America’s Vote

    “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)

    A. Adar Ayira is director of programs at Associated Black Charities, the region’s only African-American philanthropic organization providing coordinated leadership on issues impacting Maryland’s communities of color. Adar is also a founding member and Advisory Board Member of Baltimore Racial Justice Action, a nonprofit organization committed to social and economic transformation and equity. The opinions and views shared here are her own, and do not represent those of Associated Black Charities or Baltimore Racial Justice Action.


    1. I’m troubled with this analysis. A racial equity lens isn’t going to help any of us now. It’s interesting to blame all white people for voting for Trump, but the truth is that a majority of white people voted for Hillary and 3 million more total voted for HRC over the racist-in-chief. There is plenty of blame to go around (a campaign run on “I’m with Her” and “He’s Unfit” vs real issues that could galvanize black and white equally [Bernie], voter suppression in NC, Wisc, and Ohio, and the media’s inability to understand when a demagogue is running and how to deal with that appropriately, a TERRIBLE ground game to get Dem voters out)…

      But the raw fact is that for the lack of 80,000 votes, both black and white, Trump prevailed in the undemocratic Electoral College system. And if you want to pay attention to the four fingers pointing back at you as you point at white people, “…in 2012, there were 16,938,006 Black voter ballots counted out of a total of 130.3 million ballots nationally. That translates into an alarming 11.4 percent reduction in Black votes between both presidential election cycles.” —Philadelphia Tribune

      Yes, millions now bear responsibility. If Trump was an existential crisis for the black community so specifically, then why didn’t that community turn out in even larger numbers? My point is that blaming white people, who to be fair deserve A LOT of blame for a lot of things, in this case is useless. Just like blaming black people for NOT voting in their own best interest isn’t helpful….at all. I get the anger, but how about going back to the drawing board and finding a conversation and a calling that can get us all together to fight the monster as best we can?

    2. Peter,

      Thank you for your comment!

      A racial equity lens is even MORE essential now to surface and offer some meager measure of protection from an incoming administration that has long signaled (through an 18+ month campaign) a hostility to Black people, Brown people, and immigrants (many of whom are considered other than white-in-America). Having such a lens allows all to look at potential negative racialized impacts of proposed legislation and policy BEFORE it happens, as opposed to AFTER, when we are playing catch-up in organizing and advocating for something more equitable. American history gives us example after example of policy that, on the face of it, has a “universalist” frame but racialized targeting and implementation. To expect an incoming administration that ran an explicitly racialized campaign to change that in its governing flies in the face of the prophetic advice shared by the great Maya Angelou: when people tell you who they are, believe them.

      Peter, noting both the overwhelming whiteness of Trump voters and the resonance of his explicitly racialized messaging with those white voters, is not “blaming all white people.” It is acknowledging what we saw and the impact of that vote on those of us who are not white-in-America.

      I hope that the impact of that vote on people of color troubles you more than my acknowledging the racialized nature of the vote.

      I agree with you about the lower voter turnout in African American communities. This is only the beginning, I fear, of the results of the gutting of the Voting Rights Act. There were an estimated 868 FEWER voting places in communities of color in this, the first presidential election since the VRA was gutted. We will see even more of these types of voter suppression efforts in communities of color.

      Clearly there is work to do. And when you look at the racialization of the vote, I think we should start that work where those votes did: with white people. Again, that is not “blaming” white people. It is putting a potential strategy for and area where action is needed on that drawing board.

      In Peace,


    3. The outcome of the election was devastating to many of us white people, and more telling, the outcome was surprising. We have not been paying attention to the breadth and depth of the racist foundations of the United States, nor the incredible backlash against our first African American president. We have tried to distance ourselves from that – “I voted for Hillary,” or “I would have voted for Bernie,” or “I just don’t understand how this happened.”

      If you look at exit poll statistics, the people who voted for Trump – white men and women, with and without college degrees; age 45 and over; incomes of $50,000 and up; rural or suburban residence (historically white and geographically engineered to be so); Christians (Catholic and Protestant); Heterosexual; cis-gender; whose most important issues are immigration and terrorism (both related to the browning of the U.S. & fear politics); who feel the condition of the economy is only fair and who feel the direction of the country is seriously off-track (even though they are making $50,000 or more) – have one thing that binds them together: the fear of a browning United States.

      These are the most entitled groups of people in the history of the United States, and they are so because they created it to be so. It’s time for us white people who really don’t want to be a part of that to concretely show we will not stand for it. What’s been stopping us? We’re afraid? We don’t know what to do? We didn’t realize it was so bad? We MUST move past those barriers and support communities of color who have already been in the trenches.


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