Support black lives or enable Donald Trump: It’s time for Tilman Fertitta to pick a side

Board of Regents Chairman Tilman Fertitta has donated at least $140,000 to President Donald Trump's reelection efforts. | File photo

Board of Regents Chairman Tilman Fertitta has donated at least $140,000 to President Donald Trump’s reelection efforts. | File photo

Board of Regents Chairman Tilman Fertitta, also chairman and CEO of Landry’s Inc. and owner of the Houston Rockets, recently claimed in an interview with CNBC that he “loves” the protests happening in response to the death of George Floyd. 

Yet Fertitta, one of the wealthiest billionaires in Texas, has financially enabled President Donald Trump, donating $140,000 to his reelection efforts.

Fertitta even participated in a roundtable discussion to reopen restaurants as the coronavirus pandemic continues. 

Trump’s ‘friend’

Trump’s comments about the protests are appalling and outright racist. Some of his tweets regarding the protests have been flagged by Twitter for glorifying violence. 

Most prominently, a tweet reading,“when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” This exact phrasing was used in 1967 by Miami police chief Walter Headley, who said he “(didn’t) mind being accused of police brutality.”

Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign thrived on criminalizing and antagonizing minorities, specifically Hispanics. His “tough on immigration” campaign was rooted on inaccurate and racist remarks and aimed to put white people back on top as if they haven’t been there the whole time. 

Trump’s bigoted reign in the U.S. is made possible by donors like Fertitta and other billionaires who prioritize their businesses over people

Fertitta publicly endorsed President Trump in 2017 while promoting his CNBC TV show “Billion Dollar Buyer.”

“A Trump presidency is going to be very good for business because you are going to deregulate so much,” said Fertitta during a video in 2017

The president even called Fertitta a long-time “friend” during the restaurateur’s visit to the White House in mid-May.

It is important to note Fertitta did not make any monetary contributions to Trump’s 2016 campaign. Even after seeing Trump’s constant racist, sexist and erroneous claims throughout his presidency, Fertitta decided to financially support his reelection efforts, which begs the question, who is he really supporting? The protestors or Trump?

In an interview, Fertitta made a few remarks that seem to completely miss the point of the protests. 

“In America, we have free speech, and we can do whatever we want to do and say whatever we want and not be penalized because of it,” Fertitta said. “That’s why we all love this country so much.”

In reality, this is only possible for people like him: rich, white men. 

Nothing short of systemic

The U.S. has systematically oppressed and exploited minorities through mass incarceration. Our criminal justice system does not have equal punishment for equal crimes, which is why white Americans and people with lighter skin can get away with doing whatever they want to do and not be penalized for it.

This privilege is exactly what the protests are about. It is about justice, equality and putting an end to police brutality. It is about completely changing the system designed to oppress minorities. 

We might all love this country, as Fertitta claims, and that is why we want to make it fair for everyone. 

We don’t want to make America great; we want to make it fair.

Greatness seems to benefit only a few.

Fertitta’s hypocritical support for the protests used the same rhetoric as someone who is actively against them. 

“I love the protesting. That’s what makes America great,” said Fertitta during his interview with CNBC’s “Power Lunch.” 

They are the words of somebody who is racially divisive and supports mass incarceration. While Donald Trump might rightfully come to mind, it goes beyond him, back to 1980 to Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign, which also called on voters to “make America great again.” 

However, “make America great” really means “make America great for white people.”

The prison population essentially doubled during Reagan’s presidency, and not only did incarceration increase, it disproportionately affected communities of color

The criminalization of minorities has persisted throughout American history. We are seeing it again today with Trump’s policies on immigration and discrimination against minorities. 

It is impossible to simultaneously be in favor of protests against racism and be in favor of someone who has a track record like Trump. 

So, Fertitta, which one is it? Who are you really in favor of? 

Gina Medina is a journalism major who can be reached at [email protected] 

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