November 21, 2016
It’s been two weeks and already we’ve been inundated with debates and think pieces on how and why our nation’s voters elected a lying, unstable, unqualified, egomaniacal racist and misogynistic candidate as the 45th president of the United States of America. Donald Trump’s victory proves that in America, white men—even the most morally degraded—only have to be fractionally as good as everybody to be successful.
Mainstream media outlets, which profited off Trump’s campaign and failed to uphold their basic responsibility of reporting the facts, educating the public and correcting lies, will not act like retrospect experts. Not only are they refusing to be held accountable for their incessant coverage that helped Trump’s winning the election, they are using any backlash that ensues in the streets to build their ratings.
Many pundits are already professing their shock, asking how we got here. And the media are quickly normalizing a man who built—and indeed won—on a campaign driven by hate while pretending to push a narrative of “unity.” And they’re not just normalizing him, but his whole chaotic transition team and proposed cabinet filled with far-right henchmen who will enact the white-supremacist, anti-Muslim, misogynist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, xenophobic messages Trump spouted off on the campaign trail.
On November 8, we witnessed a white electoral riot, pure and simple. Racial fears and economic insecurity blamed on people of color and immigrants drove the Trump vote, and spurred his victory. He made loud but ultimately vague promises to the white working- and middle class to bring back jobs that had been outsourced abroad. His slogan—“Make America Great Again”—may have initially been interpreted to mean that he was bringing jobs back home to the white American worker, but it was quickly eclipsed by the focus on racism and xenophobia which became Trump’s campaign’s leading hallmarks, and he did nothing to dissuade it. By gearing his messages specifically to white people, he stoked their resentment and animus toward the “others” they believed were stealing their opportunities—Mexicans, Black “affirmative action” beneficiaries, Asians abroad, and LGBTQ people who in their minds are eroding the family and “traditional values.” Everybody got blamed but the white elite who’ve been screwing all of us over since Bacon’s Rebellion.
In 1676, Nathaniel Bacon led a group of white, black, and American Indian indentured servants in a revolt against the planter class. The failed revolt consolidated the status of blacks as slaves to whites and prompted increased privileges to poor whites in hopes of destroying multiracial coalitions to prevent future class uprisings. But ironically, it did not improve the position of whites who became small landowners and found themselves pushed into hill regions where they eked out a marginal living. Those poor whites became the forebears of today’s Appalachian whites, many of whom never escaped poverty.
White rage against the Obama presidency, Black Lives Matter, political correctness making it hard for white folks to slur nonwhites, all those diversity programs that really benefit white women, the high birth rates of all those “bad hombres,” and the need to watch all Muslims who know at least one Muslim terrorist further propelled Trump. In the end, he won because he inspired folks through his overtly racist messages, assuaging their fears by promising to return “their” country to them. He is white America’s Rambo, a John Wayne cowboy who will rescue white America from irrelevance and extinction, from feminists, non-Christians, and people of color.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that his daughter and son-in-law are Jewish—Trump has unapologetically aligned himself with neo-Nazis and white supremacists, galvanizing everyone from the “birthers” to tea-party members, and appointed as his chief strategist Steve Bannon, the publisher of the white-nationalist rag, Breitbart, now poised to be 21st-century America’s Joseph Goebbels. (Breitbart holds itself forth as the voice of the “alt-right,” which is their self-branding term for who they are: Neo-Nazis and KKK.) These key Trump constituencies push aside facts in the interest of their finances, and at the risk of the safety and security of the nation and indeed the world for the sake of restoring white-supremacist-male order. Together, they have moved the Republican Party from right-leaning to a full-on embrace of the extreme, winning the party’s cooperation to enact their racist agenda, with the promise of no penalties or consequences.
Trump’s election was the greatest reward for him and his constituency of white voters—who claimed to have been feeling powerless and neglected. Whether he will fulfill the economic promises to the middle- and working-classes remains to be seen—the policies he’s murmuring about and the people he’s proposing to appoint certainly don’t bode well for them. But the mere fact of his election represents a symbolic victory for white heterosexual Christian Americans who have been convinced that they are under attack because of diversity, political correctness, feminism, and marriage equality.
In this country, though every sign of racial progress historically results in white backlash—it always has. The progress still unfolding in the wake of Obama’s presidency is similar to the Southern response to Reconstruction after the Civil War when 4 million former slaves finally got constitutional rights and black Americans held leadership roles in mixed-race governments that rose in the shadows of the Confederacy.
