Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: “Donald Trump Is As Much America As Barack Obama”

by Erika W. Smith

On Thursday, May 4th, feminist author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie sat down with New York Times editorial director of books Radhika Jones for a TimesTalk at New York’s Florence Gould Hall that included discussion of her latest book, Dear Ijeawele, Or, A Feminist Manifesto In 15 Suggestions.

In a wide-ranging conversation, Adichie talked about growing up in Nigeria, the books she read as a child, the difference between sexism in the United States and Nigeria, what surprised her about having her own daughter, the drawbacks of being a “feminist icon,” and, briefly, her previous comments about trans women.

Adichie addressed the 2016 election at several different times. Though born in Nigeria, Adichie moved to the United States at age 19 and has written about American politics, including a tribute to Michelle Obama as First Lady and a short story from the point of view of Melania Trump. Her 2013 novel Americanah includes discussion of Barack Obama’s election in 2008. Asked about Obama’s legacy and the election of Donald Trump, Adichie shared some insightful words.

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“Talking about progress when it comes to race in this country just always makes me uncertain,” Adichie said. “Because obviously on the one hand…do you know, honestly, I don’t know, I don’t know. I do think, though, that Donald Trump is as much America as Barack Obama, and I think it’s important to acknowledge that. Because otherwise, it makes it difficult to even engage with the subject.”

She continued, “I think that there are people who wish that Donald Trump wasn’t as much America as Barack Obama, but he is, he is. And in some ways, I also think that Donald Trump happened because of Barack Obama. That had Barack Obama not happened, Donald Trump probably wouldn’t have happened. I mean, never mind the more obvious thing that this person made himself relevant by instituting a racist campaign called birtherism, but even disregarding that, I think there’s something about this country that I think will take a long time to…”

She added, “I never thought Barack Obama’s election meant that America would become post-racial, because I think that’s just very wishful thinking. You can’t correct 300 years of injustice by having a token. You just don’t. And in some ways, I think that Donald Trump is proof of that. He’s America. This is what America got. There are ways in which to grasp for silver linings and say maybe it’s made people know not to be complacent about what a democracy is, and it’s made people realize that you have to, apart from just get up and vote, you have to be aware and alert. Because I think there’s much to be said for the people, for the Democrats who stayed home. There’s much to be said. And yes, we know that the person who’s president won, but how he won — it kind of makes you think that yeah, this is a strange system.”

Watch the video below (start at 33:30 for the Obama/Trump discussion).

Photos by Vladimir Weinstein/

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