Morgan State’s April Ryan Shows Donald Trump’s Complex Relationship With Black America

When it comes to us, it ain’t fake news.

When it comes to us, it ain’t fake news.

Last week, Morgan State University alumna and White House correspondent April Ryan was confronted by White House official Omarosa Manigault in an alleged confrontation that bordered, according to some, on more than words being exchanged.

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Today, the veteran journalist who has covered three sitting presidents was at the center of another Trump Administration lightning storm. This time, with the president himself.

The problem here is multi-tiered. First, all of us should have a clear and urgent problem with a white man confronting a black woman in this way, regardless of his position or hers. And even if you take the racial and gender-based politics out of it, there should be an issue when a black person is essentially asked to be the convener/spokesperson/interpreter for all other black people in our universe of proximity or understanding.

In this case, it was President Trump’s view that Ryan could gather sitting members of the Congressional Black Caucus together for a meeting — simply because she was black and had access to a White House press conference.

But here comes the third and fourth layers of this problem. Hours after the exchange, Ryan confirmed during a CNN interview that the White House is working to set up a meeting with the CBC, just a week or so after more than five dozen HBCU presidents are scheduled to arrive in Washington to meet with President Trump and GOP officials on how to better position HBCUs for long-term success.

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So what are we supposed to do with a president who simultaneously can be dismissive and embracing of race? What do we make of a world leader who can go from ‘what the hell do you have to lose’ to hearing about and committing to a substantive discussion on HBCU stability in a matter of months?

Do we ignore him, or do we just give him the side eye and keep pressing on for what we need most?

To Black America, Ryan is more than some random black reporter who seems to find herself at the center of regular beef with the Trump Administration, although many would argue that being at the center of anything is exactly what makes for a great reporter. Ryan is also the sister who gives us the Washington rundown on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, and dozens of other networks and programs which find utility in sharing national political perspectives through a Black American context.

To the HBCU community, and specifically Morgan State graduates like me, she is one of our heroes. She is the daughter of Vivian Ryan, MSU’s long-serving and beloved former director of student activities. She is the black journalist who built her career at a black-owned media company.

She is the example of the kind of journalist we were taught to believe that we could be — uncompromising on facts and unwilling to sacrifice community for the sake of coverage.

Her career, and the careers of thousands of other black journalists are the foundations for the fleeting moments of democracy that we can actually understand and potentially enjoy. Because without them, subjects like healthcare, interest rates, zero tolerance, gerrymandering, student loans and dozens of other topics would never be covered in mainstream media with our interests or outcomes in mind.

That’s who April Ryan is and what she represents, to a whole nation of people who have long felt disrespected and dismissed for a variety of reasons all tied to our complexion.

And that’s who Donald Trump is; the president who represents another side of America who feels the same way, for the exact same reasons rooted in philosophies we’ll never understand.

We’re on her side, always and forever. And we need to be on his good side for the next four years. And sadly, that’s just the way it is.