Trump’s ‘Baby Lives Matter’ Onesies Are Grotesque and All Too Familiar

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Commentary The Politics of Politics

Trump’s ‘Baby Lives Matter’ Onesies Are Grotesque and All Too Familiar

Imani Gandy

Trump doesn’t care about babies. Trump cares about Trump. And his campaign's racist onesies are just another stunt.

President Trump’s campaign is selling onesies with “Baby Lives Matter” emblazoned in lettering used by Black Lives Matter.

A few years ago, this sort of schlocky bullshit might have sent me into a rage. Now it just makes me tired. This slogan wasn’t his idea: Trump is a lazy thinker whose brain is as empty as the ocean is vast. He has simply borrowed the uninspired rhetoric of anti-choicers who otherwise don’t give a cinnamon toast fuck about Black women, children, and babies, but nevertheless feel compelled to co-opt and pervert the meaning of Black Lives Matter to make a point about how much they don’t like abortion—as if we didn’t know.

So I have only one thing to say to Trump: Yawn.

I suppose that’s more an action than a statement, but to the extent a yawn can express the crushing ennui I feel every time it gets close to an election and candidates start virtue signaling about abortion, then my yawn is a statement.

It is no surprise that Trump has glommed on to the tried-and-true anti-choice tactic of co-opting Black struggle and culture, and—most despicably—stripping Black women of our agency. They wield our Black bodies as a cudgel in their war against abortion rights.

“Abortion is Black genocide,” they cry, casting Black women as the architects of the demise of Black people. But it’s not Black women’s fault, they’ll be quick to point out. After all, we’re too ignorant to have any idea what’s going on. It’s that confounded Planned Parenthood with their pop-up clinics in Black neighborhoods (never mind that 60 percent of abortion clinics are in majority white neighborhoods).

It’s Planned Parenthood that is carrying out its founder’s intent to rid the world of Black people through abortion, they say. Black women are just the gullible pawns being used by Big Abortion. (Never mind that the claim that Margaret Sanger was trying to eliminate Black people is absolute horseshit.)

Trump is simply the latest in a long line of white supremacist anti-abortion evangelical hypocrites who pervert Black Lives Matter to make some grotesque point about how much they love babies and how tragic it is that “the most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb”—one of the more deplorable slogans anti-choice groups displayed on billboards in 2011.

It’s evil and it’s ignorant.

But what better way to describe the occupant of the White House. It’s not just that Trump is a deeply ignorant and evil man. He’s also a deeply unoriginal one. For someone who fancies himself a leader whom all should follow, he allows more experienced white supremacists to spoon-feed him his white supremacy. He’s a coward hiding behind white supremacists who are better at the job of being a white supremacist than he is. He’s simply a puppet: People like Stephen Miller pull Trump’s strings, and Trump vomits anti-Blackness all over the goddamn place right on cue.

If he really wanted to make his white supremacist mark, he should just be upfront and sell onesies that say “White Baby Lives Matter” because that’s what the message really is. That’s what anti-choicers care about.

Abortion rights opponents make great efforts to pretend they care about the welfare of Black babies. The white evangelical anti-choice complex has been laser-focused on passing abortion laws on the backs of Black women while crying about the abortion rate in the Black community, but the ultimate goal is to increase white birth rates.

Their caterwauling about the high abortion rate in the Black community is an act. They use Black fetuses as a talking point and feign concern right up to the point that Black fetuses exit the womb. Then the caterwauling ends. Because Black fetuses become babies. And those babies become children. And if they’re lucky, those children will become adults. And at every step of a Black child’s development into adulthood, a sword hangs over their head.

Will that Black fetus even make it to childhood?

Will a Black child make it to adulthood?

Or will a cop put his knee on their neck and suffocate them in the street like they did to George Floyd? Or will a cop shoot them in their sleep like they did to Breonna Taylor? Or perhaps a cop will shoot them in the back in a Wendy’s parking lot like they did to Rayshard Brooks. And when the police snuff out the life of yet another Black person, the cloying concern of anti-choicers turns to contempt.

Once legal abortion has been eradicated—or when access to abortion has been regulated out of existence—the anti-choice complex’s fake concern about Black babies will come to a grinding halt.

That’s because Black Baby Lives Don’t Matter—not to white evangelicals.

If they did—if anti-choicers cared so much about Black children—they would be in the streets marching with Black Lives Matter protesters to end the indiscriminate brutality against Black children. They would be advocating for universal prenatal and postnatal care, for safety-net programs for people with low incomes, for the Head Start program and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and equal pay and contraception access.

And certainly Brown Baby Lives Don’t Matter either. Otherwise the people who protest abortion clinics and harass abortion patients would be protesting the horrific conditions to which Trump has consigned immigrant children by indefinitely detaining them in cages.

That Trump is purporting to care about babies of any color is frankly laughable. How much could he possibly care about babies when he is siphoning money from programs that serve children in order to pay for the wall which he kept claiming, inexplicably, Mexico would pay for? Last September, the Washington Post reported that Trump planned to siphon money from construction of a school for children of military service members on what was once Ramey Air Force Base. This from a man who claims to love the troops.

How much could he possibly care about babies when his 2020 budget proposed eliminating funding for programs like infant and early childhood mental health, and universal newborn hearing screenings?

The president’s budget is chock-full of Trumpian efforts to stick it to kids. It proposed reduced funding for school lunches, zeroed out funding for improving K-12 educational quality, and eliminated a $1.7 billion program block grant that funds services like child care, child abuse prevention, and adoption assistance.

Trump doesn’t care about babies. Trump cares about Trump. And this latest stunt with the “Baby Lives Matter” onesies is just that.

A stunt.