By Stacy M. Brown

Fani Willis, the district attorney for Fulton County, Georgia, investigating Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, recently disclosed a series of racist threats she received as her office prepared to make charging decisions in the ongoing probe.

The offensive messages included racial slurs and derogatory language, referring to her as the N-word and a “Jim Crow Democrat whore.”

Willis said such threats have become somewhat routine for her. 

For some, the threats against Willis underscore the growing concerns about why African Americans might feel uneasy during the prosecution of the former president. 

Samuel Oku, a political commentator, noted that Trump’s time in office was marked by racially charged comments and actions, leading to a belief among many Black voters that Trump was racist. 

Such language could validate similar rhetoric from others, leading to increased violence and discrimination against Black communities, Oku stated.

“More than 80% of Black voters in 2020 believed Trump to be racist,” Oku remarked, noting that some language the former president used dehumanizes Black people and supports racialized violence. 

He said such rhetoric, coming from the highest office, may implicitly validate others, potentially leading to increased violence and discrimination against Black communities.

Oku said the indictments could provoke race-related blowback, given Trump’s history of racist rhetoric, fear of amplified discrimination, and concerns about justice being served.

“This explains why African Americans may be especially anxious about the unfolding scenario,” he asserted.

Activist Christine Street said Trump’s legal conundrum could exacerbate existing racial tensions. 

“[Trump] has clearly incited more hate towards African Americans which is evident and displayed across all forms of the media,” Street responded. 

“The media now canvasses that display with vivid detail our unimaginable loss and pain. And while bringing attention to these issues have sparked needed conversations, Black folks are increasingly attacked, killed, and harassed by ‘Karens’ and ‘Kens’ with little to no consequence,” said Street.

For Black Americans, witnessing the degree to which fear could be weaponized by white individuals in positions of power was deeply unsettling.

Bobby Morgan, speaker and consultant at Liberation Lab

“To add insult to injury, these actions are backed, facilitated, and executed by Trump supporters throughout various branches of the government,” Street continued. “People who are supposed to uphold rights are showing us at every turn that the only way forward is to go backwards.”

Trump supporters have been led to believe that “it’s either or versus all and,” Street added. “They seem to be enraged simply by the idea of being replaced and from a fallacious perspective that America belongs solely to them.”   

Bobby Morgan, a speaker, and consultant at Liberation Lab, observed that for Black Americans, witnessing the weaponization of fear by those in positions of power was unsettling. 

The events of January 6, especially the insurrection at the Capitol, underscored the potential consequences when fear is manipulated for political ends, raising concerns about the safety, rights, and representation of African Americans, Morgan stated.

“For Black Americans, witnessing the degree to which fear could be weaponized by white individuals in positions of power was deeply unsettling,” Morgan asserted. 

“It reinforced the notion that progress towards racial equity and justice could easily be obstructed by those who sought to exploit and maintain existing racial divisions through fear-mongering tactics.”

Morgan explained that the  insurrection, “in particular, was a vivid manifestation of the potential consequences when fear is exploited for political ends.”

The Liberation Lab consultant said the January insurrection further fuelled concerns among Black Americans about their “safety, rights, and representation in the face of such potent forces.”

Rutgers Professor David Greenberg clarified that not all Trump supporters are racists or white supremacists, but among the more violent ones, there is a racist element. 

 “It’s not correct to say that all Trump supporters are racist or white supremacists. But among Trump’s most violent supporters—including some of the people who stormed the Capitol—there is a racist element,” Greenberg said in an email. 

“When Trump is encouraging or hinting at violence to come, he is sending a signal to these supporters.  It stands to reason that many Black Americans might be especially fearful about the violence that these people could unleash,” Greenberg continued.

“That’s not to predict that there will be violence, only that violent racists have rallied behind Trump in the past and whether it was at Charlottesville in 2017 or the Capitol in 2021, there was legitimate grounds for worry.”