I have been trying to write a response to Trump’s election, over the last few days, that is an actual reflection of what I think.
I’ve sat down at my computer at least three different times, typed for at least an hour each time, and come back each time and deleted what I wrote because it sounded canned. It had this ingratiating tone that no one that’s reading deserves, in my opinion. We’re all culpable here, including me.
A couple of days ago, in the afternoon College Writing course I teach on Thursdays, one of my students–a young Middle Eastern man–asked me if I really thought Trump would make America worse as its leader.
And I told him–my parents are the “right” kind of black people. They’re bootstrap black people. My mother’s parents were high school graduates. My father’s mother taught school, and his father worked his entire career at Ford, in a factory in Detroit. Neither family was rich, but both families valued religion and education. My parents were raised to do better than their parents, and that’s what they did. They pursued the American Dream with respectability and righteousness.
My mother earned her undergraduate degree on an academic scholarship. My father paid for his college education, at a state school, by working in a copper and brass plant. He pledged Kappa. He went to law school right after graduating from undergrad. He married my mother about two years after they met.
My mother worked her way through her master’s program, paying as she went. It took her seven years, but she never quit. She earned her MA in English and became a college instructor. My father was a prosecutor and worked for the EEOC before going into private practice while I was in high school. My mother became a college administrator before she returned to school at 40 to earn her Ph.D. and become a professor. She took another seven years to earn that degree, and she worked the entire time, teaching as an adjunct alternately at five different local colleges.
At the same time that they were doing all of that, my parents attended church just about every Sunday; they voted in every major and minor election; they paid their taxes and their bills; and they donated to charities at the holidays.
They weathered their storms and stayed married (they’re still married). There was never any infidelity or abuse in their marriage. They maintained close ties to their families of birth and out-of-town relations. They built a stable home for my sister and me in the suburbs.
They raised two daughters that both earned undergraduate and graduate degrees. My sister also earned two trade certifications. She’s a cosmetologist and make-up artist. I’m an adjunct English instructor, blogger, and mother.
We are the “right” kind of black people, too–by the sweat of our parents and the Grace of God. Neither of us has ever been to jail. We are both employed and financially independent.
My sister is devoutly religious. I am deeply committed to my spirituality. We are both devoted to our family. We work hard. We try mightily to defy all the negative stereotypes of black people and black women.
We spread love. We give back. We recycle. We read books. We vote.
Yet–I told my student–I am terrified that if any of us is caught out, alone, and off-guard by one of Trump’s more vicious followers, it’ll be an ironic moment in which all that matters is our blackness.
We may get attacked because with all his campaign talk about “the blacks”–his depiction of the majority of our community as unemployed, uneducated, violent, drug-addicted, welfare-dependent, and lacking in decency and agency–Trump has substantiated the stereotypes that many white people have about blacks, justified their anti-black sentiments, and made them think their hate speech or hate crimes will be overlooked, or they will be exonerated by law enforcement, in “his” America.
My student was stunned into silence by my candor. He is 19; he is still accustomed to the adults in his life lying to him to make him feel better about his fears, and I’m pretty sure he expected me to say some reassuring bullshit that would make him feel safe and hopeful. And a week earlier, I probably would have done that. I won’t even lie.
But Trump’s election has flicked a switch in me; it has made me examine all the beliefs with which I have been indoctrinated about how I “should” act publicly.
So I stepped out from behind my well-meaning persona and did what I felt for once. I answered my student as me. I’ve decided to answer all of my students’ questions about being black in America as me from now on.
And I will write my blog as me and let the chips fall in terms of the numbers of readers I lose or gain.
Because I’m tired. I’m sick, and I’m tired, and I’m tired of being sick and tired.
I have stupidly believed for years that if I tempered my very healthy sense of rage, I would make my life easier as a black woman in America.
Of course, this belief has been disproven dozens of times over, just like the belief that going to college would gain me stable, profitable employment; doing the “right” thing will reap consistent external rewards; most people are fundamentally “good” people; and, oh yeah, America is an enlightened culture.
Still, I’ve held to this effort to be “approachable.” I’ve tried to be “open,” even when people are reeling off all kinds of groundless reasons for their bigoted behavior at me. I’ve forced myself to engage with student’s disparaging comments about black people or black women like they were valid intellectual points rather than calling these students on their passive-aggressive attempts to undermine me and inviting them out of my classroom.
