Thug has become such a ubiquitous dog whistle for a certain type of uncomfortable Blackness — and by “certain type of uncomfortable Blackness” I mean “all Blackness” — that the whistle is no longer necessary. Nothing is coded, nothing concealed, nothing cloaked. Those who use it in this context can’t even feign to deny anymore that they’re employing it to evoke a certain type of imagery; that they’re specifically attempting to a stoke fear of a Black person (usually male, but occasionally female) whose appearance, actions, and attitudes exude a latent criminality. They say thug, and we’re supposed to immediately picture anyone ranging from Colin Kaepernick (because tattoos and uppity) to Kanye West (because Taylor). Which is a great piece of semantic propaganda, as the arbitrariness of that distinction creates an ever-shifting goalpost where anyone Black could be a thug. The only immovable criteria is them perceiving us as a threat. Equally and perhaps even more importantly, it also hides their thuggishness in plain sight; criminalizing sagging jeans and braided hair and Homewood while the thuggiest thugs are actually in boat shoes and Patagonia fleeces in the Hamptons.
And perhaps no single public figure embodies this dichotomy better than Jared Kushner, the thuggish ruggish backbone of the Trump family. Even Donald, the Cheeto-tinted charlatan that he is, has a certain translucent shamelessness to him that prevents even the dumbest of us from regarding him as anything but a man who plays dirty and embraces dirt. He’s a shitheel who knows he’s a shitheel and wants everyone to know it too. Kushner, on the other hand, looks and sounds and dresses and walks like someone who goes to Trader Joe’s for the ambiance. He’s a Subaru Outback with sentience. The kid whose nickname in high school was “Butt Plug” or “Asthma Boy.” If Donald Trump was born on third base, his bitch-ass was born in J Crew.
He’s also a slumlord. The publisher of a tabloid with a tuxedo. Completely ensconced in the criminal activities of his father-in-law’s family. Oh, and he might have committed treason. He looks like he should be asking some server somewhere for gluten-free ice chips, but he’s actually Avon Barksdale with a Lululemon charge card.
Take a good look at this soft-pedaled fuck. He is a thug. This is what a thug looks like. If you see him, cross the street. Lock your windows. Close your doors. Exit the elevator. Hide your daughters. King Kong aint got shit on him.