- 10 Nov 16
More white women voted for Donald Trump than for Hillary Clinton. And as for white men? They were even worse. The questions is: why? And the answer? Trump’s victory is an endorsement of white racism...
ON TRUMP'S VICTORY AND THE UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTH ABOUT WHITENESS
Since I moved to San Francisco in 2014, I’ve been accused of “getting all PC” in regards to race. I’ve been told I’m getting “too sensitive”, that I talk about race “too much.” Articles I write get edited to erase my discussions of “white men” and “white people.” I get frequent hate mail calling me a “whiteist”, apparently the new word for a “race traitor.”
I had a conversation with my family when Gerry Adams sent out his infamous tweet that included the N-word, getting frustrated when they used defences of “But he worked with Nelson Mandela”, and “It was a stupid thing to say, but he’s not a racist.”
I retorted angrily.
“Of course he’s a fucking racist. We’re all racist. We’re all taught to be racist. We learn it through osmosis, through the media. It’s the default. We have to unlearn racism. I’m fucking trying, but I’m still racist. Probably in ways I don’t even realise. So are you.”
Everyone rolled their eyes, laughed at me. There was a chorus of “that’s ridiculous.” The conversation moved on. I felt a bit bad for dragging the mood down.
I’m done feeling bad. Because what I’ve been saying for years has been proven. Racism exists everywhere, in our friends, in our relatives, in ourselves.
And in America, that racism is heightened a hundred-fold.
My awareness of this is not unique – people of colour have always known this. It’s also because of some of these people of colour that I was able to study and learn about how layered, complicated, and inescapable, systematic and institutional racism in America is. My professors in San Francisco State University, my classmates, my ex-boyfriend, my friends, my flatmates, the poets and writers and activists and scholars who I’ve had the privilege of knowing: all of these people let me ask stupid, ill-informed questions, used up their physical and emotional energy answering me, guided me towards books and resources that would heighten my understanding.
I’m eternally grateful to those people, who I think were so generous with their time and energy because they recognized one trait I had, which made these conversations possible: I was open to being uncomfortable, and hearing hard truths.
So. Given that our world’s uncomfortable, hard truth is that Trump is now President of the United States of America, here’s another uncomfortable, hard truth, that we can no longer hide from.
White people are fucking terrible.
White people in America have historically proven themselves to be particularly fucking terrible.
But all white people benefit, and enjoy white privilege, and consume racist messages and media without question, and avoid conversations, and uncomfortable truths, and change the subject, and feel threatened by people of colour, and get upset when people say that white people are terrible.
White people have, throughout history, literally told every other demographic of humanity that they’re Other, and therefore terrible. And made laws and created media to support that assertion. And killed masses of people, all the while blaming them for being terrible, because they were not white.
Trust me, white people can survive with just hearing that we’re terrible.
Here’s how white being terrible just resulted in the most powerful nation in the world electing the most under-qualified, explicitly racist, homophobic, misogynistic, sexual assaulting candidate imaginable. It was this ridiculous, self-serving slogan...
"MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN"
America was never great. The past was never great. For anyone who is not a white man, America has been a land that legally sold, killed, controlled, raped, devalued and silenced your people.
Trump's slogan was designed to play into white people’s sense of ownership over America, and their fear of sharing their power or surrendering their dominant group status.
It plays on the anti- Mexican, anti-Black and anti-Muslim rhetoric that Trump has always espoused, and is a coded endorsement of white supremacy, at any cost – as long as the cost is borne by people of colour. It is a refusal to look at history through anything other than whitewashed glasses that have had the bloodstains conveniently washed off.
WHITE PEOPLE VOTED TRUMP
63% of white men voted for Trump. 80% of black men voted for Clinton.
53% of white women voted for Trump. 93% of black women voted for Clinton.
Literally no polls predicted that Trump would win, or that white people would vote for him in such large numbers. This suggests that a huge number of Trump voters lied in polls about who they were going to support. I believe this is because a great many white people who publically claim to be progressive kept their voting preference private, knowing that openly supporting a racist, misogynistic sexual abuser would be derided.
The fact that white voters were ashamed enough of their Trump vote to conceal it, but not ashamed enough not to vote for him, is emblematic of the most insidious form of modern racism. It is concealed, uttered behind closed doors and polling booths. It is excusing bigotry against others, in order to promote self-serving causes. It is silent complicity. It is the active refusal to empathise with others, or learn, or examine one’s own prejudices. It’s “I’m Not Racist, But...” in a vote.