I’ve kept my anger, frustration, disgust, and acidity bottled up because I’ve been taught, since I was little, that they would do nothing but scare people off or get me into “trouble” with authorities.
Even on this blog, I’ve been very careful to be as cerebral as possible in talking about race, and the emotion I’ve expressed most often is regret that black people still have to fight so hard for equality.
I’ve tried everything I could to avoid being labeled an “angry black woman,” even though I know such efforts are typically a waste of time.
Experience has taught me that only open-minded people will take the time to pay attention to my behavior before they judge me. People that dislike or distrust black people or women will either view me as an exception to this or that stereotype or ignore my individuality and type me anyway, no matter what I do.
So it’s cowardly to play along with people’s fears of black female anger and pretend to be less powerful than I am. It doesn’t gain me anything except false acceptance from scared whites and weak men.
I know that false acceptance may make me feel “safe” in the world, but it doesn’t make me safe, and pursuing it keeps me from feeling whole and fully accepting myself. Still, I routinely feign this oppressive amiability because I have been indoctrinated by the belief that acting a certain way will make me seem like less of a threat.
That’s what my parents, teachers, the media, America, white people have all taught me: playing “nicely” with people will make me seem less deserving of hate. It will protect me from racist and sexist discrimination and violence.
Fuck all that now, though. Because I can’t think of more grandiose act of violence White America could’ve committed against me than electing a President whose campaign was run on antiblack bigotry, blatant misogyny, ableist derision, and racist xenophobic and Islamophobic propaganda, spelled out in promises to–
- build a wall along the Mexican border (that will likely prove topographically impossible, but not before billions of dollars are wasted on its speculation and planning)
- end all “unwanted” government programs (which will invariably include those that significantly (NOTE: not primarily) benefit minorities, such as TANF and SNAP)
- beef up school voucher programs and eradicate the Department of Education (which will not equalize education on a wide scale or do anything to significantly improve the achievement or discipline gaps)
- ban Muslims from entering the US (which would be nothing but an indulgence of America’s rampant Islamophobia since the primary terrorist threats in the Western Hemisphere come from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), which continued to commit the majority of terrorist attacks in the region)
- ban immigration from all regions of the world experiencing high volumes of terrorism (which would prevent innocents fleeing terrorists from emigrating to the US for safety, going against our august history of sheltering refugees)
- repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act (which has fostered the highest rates of Americans with health insurance in our history)
- refrain from supporting further gun purchase reform (despite the astronomical number of gun deaths in this country)
- deport illegal immigrants living in the US (rather than making efforts to naturalize them)
- consider instituting stop-and-frisk policies at the federal level
(He has also insinuated he may end marriage equality as well as stop access to legal, safe abortions.)
Trump won the White House by vilifying and scapegoating Mexicans and Muslims and profiling blacks. He has jettisoned political correctness and civility in public discourse and emboldened white racists, xenophobes, homophobes, ableists, and misogynists (rapists). He has bloated White America’s senses of superiority and entitlement and sharpened the fangs and claws on its monstrous supremacy. All for what seems to amount to nothing more than attention and gratification of his ego (he is 71 entering politics for the first time, after losing credibility as a mogul and appeal as a television celebrity).
What he has vowed and what he has unleashed all threaten to wreak unwarranted havoc on the lives of millions of Americans and destroy at least a sizable patch of the fabric of our democracy.
So fuck it. All fictional bets are off. Because the critical mass of Americans playing along with his antics, in one or another, is what has gotten us to this massively dysfunctional place.
I’m not pointing a self-righteous finger here, for the record. Like I said before, I’m no more innocent than anyone else.
I did what I was taught to do in the face of such an ominous threat. I went “high.” I didn’t complain about the mistakes I thought the party was making. I was a loyal Democrat.
I watched the entire DNC. I cried at the poignant video that accompanied Hillary’s address. I made my daughter get off of the computer on which she was playing Mind Craft to come see history being made.
I checked and double-checked my voter status. I shared and wrote my own posts about why it was important for “us” to vote and vote for Hillary. I went to the polls and cast that vote. I took my daughter with me so she could learn the importance of women in the political process, the importance of blacks in politics, and, of course, the importance of voting.