Southerners who believed in slavery were “shocked” by former slaves enthusiastically lining up to vote. They believed that Negroes were unfit to govern because they were not viewed as fully human. Historians at the time accepted the Southern view of Reconstruction governments as poorly run and corrupt. Twenty years later, rampant xenophobia in response to the largest strike wave in U.S. history, coupled with toxic white supremacy produced a revival of the Ku Klux Klan and the most draconian immigration legislation in U.S. history.
Some are hoping that his victory will compel a seriousness not seen during the election, arguing that campaigning isn’t the same as governing, and that Trump will evolve in this regard. Others believe he will seriously embrace the office of the presidency and represent the entire nation—already, his actions demonstrate otherwise.
The Trump who campaigned on a platform of lies and hatred is revealing himself to be the Trump who will preside the very same way: He’s continuing his attacks on the press; his bald-face lies; his hypersensitivity and inability to light any slight; even the way he continues to deny his defrauding the American people after his $25 million settlement in the Trump University case. He is allowing the racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, ableism, and homophobia that propelled him into the White House to guide his presidential appointments because he has no other plans for America. He’s tapped Michael Flynn for national security advisory, a man who has described Islam as a threat to the United States, calling it an “ideology … that is like a metastasized cancer that has grown.” And Mike Pompeo, a tea-party Congressmen who has been “accused of being anti-Muslim and having participated in a racist political campaign” is slotted to be CIA director. And the co-leader in the Club House, along with Bannon, in the battle to become the most racist, violent, and hateful Trump appointment is Jeff Sessions, who questioned whether grabbing a woman in the crotch was assault. Sessions has a long history of opposing civil rights legislation, and has even challenged the usefulness of the 14th amendment. Sessions once noted that his “that he ‘used to think [the Klan] were okay’ until he found out some of them were ‘pot smokers.’” There are more appointments to come, which will surely enlarge America’s Dream Team of Bigots a.k.a., the Injustice League.
In the face of complex issues and a changing world, people crave simple explanations and simple solutions. Trump’s campaign fed this need, while making the majority of white America feel comfortable-to-full-on-embracing of their racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia. White America feels that Washington has let them down. Never mind that Washington never has represented so many of us. They, the one and only constituency, had been insufficiently spoken to once a Black man was elected to run the country. Trump leveraged that angst, blaming people of color, Jews, and immigrants for depriving them of the jobs that were their rightful due. He promises to fix and restore order that will put white Christian males in charge.
While some pundits will blame lower turnout among African-Americans, millennials, or third-party voters, Trump was elected because of white voters who came out of the hills, mountains, trailer parks, but also their suburban closets and dorm rooms, frat houses and manses and urbane apartment buildings. Regardless of their class background or economic circumstances, these whites showed up in droves to take their (stolen) country back.
Not all of us are crying or hunkering down with fear, though. That’s because we’ve had our eyes wide open. Many of us are students of history who remember that Reconstruction morphed into Jim Crow, and every major historic win for civil rights inspired whites to push back. The outcome of this election was decades in the making, long before Donald Trump emerged onto the political scene. White America has longed believed that racial justice is a zero-sum game—that white communities will be deprived of rights and resources in order to equalize the rights and resources of communities of color.
The thing is, racism has always been here: It didn’t disappear during our eight years with a Black president. So, what do we expect now? Our education institutions, film and media outlets remain stubbornly white; Blacks and Latinos continue to be targeted by police and the prison system. Hate crimes against Muslims are on the rise. Voter disenfranchisement is rampant; Wisconsin, which went for Trump by 27,000 votes, turned away 300,000 voters because of strict voter-ID laws.
Communities of color and social programs teeter on the brink of financial distress. State-sanctioned killings of Black people continue with no chance of the cops being prosecuted. Maybe white liberals thought they could tame the racism of the right wing. Maybe poor whites were desperate for a savior. Maybe so many Black folks that are experiencing shock and awe thought there were enough “good white people” who would never vote for a racist, misogynistic, incompetent xenophobe. And with 30 percent of Latinos and Asians voting for Trump alongside the GOP’s efforts to thwart voting amongst people of color, the right’s reign of terror might last longer despite the rapid demographic shifts.
Trump’s supporters may think they’ve taken “their” country back. But by the middle of this century whites will no longer be this country’s majority. The appeal to white supremacy will only maintain white power for so long. Demographics, our commitment to justice, and our unfettered belief in freedom means we cannot be stopped.
I have no time for shock and denial, fear, silence, the racist mandate or the fake calls for unity. I’m siding with truth and justice and people who are standing on the left side of righteousness.