I’ve seen some very oblivious white people in my Facebook feed claiming that this election couldn’t possibly have anything to do with race, because people voted for Trump who voted for Obama. Why would they vote for a black man and then a white supremacist??
Gosh, fellow white people, I dunno. Why don’t we stop denying we’ve got racist as fuck tendencies and start thinking of the reasons, eh? It’s actually pretty simple.
CN: racial slurs, racism, bigotry
You can vote for a black man and still harbor racist thoughts and tendencies. Trust me. I know white people. I know conservative white people – I was raised in a house and community full of ’em. And I know how they think. They’ll swear they haven’t got a racist bone in their body as they call their Iranian coworker a sand n*gger. They’ll claim they’re not at all prejudiced in one breath while they bleat about all those foreign brown people sneaking into our country and taking our jerbs – complete with slurs like w*tb*ck and ch*nk. They’ll all have that one black friend, but they’re super nervous around black people and steer clear of black neighborhoods, because everybody knows that’s where the thugs live.
Even those of us who have friends of color and really try not to ever use racial slurs and are pretty embarrassed by our more openly racist relatives and really admire a select few people of color are scared of what’s going to happen to white people when the brown folk outnumber us. And we may not admit it to ourselves, but we think affirmative action means some lesser human is going to get the job we deserve, and that more brown people getting college educations and entering the workforce means fewer opportunities for us, and so we’ll support policies that keep that from happening. We may not consciously realize we’re doing that. But we’re doing it all the same.
We’re susceptible to people preaching white supremacy, as long as the white supremacists talk in terms of getting tough on crime, and fighting the drug war, and equality of opportunity not outcome, and bringing the manufacturing jobs back, and American exceptionalism, and all that rot. We applaud people who bleat about free speech and against political correctness, because it’s so damned exhausting to watch our words, and we haven’t done the deep dive into our attitudes and motivations that would tell us that political correctness isn’t an unfair fetter on our right to tell it how it is, but a request that we respect people who are different from us.
We love brown people, so long as there’s not too many of them, and just so long as they behave like white folk. We love them extra much if they talk about how their communities need to stop whining and pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. We adore them if they reinforce our notions about the majority of them. We like them in direct proportion to how much they aren’t like those other people. We’re fine with them just so long as they make us feel good and inclusive and never call us out on our bigotry.
We don’t want to do the hard work of rooting out the racist tendencies within ourselves. We know diversity is good, but we don’t like people who try to make it anything more than ceremonial. We cling to our tokens, because we can brandish them in people’s faces anytime we’re accused of being racists and scream, “See, I can’t possibly! My black friend says so! Some of my best coworkers are black! I voted for a black man for president!”
And so we come to Obama.
I’m pretty sure a lot of the votes he got were due to typical American political inertia: we had a rough near decade with a Republican, so it was time to switch to a Democrat. Some of us would vote for a ham sandwich if it had a different party letter after it’s name. The Xs aren’t fixing things! Let’s try the Ys this time.
And the black man they asked us to vote for wasn’t too black. He was Ivy League and he’d pulled himself up out of poverty and he was that feel-good American success story that we could point to as we told the people of color whose necks we were stomping on, “See? He made it! He’s not whining! Why don’t you get up and go to Harvard?”
Some of us pulled that lever because hey, look at me making history! I’m not prejudiced! I’m not a racist! I’ll even vote for a black dude. Racism is over. And then we went right on moaning about gangs and thugs and reverse racism and all those damned Mexicans sneaking in and taking good American jobs while sucking on the taxpayer teat like all those other lazy bleeps.
And then we voted for him a second time because of inertia. We’re out of the habit of changing horses mid-stream. We go with the name we’re familiar with. And he was a nice, articulate man who liked to talk about how black fathers should step up and take care of their kids.
So no, white people. You didn’t absolve yourself of racism just because you voted for one black man once or twice.
And then came Cheeto Hitler, and you watched him whip up the white supremacists and white nationalists and the fucking KKK, and you voted for him anyway. Now you want to pretend that it has nothing to do with race. It was about immigration and terrorism. It was about the economy. But here’s the thing: those are all racially charged in America right now. When you talk about immigrants, what you’re really saying is that you’re afraid of all those weird brown people stealing our jobs. When you talk about terrorism, you’re talking about icky brown Muslims coming here to blow us up (newsflash: most American terrorism is white Christian American). When you’re talking about the economy, you’re talking about how those awful furriners either come here to steal jobs from white Americans, or import our jobs to their countries.
So yeah, it’s really about race at the bottom of it, kids. Sorry to burst your plausible deniability bubble.
And even if you don’t think your vote for Trump was prompted by racist tendencies, you still looked at a man who called all Mexicans rapists, and who thinks all Muslims are terrorists and vowed to keep them out, and whose candidacy was enthusiastically embraced by the fucking KKK, and you decided those things weren’t dealbreakers.
I have some bad news for you. Voting for racist dickweeds rubs off on you. Voting for Obama doesn’t give you a protective coating against racism. Sorry not sorry.
You don’t get to claim you didn’t vote for that, because you did.
You don’t get to evade the consequences of your actions. And your actions? They were racist as shit. This country has a huge problem, and you’re not going to be able to avoid it anymore.
I know you, because in part, I used to be you – although even in my most conservative hours, I’m pretty sure I’d have pulled the lever for the person who wasn’t being championed by the most rabidly racist groups this nation has to offer. Still. I get the thinking, because I used to think that way too. And I used to claim I wasn’t a racist, but people, I was. I still am. We white folk were marinated in it all our lives, and we will never be able to wring it all out.
Not in our lifetimes.
But that doesn’t mean we get to stop trying.
If you voted for Trump, you have a hell of a lot of self-examination to do. You have a hell of a lot of unpleasant truth to accept. It won’t be easy. It’ll hurt. Trust me: when I first started facing up to the truth, it hurt like a mofo, and it still stings. Suck it up. If I can do it, so can you.
Stick with me, and we’ll get there. I’m going to help you through it.
The only way this country can truly be great is if we roll up our sleeves and do the hard work of dismantling white supremacy. We can’t go very far when we’re so busy holding other Americans back. We can’t get anywhere without opening our country to the people who can help us do the work to build something that will be the envy of the world again. White people, we need to stop pretending we’re strong by making others weak. We’re all going to be better off when we stop trying to hold each other down, and instead lift each other up.
But first, we have to deal with the consequences of our actions, and stop the people whose hate we just gave carte blanche to. I’m going to help you do that work. I’m going to introduce you to the people you need to listen to in order to understand what to do and how to do it. I’m going to be giving you concrete actions you can take. If you’re courageous enough. If you’re good enough. If you’re really the good person you say you are, we can do this together.
Stick with me, and we’ll get there.