I maintained my belief–all the way up until about 10:00 the night of the election–that White America–the demographic majority–had had its fun, but wouldn’t be so stupid–YES, I SAID STUPID–as to elect a racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, ableist, misogynistic, mediocre, uninformed, inexperienced, inarticulate, narcissistic new-school robber baron to office. But fuck me: I was wrong.
Trump is a sterling example of one thing only–he is not the straight-shooting outsider his supporters keep insisting he is–he will not give them their jobs back–Trump is the American capitalist that is ALL about the exploitation of internationalism to maximize profit.
He talks shit about on-shoring, but his brand ties, sports jackets, cufflinks, and eyeglass frames are made in China. His brand shirts are made in Bangladesh. He makes a big show of refusing to eat Oreos because Nabisco has a plant in Mexico, but Trump has purchased expensive amounts of Chinese steel and aluminum to complete some of his recent constructions jobs rather than giving that money to American corporations. He criticizes Apple and Nike, and opposes immigration, but he has been using illegal immigrants on his construction projects since 1980. He is deceptive, manipulative, power-hungry, and unscrupulous.
If I can turn up evidence of these facts by conducting a few elementary Google searches and synthesizing what’s been reported on Trump with what he has said, then so could any other person that cared to know some semblance of the truth about him.
But the overwhelming majority of white people that voted for Trump didn’t want to know the truth about him. They wanted him to win despite being unqualified for the office by his lack of experience, lack of integrity, lack of decency, and lack of emotional stability or maturity.
They made their choice, so I am making mine. I won’t play the indoctrinated role of the “good” American in the face of such a rejection by my country and fellow citizens.
I’m going to say what I want to say and damn whatever anyone thinks. You don’t like it? Stop reading and following my blog.
I am filled with fury at the absurdity and unfairness of this entire situation. I think that it was completely avoidable, and measures were not taken to avoid it at the highest levels of our government and by the corporate media because Trump’s election would ultimately hurt nonwhite, undocumented, disabled, and LGBTQIA people the most.
America fell back on “tradition” and failed to end Trump’s political ascension because it is always willing to sacrifice all but its most precious demographic–white men–in order to maintain the economic status quo.
As a black person in America, you listen your whole life as white people–not all, but a lot–make all of these overt and implicit arguments about their so-called superiority as a means of substantiating their social supremacy.
This certain population of white people is constantly either stating outright, or they are insinuating, that black people are stupid, lazy, amoral or immoral, unsophisticated, violent, inhumane, and ultimately undeserving of fairness, equality, decent treatment, and even the rights of American citizenship, despite the fact that no meritocratic stipulations are made on these by the Constitution.
This same population is always hyping its own intrinsic goodness. Its members constantly fall back on that refrain. They are just “decent people” that want what they deserve and have been promised.
I read something on Facebook yesterday that trotted out this same old song–just the way we do the National Anthem before sports events: Trump supporters are decent people that made a bad decision.
I am going to say this, and I may lose a lot of you right here, but so be it: Trump supporters are not decent people.
Decent people don’t willfully hurt others for their own benefit. They may accidentally or inadvertently hurt other people, but Trump’s election is no accident, and the potential for the harm it is currently causing was evident throughout the entire span of his campaign.
I get why people say Trump supporters are “decent.” Because people do not want to believe that other people with which they share a planet (country, state, city, neighborhood, block, house) would make such a stupid, self-centered decision about such an important matter.
They don’t want to believe that millions of people that are called what they are called (white, American, human), and grouped in with them conceptually, could possibly subject millions of strangers to derision, disfranchisement, abasement, and abuse, just so they can reap some minor, transient benefit (because does the government ever permanently solve anyone’s problems?) like a tax break. Or an even more insubstantial benefit like the freedom to pretend that black people or Mexican people or gay people are ruining their lives. But that’s exactly what Trump’s supporters did.
So they are not “decent” people–because no definition of that word–no matter how insipid that word is–encompasses subjecting other people to the storm of hate that has been unleashed in this country since Trump began his campaign last year.
They are not decent people. They did not make impulsive decisions to vote for Trump. They had a year to decide.
They employed their rationality, and they either looked at the facts or willfully ignored them, and they decided that Trump should be President and do all of the things he promised, no matter who those things would hurt. Or whether they would lead to a cataclysmic rift in our culture on a par with the battle over slavery or not.
