“The greatest problem is not with flat-out white racists, but rather with the far larger number of Americans who believe intellectually in racial equity but are quietly oblivious to injustice around them.”—Nicholas Kristof, “When Whites Just Don't Get It, Part 3,” Oct. 11, 2014.
Just over a month ago, America voted for white supremacy; there is no other way for me to say it.
There are many spins being put on it now by the media, by pundits, and by voters themselves. But regardless of how one justifies their Trump vote—whether citing reasons like lack of jobs, opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), not liking or trusting Hillary Clinton, or feeling left behind by the economy—at the core, they decided that any one or all of those reasons were worth sacrificing the safety, well-being, and progress made toward first-class citizenship for those who are not white in America.
Large numbers of white Americans—deliberately and with full knowledge of Trump's racism, misogyny, and Islamophobia—chose not a president as much as a racist-in-chief. And in that, they are complicit in what is happening now and what is surely to come.
Since the election, more than 800 “hate incidents” have been reported, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Of these, 32 percent targeted immigrants (the racial identification of these immigrants was not specified), and 23 percent were specifically anti-Black. Other groups that were significant targets of harassment or crime were Semitic, Muslim, and LGTBQI.
Many African descendants/African Americans are still experiencing trauma from both the myriad of murders of Black men and women by police as well as from a legal system that does not hold their murderers accountable. We have seen, even with an Obama presidency, how state policy has been used in attempts to raise police to a protected citizen class, codifying their actions and the status of innocent Black people as targets. We have seen a national narrative that blames Black people for their own deaths at the hands of police, and the criminalization of any movement fighting for the rights of non-white people. We have seen all of the above supported by people—primarily white—who think of themselves as good, decent people without racial animus. They think of themselves in that way because in our society we are taught to think of those acting out of racial animus as belonging to organized hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, instead of organized faith groups such as Evangelical Christians.
As such, it is easy for them to deny the devastating impact of their vote on those of us who are not white. But those of us who are not white deny, ignore, or minimize this reality at the peril of our families, when 58 percent of white voters in the U.S. (including 45 percent of white women with college degrees and 62 percent without) declared that they are OK with whatever policy devastation is wrought on our communities, and are willing to sacrifice people of color on the altar of maintaining their economic, social, and racial privileges.
Many white allies remain devastated by the vote, or lament about how the outcome might have been different with Bernie Sanders (who also seemed incapable of incorporating an authentic racial equity lens analysis into his campaign) as the candidate. However, they don't have to live in our vulnerable positions. I don't want tears, disappointment, or anger; I want action, and specifically white action, which starts with some reflection on the overarching and insidious nature of white supremacy, and how we are (actively or passively) complicit. Finally, I want us to follow the lead of activists of color in developing strategies that use white privilege to take actual risks—one-off protests notwithstanding—to change it.
Black, brown, cisgender, SGL (Same Gender Loving), and Trans people are doing our parts. We (as a group) did not join a vote supporting a candidate who reveled in derogatory remarks about Muslims, Mexicans, the disabled, white women, and African Americans. Those individuals who did should take heed, for they are also particularly vulnerable as members of these denigrated groups, indeed, we are all vulnerable when a movement toward justice takes a giant step backward.
Fifty-eight percent of self-described “good” white people voted for a man formally endorsed by the KKK, and those votes supported that man in doing exactly what he is doing now: opening the door and setting the table to Make “AmeriKKKa” Great Again—a place where, as Chief Justice Roger B. Taney said in 1857:
“They [Negros] had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect … “
This is where the election has placed us, and millions now bear the responsibility for the racialized impacts with which the rest of us, and our sons and daughters, will have to live.
(Image: 'Voting 1940' from the IIP Photo Archive, via flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)