“They’re kind of beating me up on the internet right now for no reason, but that’s life, isn’t it?”
Steve Harvey, the stand-up comedian turned TV host, gave that statement to reporters following the intense backlash he received online for a series of racist jokes on his talk show targeting Asian men. Harvey has been at the center of two separate controversies this week: one stemming from the unfortunate segment, where he joked about Asian men’s supposed lack of desirability, and the other erupting after the Family Feud MC kissed the ring of President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower.
But Harvey is no stranger to controversy, and his shortcomings usually stem from his refusal to evolve past toxic beliefs regarding women and relationships. Harvey’s chauvinistic mindset represents that of an unfortunate cadre of American men—one that promotes female subservience, tasteless jokes about minority groups, and a willingness to meet a certified bigot halfway. It is the very essence of Donald Trump, a boorish, myopic man who wants to “make America great again” by returning it to the “good ol’ days” when “men were men” and you didn’t have to worry about “PC culture.”
In 2015, Harvey hosted a TV special called “What Men Really Think.” It featured 100 women earnestly asking for relationship advice while over 2,000 men in the audience loudly berated them, raining down boos and insulting the women’s looks. The comedian was forced to halt the proceedings for being “too rapey.” The Act Like a Lady author’s entire raison d’être concerns how women should make themselves more desirable to men, molding their looks and personalities to fit men’s needs. If that weren’t enough, he’s said that gay men are not “real men” and has taken it upon himself to refer to Caitlyn Jenner as a “he,” saying of her transition, “I have no concept of what that means.” Harvey’s transition from comedian to commentator has been marked by tons of these clumsy and contemptible moments that indicate he has serious issues with women and the LGBTQ community—issues he chalks up to good ol’ fashioned “values.”
So when Steve Harvey walked into Trump Tower on Friday morning, what may have seemed like an odd pairing actually made more sense than most would like to admit. These two guys have similar histories, and because of that, Harvey believed they could work together.
“We’re going to team up and see if we can bring about some positive change in the inner cities which I felt was my only agenda and he agreed. And he wants to do something,” Harvey said. “He realizes he needs some allies in that department, he seemed really sincere about it.”
It’s been an ongoing theme since Trump won the 2016 presidential election: let’s work together. But that sense of collaborative recuperation appears wholly one-sided; there doesn’t seem to be very many members of the president-elect’s incoming cabinet—or high-profile supporters—who plan on walking back their rhetoric, let alone their troubling political records. But many people who were dismissing Trump a year ago are now eager to pretend that he plans to meet them halfway. Even Harvey dismissed Trump during campaign season.
“How do you let a dude who was on the cover of Playboy magazine and has been married 18 times be your president?” Harvey told The Daily Beast in February. “Now come on. Hell, then I qualify.”
But he also said this: “He’s very entertaining to me. I’ve got to tell you, I can’t take my eyes off of the man when he’s talking—mostly because I can’t believe he’s saying what he’s saying out loud.” “But I like him, personally. I do! I think he’s exciting for politics,” he continued. “Politics haven’t been this exciting in a long time—or as confusing, ever, in the history of it. I think Donald Trump not being a politician is making a lot of people nervous who are politicians.”
After receiving scathing criticism on social media for his meeting with Donald “look at my African-American over here” Trump, Harvey explained how it happened.
“Our president [Obama] asked that all of us sit down and talk to one another in order to move our country forward,” Harvey wrote in a note shared on Twitter. “The transition teams on both sides asked me to meet and I’m glad I did.”
“Trump wants to help with the situations in the inner cities so he immediately got [HUD secretary nominee] Dr. Ben Carson on the phone to begin dialog in looking for programs and housing to help our inner cities and he’s very open to my mentoring efforts across the country.” “I walked away feeling like I had just talked with a man who genuinely wants to make a difference in this area. I feel that something really great could come out of this. I would sit with him anytime.”
It’s a stretch to suggest that Trump meeting with Black entertainers will do much to heal any wounds suffered by Black Americans collectively, and it’s sad and disgusting that a growing number of Black entertainers seem willing to serve as these superficial signposts for an administration that has not presented itself as one that will work to prioritize the concerns of Black people. Trump just likes hanging out with famous folks.
It’s also especially frustrating because this door only swings one way. It seems highly unlikely that a Ted Nugent or Stacey Dash would’ve met with President Obama in an earnest attempt to “address issues” or “build bridges.”
Harvey’s fellow Kings of Comedy star, D.L. Hughley, took a much different path in addressing the incoming president. Hughley unleashed an angry harangue at the president-elect, citing his birtherism and history of discrimination as factors for why he will never respect Donald Trump.
“It amazes me that to convince Black people that Donald Trump cares about them, he takes pictures with celebrities,” Hughley said in a video posted on Instagram. “If Donald Trump cared about Black people, he would not have denigrated the President with those claims of ‘birtherism.’ He would not have stoked fears and racist fears, saying that this man is less than, or not one of us to become President.”
“You know why you have a comedian, rapper and football player out to talk about the concerns of the community?” he asks, setting up a joke that’s not meant to make you laugh. “Because that’s the positions you’re used to seeing us in. You’d rather have Black people as comedians, football players and rappers than the President. You’d rather see us run the ball than run the country.”
Of course, D.L. Hughley has about as many moments of bigotry and misogyny in his recent past as Steve Harvey. He’s hardly the most ideal person for a self-righteous smackdown of anyone, but his words regarding Trump succinctly explain why Steve Harvey, Kanye West, and Ray Lewis are wrong in thinking that this is the time to extend olive branches under the guise of “moving forward.”
Donald Trump, from the racist housing policies of his company in the 1970s, to his hatemongering during the Central Park Five case in the 1980s, to leading the birther movement during the Obama presidency, has shown time and time again that he’s most willing to stand with and for white supremacist ideals on a multitude of levels: economic, administrative, and personal. He’s praised stop-and-frisk, he’s appointed Jeff Sessions Attorney General, he’s waged a cultural war on Blackness while sleazily smiling next to his favorite Black superstars. He’s no friend of ours and never has been—no matter how many pics he snaps with Russell Simmons or Dennis Rodman.
But hey—we get why Steve Harvey likes him.