I keep hearing people say that “we”–those of us that oppose Trump–need to stop criticizing this decision to elect Trump–that our “condescending” way of talking about Trump supporters is what pushed them to vote for Trump. I call bullshit.
Human beings have this uncanny way of characterizing every problem they encounter as being somehow under their control. They have this tendency to imagine that they could’ve prevented any bad thing from happening if they had only exercised some other choice. And maybe that’s true.
But I honestly don’t think that we that oppose Trump could’ve “urged” those that support him to vote for Hillary by being “nice.” I think the only entity in the nation that could’ve stopped Trump was the Republican Party, and its leadership, voters, and electors purposely refused to stop him, and they should be held absolutely accountable for that.
If we that oppose Trump wanted him to lose, then we should’ve been honest about the election from the outset. Eight years of a black President was a lot for America to handle, and a large segment of the population–the segment that voted for Trump last Tuesday–resented the hell out of every second.
They weren’t going to elect a woman because she couldn’t vindicate the loss of the most powerful political office in the nation to a nigger. Obama’s haters needed a white man in office to feel like this was “their” country again. They weren’t going to elect Hillary, and they weren’t going to elect Bernie or any of the other Republican options because they were already in play politically and had let Obama grow powerful enough to actually affect the landscape of this country on their watch. These Presidential hopefuls had, in the minds of Obama haters, cow-towed to Obama in one way or another, and they needed to be punished for that by being denied the Presidency themselves.
These people I’m talking about are whites that understand they are members of the privileged race, but they can never be elected President because of their lack of education, intelligence, opportunity, and appeal. Yet, they derive worth from their so-called supremacy, even if it is a myth whose unreality they secretly know. These white people could only stomach that they could never be President when the President was a white person; the men can only stomach that they could never be President if the President is a man, and the women can only stomach that they could never be President if the President is a man. That way, they can still feel “better than” than the people to which they are “supposed to” be superior. But a black President ripped away that illusion that they are better than “everyone else.”
Obama’s election and successful administration enraged this segment of whites. We call them Angry White Men, and they are mad–because they are poor, they are lacking in empathy and compassion, they are uneducated, and Obama is not. He and Michelle make it very hard for them to feel proud of themselves.
These angry whites wanted their anger to be recognized and validated in this election, and only Trump was willing to step outside of the bounds of political correctness and custom and do that for them. So they flocked to him. The only thing the Democrats could’ve done at that point to win them back was to run a vital, young white man with Obama’s charisma and a more conservative agenda and leave Hillary and Bernie in the dust. Or they could’ve put the young man in front and Bernie in back as the wide, old advisor–a Democratic Cheney to their bright, shining W.
But, no, the Democrats thought they could squeeze in a woman on the goodwill extended to the first black President. Why they thought it should be Hillary–with her controversial past and connection to one of last century’s most controversial Presidents–only the higher-ups on the Hill know.
That’s neither here nor there at this point. The electors could vote Hillary in on the 19th–just like the Republican electors could’ve stopped Trump’s official nomination during the RNC last summer–but they won’t, just like those Republican electors didn’t. Trump will take office in January, and he probably won’t do everything he’s promised, but he’ll do enough, I’m sure, to make millions of Americans’ lives more uncomfortable and unhappy than they already are. Including those of his supporters when he fails to give them back an America that has never even belonged to them in the first place. That has always belonged to men like Trump, who have just allowed the rest of us to lease a place here with our blood, sweat, tears, and consumer dollars.
Again, Americans like to say that they’re brave. But we’re not. Brave Americans wouldn’t try to flee the fact that whites won’t be such a vast majority in the next few years. They’d deal with the prospect of losing a degree of their hegemony with the same grace so many other groups have dealt with their complete lack of hegemony.
Brave Americans could live in an actual meritocracy without constantly trying to rig the system in their favor then discredit every effort to call out or disassemble their rigging.
Brave Americans wouldn’t attack and assault people that look different or live differently than they do in order to feel good about themselves. They would face their limitations and problems and deal with them in a more decent and productive way rather than using cruelty like a fucking opioid to soothe the existential pain of living in a capitalist society as a Ninety-Nine Percenter.
Oh, am I talking exclusively about Trump followers right now? Let me be fair. Because we Democrats are no better. Whether or not we think we are.
If we were brave, we would’ve faced the ugly truth about the potential of losing the election by running Hillary. We would’ve faced how repressed and reactionary our country really is.
