key battleground of Pennsylvania.

Associated Press

Progressive Black women leaders are calling out rapper Ice Cube over the announcement this week that he is working with President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign on what he says is a plan to help Black Americans.

The backlash began when Trump’s senior advisor, Katrina Pierson, tweeted out Tuesday her appreciation for Ice Cube and “his willingness to step up and work with” Trump amid an ongoing national debate on police reform, systemic racism and violence against Black Americans.

Ice Cube, whose real name is O’Shea Jackson, has long been critical of Trump, but said on Twitter that the Trump White House had been more responsive to his “Contract With Black America” compared to Democratic leaders.

“Dems said we’ll address the CWBA after the election. Trump campaign made some adjustments to their plan after talking to us about the CWBA.”

“Black progress is a bipartisan issue,” tweeted the rapper Thursday, who in the late 80s famously rapped “f*** the police” as a member of the group N.W.A.

Ice Cube is defending his decision to work with President Donald Trump on a plan for Black Americans. (Photo: Phillip Faraone, Getty Images for REVOLT)

Many fans expressed dismay at the rapper’s willingness to engage with the president – in 2016 Ice Cube tweeted he would never “endorse” Trump and he released a 2018 track called “Arrest the President”  – while progressive Black women leaders lamented that his 22-page plan lacked any specific recommendations for Black women, Black queer people or Black transwomen. 

“We grew up on Ice Cube, on his message against white supremacy, so it feels like a slap in the face because this is a president who has made it very clear that he’s anti-Black, anti-women and anti-trans folks,” said Karen Flynn, an associate professor in the departments of gender and women’s studies and African American studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. “Historically, Black women have consistently supported Black men, particularly heterosexual Black men, and we haven’t been given the same respect back.” 

Analysis: Rhetoric some call racist has marked Trump’s entire presidency

Since announcing his presidential campaign in 2015, Trump has repeatedly made disparaging comments about people of color, including calling Black Lives Matter protesters “terrorists” and “thugs.” He has defended white supremacists and recently restricted the federal government from conducting diversity training, despite research showing it fosters workplace equality and helps address race and gender disparities. He has also denied systemic racism exists in America’s law enforcement departments. 

Brittney Cooper, author of “Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower,” posted on Twitter Thursday: “Black men are breaking my heart with this caping for Cube-cum-Trump.” 

Black women absent from Ice Cube’s plan

Black women have a long history, experts say, of fighting for justice without recognition. 

On Twitter, #OscarsSoWhite creator April Reign wondered why Ice Cube appeared to have completely cut women out of this plan.

“At some point we should discuss the entitlement Ice Cube exhibits to assume that he can create a ‘contract’ and immediately get the ear of presidential campaigns, having never really been political before…. When there are Black Women who have been doing this work for years,” she tweeted.

History shows it was Black suffragists who worked toward the passage of the 19th Amendment, even though it would be decades before they could exercise that right themselves. The civil rights movement could not have happened without Black women, though it’s the legacy of male civil rights leaders that dominate history books.

It was the courage of Black female activists in confronting multiple forms of oppression that influenced other protest movements, including second-wave feminism, the fight for gay rights and the protests against the Vietnam War. Three black women, two of whom identify as queer, created the Black Lives Matter social justice movement.  

Why, many Black women wondered, were they absent from Ice Cube’s plan?

“Black women are the moral compass of this nation,” Flynn said. “We are the ones who tend to hold people, politicians, everyone accountable.”

A memorial to Breonna Taylor is seen here during a Black Lives Matter protest on August. 2, 2020 in Portland, Ore. (Photo: Nathan Howard, Getty Images)

A ‘hierarchy’ of racism 

Flynn said a societal misperception is that Black men are more oppressed than Black women when statistics on earning power and limited workplace mobility show otherwise. 

Black women are also overlooked when it comes to police violence. Social justice activists have recently pointed to the deaths of Breonna Taylor and Sandra Bland to make this point.

Taylor, a 26-year-old trained E.M.T., was fatally shot by police in her Louisville, Kentucky, home in March, but widespread protests against racial injustice did not erupt until the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who was killed by Minneapolis police in May. 

A grand jury did not charge any of the officers involved directly in Taylor’s death, while Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing Floyd, was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. 

In 2015, Bland, a 28-year-old Black woman, was found dead in a Texas jailhouse three days after a confrontational traffic stop by a white state trooper. A grand jury opted against criminal charges in connection with Bland’s death.

Of 33 transgender or gender non-conforming people who were fatally shot or killed in 2020, the majority were Black and Latinx transgender women, according to the Human Rights Campaign. 

After Pierson’s announcement, police reform activist Brittany Packnett Cunningham tweeted about Ice Cube: “From NWA to MAGA(?). 2020 got some wild subplots.”

Others said they weren’t surprised given previous accusations of misogyny against the rapper.

Attorney and television host Adrienne Lawrence tweeted, “The fact that Cube would align with Trump is as shocking as Lindsey Graham calling segregation the ‘good ole days.'”

Ice Cube and the masculinity trap

Ice Cube’s willingness to engage with Trump, Flynn said, may reflect that even for Black men, Trump’s specific brand of masculinity can be attractive.

“What Trump has been able to do is embody this sort of culturally valued form of masculinity that is authoritative,” CJ Pascoe, a gender studies professor at the University of Oregon, said after the presidential debate in September. “There are people who listen to him and find that sort of masculine charisma intoxicating regardless of the content that follows.”

During the debate, Trump failed to condemn white supremacy and told the far-right group Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” How To Be An Antiracist author Ibram X. Kendi called the debate “triggering.”

It’s worthwhile, Flynn said, to ask what may be driving Ice Cube, who gained fame in part for rapping about police violence against Black men, to work with Trump.

“He’s been talking about the ‘Black Contract’ without thinking about his ego,” Flynn said. “Does he want to be close to power? What’s his motivation? Because I don’t always believe it’s about love for Black folk.”

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