Christmas may be coming - but in the wake of the most astonishing US Presidential election in living memory, the fear that a cadre of white supremacists may get their hands on the levers of power is growing. And it feels like uncharted territory...
It is too early to attempt a review of the year, 2016. There is still so much that can go wrong in the twelve days that remain, before we have to undertake that distressing mission in earnest, here at Hot Press central. Things have been bad recently. But only a fool would think that they couldn’t get worse. On the other hand, good tidings might yet come to pass. It is after all, the season to be jolly. Perhaps, for example, that wonderful, interventionist God, who as we know helps footballers to score goals, might just strike down the US president elect, Donald Trump, with a bolt of especially severe, and ultimately fatally injurious, lightning. He can do that shit, can’t he?
In my mind’s eye, I see the bolt hitting the President-elect against a background of clear blue sky. Trump is mid-sentence when it happens, in the process of promising a public tender process for the wall that he has pledged to build along the Mexican border (and which he intends one of his own companies to win). In that sweet moment when the lightning connects with his forked fingers, his electrified hair stands up on his head like a parody of a Mohican, and he collapses to the floor, before dissolving into a pool of what, when it is later analysed, turns out to be vomit.
Ah yes. We live in hope. Well, in Dublin actually, but at least there is some hope here.
But for how long? I have to say that even at this remove, it is impossible to feel even remotely festive in the immediate aftermath of a US presidential election, in which the worst candidate since Richard Nixon – and he will almost certainly prove to be worse, far worse, than Tricky Dicky – was able to win the support of enough voters to claim the keys to the White House.
Donal Trump is a liar, a bigot, a fraud and a huckster. He is grossly, repulsively sexist. He is a loud mouth and a bully. And he is horribly, irredeemably racist. And that is all putting it rather nicely and politely.
He has no meaningful policies to offer and no real idea what the role of President entails. But he is carrying a big chip on his shoulder. And in that respect, sadly, he connects with almost all of the worst instincts and attributes of a depressingly large swathe of the American population, most of them ‘white’.
The mantra that springs to mind is this: they are still out there, you know. They are still out there.
On December 1st, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks, a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, was travelling on a bus. When the ‘white section’ of the bus was full, the driver James F. Blake, ordered her to give up her seat in the so called ‘coloured section’ so that a white passenger could sit down. She refused. In doing so, she was in violation of Alabama’s segregation laws, and as a result was charged with civil disobedience.
It was an act of defiance, which is widely seen as having kicked off the modern Civil Rights Movement. At that time, all over the southern States in particular, the US was a flagrantly racist, apartheid society. Throughout the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement mobilised people to challenge the ideology of white supremacism in the United States of America. But like the twisted Afrikaners who took control of South Africa in 1948 and imposed their rule through brute tyranny until their stranglehold was finally wrestled from them in 1994, white American racists did not relinquish their privilege easily. Far from it.
Martin Luther King Jr., an African American Baptist minister, preacher and activist, who advocated non-violent civil disobedience in the pursuit of racial equality, was among the leaders of the burgeoning US civil rights movement in the early 1960s. A powerful orator, he became a figurehead for what was a growing coalition of the righteous. In 1963, he organised the March on Washington, where he delivered the seminal “I Have A Dream” speech. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, for his work in combatting racial prejudice and inequality.
On April 4th, 1968, he was shot dead on the balcony of his hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. Much like the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, a ‘lone gunman’, James Earl Ray, was found guilty of his murder. But that version of events was never accepted by the family of Martin Luther King, who believed that he was the victim of a conspiracy between the Memphis police and the Mafia.
The assassination of Martin Luther King took place less than 50 years ago. There are those in America yet, who think that his brutal murder was not only justified but to be applauded. Many are still alive, who grew up in an atmosphere where lynchings, arson attacks and shootings were seen as legitimate methods of enforcing the ideology of white supremacism. As late as 1981, a young African American, Michael Donald, was murdered in Mobile, Alabama, by two members of the Ku Klux Klan – an organisation dedicated to white American nationalism.
These people have not gone away. Rather, they were biding their time. And an ignorant, unscrupulous and volatile populist demagogue like Donald Trump is potentially their route back centre-stage. The former ‘Grand Wizard’ of the secretive Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, has already put his head above the parapet, to congratulate Donald Trump and to hail the Republican candidate’s victory as one of the most exciting nights of his life.
“Make no mistake about it,” Duke added, “our people have played a HUGE role in electing Trump!”
This is true. Donald Trump would not be President without them. As if to emphasise the fact, Trump has chosen the notorious Republican Senator from Alabama, Jeff Sessions, as his nominee for the job of, wait for it... Attorney General.
In fairness, Sessions is actually a lawyer. However, he is also a climate change sceptic; he has opposed every immigration bill that has come before the Senate over the past two decades; he has attacked legal immigration, including visa programmes for foreign workers in science, maths and technology; he has voted against amendments preventing cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners; and infamously, he joked about the Ku Klux Klan, that he thought they were ok till he discovered that they smoked marijuana.
Not everyone who voted for Donald Trump is a white supremacist. But there is no doubt that, during the election campaign, the Republican candidate tapped into a widespread, simmering resentment, among older white males in particular, of the fact that ‘equality’ has been forced on them. Not just racial equality, but also equality between the sexes.
Trump, of course, also got lucky. By choosing Hillary Clinton as their candidate, the Democrats handed a huge majority of white males to Trump. For this disgruntled demographic, the thought of a woman in the White House was about as attractive as slugging on a litre of rat poison.
In fairness to Democratic strategists, that concession of the white working class male vote to Trump should, in theory, have been more than counterbalanced by African Americans, Latinos, the youth vote and women of every colour and stripe coming out to support Clinton. And, up to a point, that is what happened. But some of those on whom the Clinton campaign had relied seem not to have copped what was going down. There were lots of no shows – and the racist was in.
Exactly how far Donald Trump is prepared to go, to reward the white supremacists who won the election for him, remains to be seen. But on the basis of what we have witnessed so far, we have every reason to be fearful. Trump stands first for his own aggrandisement. But one suspects that, behind the risible facade of incoherent bluster, he is a sleeper supremacist, someone who is prepared to gamble on giving those who want to put blacks and hispanics back in their box the leg room to do so.
Already, parts of the US were at boiling point, a series of extra-judicial killings of African-Americans causing riots and protests. Even without the input of Trump and his cronies, the legal and judicial system in the USA is sickeningly weighted against black people. African Americans represent 12% of the population and 35% of the jail inmates. Their rate of incarceration is six times that of whites.
There are almost one million African Americans in prison in the US. To put that number fully in context, there are more African American men incarcerated in the US than the total prison populations in India, Argentina, Canada, Lebanon, Japan, Germany, Finland, Israel and England combined. There are only 19 million African American males in the United States, whereas collectively the population of those countries adds up to over 1.6 billion people.
The numbers speak for themselves. Even under the country's first African American president, Barack Obama, the united States of America remained a grossly fucked-up country with a justice system that is stacked so heavily against black youth in particular that it amounts to a de facto form of apartheid and oppression. And into that cess-pit of prejudice, vindictiveness and intolerance arrives Donald Trump and a gang of low rent, anti-black, anti-immigrant, would-be Nazis.
Have a very merry Christmas everyone. It just might be your last.
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