This is what modern racism, misogyny and bigotry looks like. It has a few loudly open supporters, who are written off as extremists and lunatics, and therefore nothing to worry about. All the while, masses of people secretly champion these bigoted views, all the while making polite, carefully edited conversation to conceal their support.
For those who claimed they voted Trump for his economic policies, what a privilege it is to be able to look past a candidate’s racism because it doesn’t affect you.
And for white women who voted Trump, how deep must your racism run, for you to vote for a man who condones your sexual assault, just so your dominance over women of colour is re-asserted.
RACIST VOTING LAWS STOPPED PEOPLE OF COLOUR VOTING FOR CLINTON
People of colour overwhelmingly came out and voted for Clinton despite racist Voter ID and restriction laws that deliberately and systematically target people of colour, and prevent them from voting. The U.S. criminal justice system is notoriously racist, targeting, convicting and imprisoning people of colour at terrifyingly high rates. While black men make up only 13% of America’s population, they represent 40% of the population that is imprisoned.
Voting restriction laws include preventing people who have been convicted of a felony from voting; the are laws that target people of colour. These laws have been pushed and enforced by Republicans, and intensely heightened over the past 2 years. This year, more people with felony convictions were barred from voting than any election in U.S. history.
Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania , Wisconcin, Nevada and Ohio all have laws that deliberately target people of colour and stop them from voting – which won Trump the election.
Florida, for example, stopped 1.7 million 'convicted felons' from voting in the Presidential election. Trump won Florida by 100,000 votes, or 1%. With Florida holding 55 electoral votes, had Hillary won Florida, she likely would have won the election.
America’s prison system and voting restrictions are – in the words of scholar Michelle Alexander, who wrote the book of the same title – The New Jim Crow, systematically relegating millions of people to a permanent second-class status.
WHITE RAGE AND RETALIATON
American history is defined by white people retaliating against any move towards racial equality. As explored in depth in Carol Anderson’s book White Rage, America has always defined its issues as “racial tension.” This is a misnomer, that indicates that both white people and people of colour are to blame. White people alone have fuelled deliberate and relentless attacks on people of colour, preventing them from fully participating in democracy. The end of the Civil War and Reconstruction was followed by the Black Codes and Jim Crow. A landmark case in racial equality in education, Brown v. Board of Education, resulted in white people shutting down public schools and promoting private, white-only schools. The Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act triggered the so-called “War On Drugs”, "War On Crime”, and “Southern Strategy” – all governmental movements designed to imprison people of colour, particularly black people.
Barack Obama was elected the first black president of the United States.
White people then voted for Donald Trump.
White people have repeatedly, systematically responded to movements towards racial equality by pushing people of colour out of democracy. These violences are again based on fears of losing dominance and supremacy – fears that are not spoken about, because most white people aren’t racist, right?
WHAT HAS TO BE DONE NOW
There is one sliver of hope from the election results.
The overwhelming majority of millenials voted for Clinton, demonstrating that young people are significantly more socially progressive and empathetic than the older generations.
But young people are influenced by what they see in politics and in the media, and many get more conservative as they get older. We need to tap into this passion and zeal for equality now.
And we do that by talking – and even more so, by listening. White people are obligated to ask questions, and to listen.
To the lived experiences of people who are oppressed and harmed by a system that benefits white people. To scholars and activists and experts who have always and continue to offer insight into how systematic and institutional bigotry affects those with less privilege than we have. To conversations that don’t feel like they concern us, because they’re about race – and we’re white, what does race mean to us?
And we have to have to ask tough questions of ourselves. What have we had the privilege of not knowing? What have we chosen not to learn? What bigoted systems and legislations and politicians and governmental bodies do we benefit from, while they oppress and harm others? What casual racism do we condone and remain silent about, and thus become complicit in?
And we have to accept that we will not like some of the answers. Answers about our ignorance. About our privilege. About our unwillingness to do the work to unlearn our racism. About our resistance to accepting what we have benefitted from historically, and continue to benefit from, at the expense of people of colour. About the legacy of whiteness. And about our ability to accept uncomfortable, hard truths about ourselves.
Let me start you off with one thought: White people are fucking terrible.
Sit with it. Let it grow. Let it fuel you, to do the work.
Then do the work.
This process is the only way that progress can be made. It's the only way Trump's victory can result in progress. It’s the only way the awful truth of Trump’s win can be undone.