Now that Trump has dumped the Iran nuclear deal, one of the centerpieces of the Obama administration, he can deal the former president another blow—a more appreciative one—if he moves to pardon the great heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson.
A recent article in The New York Times once again reminded readers of what happened to Johnson, his audacity to defy the racist rules forbidding him to consort with or to marry white women. When he was accused of violating the Mann Act, taking a white woman across state lines for presumed purposes of prostitution (the woman possibly his fiancée), he fled and later spent several months in jail.
All of that happened at the dawn of the 20th century, but Johnson’s kin are still demanding that his name be cleared, that future generations uphold him as a sports legend and not a former fugitive of justice or inmate.
One reason Obama might have refused to pardon Johnson might be the boxer’s alleged abuse of his wives, but Obama was also opposed to giving posthumous pardons. There are those who contend that for Trump to do it now would be no more than another example of his insincerity to curry favor with Black Americans, like his nomination of Ben Carson.
Even so—and you know we have no abiding love or respect for Trump—an injustice was done to Johnson and to many other Black Americans during the long night of Jim Crow, including the deportation of Marcus Garvey and the criminalization of Paul Robeson and his cohort on the leftist front. Despite our distaste for Trump, a pardon of Johnson would lift a burden from the fighter’s family and descendants.
Worse miscreants than Johnson have been pardoned, and such action would set in motion a need to review other cases and individuals who have been unfairly treated and tarnished by a government that kowtowed to the predilections of Jim Crow.
As the legal swirl intensifies around the Trump administration with many of his surrogates on the verge of trials, convictions and possible prison terms, it is not farfetched to speculate that Trump will see fit to exercise the power of his office and pardon his former associates.
There is little that can be done about those pardons, but one for Johnson, however symbolic, would be another example of a Trump contradiction on white supremacy that Johnson upended with his defeat of the “Great White Hope.”
Pardoning Johnson may even be too much for Trump to stomach, but it is just one of our demands, including that to Make America Great Again—Trump Must Go!