Shamefully, the next President of the United States will be an unrepentant racist and sexual predator. Sadly, this can be largely traced back to the majority of white Americans who voted him in, and the anti-democratic Electoral College, but if we look at historical and contemporary phenomena, we can better understand how the tragedy of Donald Trump’s rise to power happened.
The United States was founded on the assumption of white supremacy, black subjugation and disempowerment. Political writer Chauncey De Vega provided the necessary language and context in understanding the term “white supremacy” in his excellent essay titled: “10 things everyone should know about white supremacy.” All of his points are salient as he details the sophistication, cruelty and longevity of white presumptions of authority and dominance. “White supremacy is a complex social phenomenon,” he writes. “It is also a relatively new invention that was created to make Europe’s efforts to colonize and conquer the world seem like a “natural” process wherein “superior” white races would dominate “inferior” non-whites. The Transatlantic slave trade was pivotal for the invention of race by creating a sense of group stigma and a belief in the concrete biological differences between white Europeans and Africans.”
As we can see, the social construction of race and white supremacy by white elites was based on a biological lie that was rooted purely in self-interest. What followed was a systematic effort to destroy black lives physically, emotionally and psychologically in this country. White elites knew this could not be done effectively unless they created a sense of superiority amongst the larger white population. White elites knew the building of this nation under inhumane conditions and experiences that it inflicted on black bodies needed white American complicity and the denial of its implications.
The white political founders of America deceitfully claimed “all men are created equal,” even though 18 United States presidents enslaved black bodies under the pretense of economic expansion. Legalized enslavement lasted over 246 years, and could not have happened without white American complicity. America’s bloodiest internal war, the Civil War demonstrated how embedded the idea of white supremacy was to the fabric of this nation.
White supremacy continued to impose itself throughout American history. Brief moments of political black empowerment during Reconstruction was met with white retribution and reestablishment of white supremacy through laws, intimidation and judicial activism. Lynching black people was considered neighborhood forms of white entertainment. The Tulsa race riots of 1921 highlighted how Black affluence can be destroyed without repercussion. White supremacy was legalized through segregation — white and colored bathrooms, water fountains and schools were commonplace. Jim Crow laws, housing and bank discrimination legislation were passed to maintain white privilege and advantage. The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King can be viewed as a violent response to the psychological and practical implications of his message of shared hopes and prosperity for Black Americans.
Fast forwarding to 2008, voters decided American history needed to be bent in a more noble direction and elected its first Black President, Barack Obama. While his improbable rise to the most powerful and influential position in the world was met with great affection, more ominously, his election was deemed unacceptable by the largest white nationalist political organization in the world, the Republican Party.
During Obama’s time in office, the Republican Party set out to politically destroy his presidency and attempted to exert white supremacy whenever possible. President Obama experienced unprecedented obstruction of his policies, the callous use of the filibuster, and even had his Supreme Court nominee blocked.
It seems the Republican Party wanted to send a message to white America, and all Americans, that the very idea of a Black President is unworthy of any validation, legitimacy or recognition of goodness. We will no doubt see this play out again as Republicans and the Trump administration attempt to dismantle Obama’s legislative accomplishments.
Republican legislatures across the country have exerted white supremacy with voter suppression laws aimed primarily at black citizens and contributed to depressed turnout in states across the country. The success of coordinated black disempowerment is not possible without the silent complicity of white Americans. Republicans in Flint, Michigan were responsible for the poisoning of a whole community of black citizens with contaminated water. Again, this could not have happened without the complicity and denial of white Americans in that state.
Unsurprisingly, Republican recklessness and irresponsibility has been rewarded with record breaking Republican governorships, the historic flip of House of Representatives from Democrats to Republicans and a return to Senate majority. Also during the Obama era, we’ve seen the Republican Party purposely elevate Steve Scalise, a man who called himself “David Duke without the baggage” to the 3rd ranking member in the House of Representatives.
Now in 2016, America’s enduring legacy of white supremacy and white nationalism helped propel Donald Trump to becoming the next President of the United States. Donald Trump was able to capture 63% of white male vote and 53% of white female vote. A majority of white Americans cast their vote for a man who ran a consistent campaign of bigotry, hatred and racial division. A majority of white Americans decided to vote for a man who outwardly appealed to white entitlement and violence that will come to Americans who are Black, Native, Hispanic, Asian, Jewish and part of the LGBTQ community. In fact, it is already happening as there have been over 700 reported incidents of racial or gender assault.
Trump’s misogyny and boastful claims of engaging in sexual predatory behavior may encourage further sexual assault and domestic violence across the country. Donald Trump is a 70 year old man with an extensive history of making racist statements and implementing racist actions. Since becoming president elect, his closest advisor in the Oval office will be Steve Bannon, a known white nationalist and his attorney general will be Jeff Sessions, a long opponent of civil rights and immigration.
White voters for Trump cannot claim innocence, shock or surprise. It is naïve to expect a man who has been racist all his life, to be less racist once if he is given more power.
The world is laughing at our country and Americans are fearful about what lies ahead knowing that a racist, unstable and insecure man has reached the apex of political power.
America will need to come together and resist the worst of what’s to come and fight for a country that can be better than this. But it cannot be done under the terms of white centrality and control. It cannot be done with white complicity and denial about injustice, pain and unfairness that may result from a Trump presidency. It cannot be done consoling white resentment. And it cannot be done by denying how we made Donald Trump, the symbol of American democracy.
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