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By Julianne Malveaux —

Now that the former President and the candidate for future President has been convicted of thirty-four felonies, he joins nineteen million other Americans who have such convictions. Those felons face major restrictions in employment, finance, and housing. For example, federal, state, and local government jobs often require a security clearance, which felons often cannot qualify for. In some areas, felons are disqualified from teaching jobs. It is challenging for felons to be admitted to the bar, which they must do to practice law. They can’t work in jails.

Felons often do not qualify for professional licenses, from real estate licenses to barber certification. They are often excluded from providing either child case or elder care.  In the health care area, felony convictions may disqualify people from working as a physician, nurse, or pharmacist. In some instances, felons can’t get a pilot’s license, or a commercial driver’s license. Felony convictions can sometime prevent people from getting loans, or even rental housing.  There are enormous biases against those who have been convicted of felonies, but that bias is not likely to affect Donald Trump, and even if it did, it wouldn’t matter. He is shielded by his wealth and his status, and his behavior during his trial indicates that he respects neither the rule of law nor those who work in law enforcement.  In other words, absent a large fine or incarceration, the former President experiences no consequences for his illegal action.

Meanwhile, according to the Sentencing Project report “The Color of Justice”, as many as a third of African American men have felony convictions. They are barred from employment and prevented from fully participating in society. Despite laws that “ban the box” by preventing employers from asking about criminal records early in the application process, the intersection between criminal bias and racial bias often leaves African American men (and women) at the periphery of society.

Trump’s supporters suggest his conviction is “political”, but one might say the same thing about Black convicted felons, many who, like the Central Park Five, we set up by so-called law enforcement.  Or there’s the case of Darien Harris, the Illinois Black man who spent twelve years in jail because of the false testimony of a blind eyewitness. Black men experience miscarriages of justice every single day.  Donald Trump did not experience a miscarriage of justice. Instead, District Attorney Alvin Bragg meticulously showed the former president’s pattern of fiscal malfeasance. He used people still loyal to the felon make the case against him.  The former president somehow thinks his criminal case will buy him sympathy, or affinity, with Black people.  This is, at best, amusing.  It is also warped and cynical.

If incarcerated, the former President will have Secret Service protection wherever he serves. Ironically, with his felony conviction, he could not even be a member of the Secret Service.  It is also ironic that two Trump employees were incarcerated for following the ex-president’s orders, but ringleader Trump may be able to avoid incarceration because of his former status. Michael Cohen served three years for tax fraud and was disbarred.  Alan Weisselberg is incarcerated now, spending five months for tax fraud and five months for perjury.

It is, at best, unseemly for the President of the United States to be a convicted felon.  Indeed, thirty-eight countries (including the United States) deny entry to felons. Those countries include G-7 countries Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom. Mexico, Israel, India, New Zealand, and Australia also bar felons from entry. So do many African countries including Kenya and Tanzania, but the former President would not likely want to go to countries that the vulgarly disparaged.  If the felon wanted to go to these countries, leaders would probably make an exception for him, but that just points out the privilege Trump has that millions of other felons don’t.

Many felons have been disenfranchised, but Trump won’t be. Although Florida makes it difficult for felons to vote, Governor Ron DeSantis has already said he will exempt Trump from voting restrictions.  Imagine that there was a one-vote difference in the Florida popular vote between Biden and Trump in the 2024 election.  The felon could be a decider in his own victory, hardly fair.

Those who believe in justice must work to ensure that we don’t have a Felon-in-Chief in the White House.

Dr. Julianne Malveaux

Dr. Julianne Malveaux is a member of the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC), an economist, author and Dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at California State University at Los Angeles.