If we were brave, we would call out and correct the disingenuous way we all talk about this country’s problems, diminishing their magnitude in the attempt to make ourselves feel–and look–better.
If we were brave, we would stop accepting traditional institutions and practices–like the electoral college–that perpetuate white supremacy and work as hard as we can until they were either completely overhauled or eradicated.
If we were brave, we could say something like what I am about to say now–that I would never say before this: I am not unifying with Trump followers. I don’t care what anyone says.
I am not reconciling myself to his election or with his minion.
A reconciliation can only happen when two parties that have been involved in a conflict come together, admit what has gone wrong, own their part in the situation, and pledge to go forward with a plan of action that allows them to peacefully coexist or work together productively in the future. What Trump and his followers want is forgiveness, and I don’t forgive them. The indecency with which they’ve conducted–and continue to conduct–themselves is not to be forgiven by someone like me.
If Trump wants me to reconcile myself to his leadership, he should at least ask for forgiveness. He has said that he will be “everyone’s President,” but he has not indicated that he was merely being strategic or admitted that it was corrupt of him to stir up a shit storm of antagonism in order to be elected.
Until he says out of his mouth that he exploited the baser nature of White America like no modern candidate before him in order to win the White House, I will not respect him. I will continue to regard him as a shyster that cheated his way into office.
If Trump followers want me to unify with them in support of their President, then they need to stop fucking with people. Period. There is no way that I’m going to “calm down” and become docile and submissive when Trump followers all over the country are attacking innocent people out of their sick sense of entitlement.
Forgiving your oppressor while your oppressor is actively perpetuating your oppression is being complicit in your oppression. It’s fucking suicidal.
Trump went on “60 Minutes” tonight and pretended not to know that a number of his followers have committed some pretty heinous acts over the last few days, in “celebration” of his election; he told these perpetrators to stop, but he didn’t acknowledge the role he played in getting them stirred up. He blamed the media.
Like I said before, decent people take responsibility for what they do. Effective leaders do, too. Trump still isn’t owning his malfeasance, and I don’t think any of this madness incited by his campaign rhetoric will die down to any degree until he does.
Even then, it probably won’t improve the situation that drastically because Trump has revealed something that America denies with the same regularity Trump denies everything that doesn’t fit in with his megalomaniacal view of himself: there are a lot of bigots in America that have no desire to overcome their bigotry whatsoever.
They feel as oppressed by political correctness as minorities do by white supremacy, and they have been praying for a time like now, in which they can act on their antipathy toward the Other without compunction.
To them, and anyone that supports or defends them, including Trump, I offer a big middle finger and my heartiest wish that they get to feel, at some point, the stress of existing in such a traumatic–yes, traumatic–state as my fellow Other Americans and I are in.
I know it doesn’t “mean” anything or change anything, but I think that one of the first significant steps America can make toward change is to speak honestly about its problems–like Jeff Daniels’s character said in that famous scene from “The Newsroom.”
America is not a great country. It is a country riddled with issues and plagued by assholes. It has a President-elect that communicates at a sixth grade level and acts with a six-year-old’s emotional maturity. It has a government that is hampered in fake morality and flaccid tradition with a grossly distorted sense of duty to an antiquated framing document that it flatly refuses to amend and make useful once again.
We–its people–will not educate ourselves on what it means to be a democracy, even though we are constantly crowing about being a democracy. We will not stand up for our freedom and the rights granted us as citizens, even though we are a democracy. We will not even exercise our right to vote, although we are always bragging about it in our self-congratulatory rhetoric about how “great” we are as a country.
I would generally insert some well-meaning platitude right here about how we all need to do better, and we do need to do better, but I am not going to volunteer to lead that effort by laying down my anger and outrage when all that will likely do is make it that much easier for Trump’s followers to go forward with their seeming plans to replicate whatever historical apex of white supremacy-slash-terrorism here in 2016.
I will fight that effort with everything I have in me. I will stay mad and vocal. I will channel that emotion into action whenever I can. I will speak truth to power, and I will use my power to propagate truth.
I will not give in to any pressure to be a “bigger person,” especially if that means I have to accept Trump’s America as my America and participate in it as a willing victim.
My indoctrination may say I should honor the office, if not the man, but I won’t honor either until I am given a legitimate reason to do so.
No. Let him honor me–his citizen–first.