10 Commentaries on Racism & Being Black in Donald Trump’s America

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1. Revenge of the White Man -By Jill Filipovic | TIME (Nov 10)
In a stunning result virtually no one predicted, Donald Trump won the vote for president of the United States. His opponent, Hillary Clinton, who would have been our country’s first female president, was supposed to give her victory speech at New York City’s Jacob Javits Center. Instead, she stayed silent through the night, and a dazed political press corps filed out under the building’s still-unbroken glass ceiling.

There is a lot to fear in a Trump presidency—economic chaos, entrenched bigotry and xenophobia, the demise of American international power. But there’s just as much to fear in the American people and, especially, in the white America that elected Trump.

White voters supported Trump overwhelmingly. White men were his strongest backers, although white women also favored him, with older white women, Evangelical white women, and white women without college degrees helping to carry him to victory. “Economic anxiety” was the story of this election. But the economy is good. White men with college degrees voted for Trump while working-class voters of color did not. And there is the simple fact that white Americans just voted in a president who was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. That isn’t anxiety about the economy—it’s anxiety about the changing face of power in America. Read more.

2. America Elects a Bigot -By Charles M. Blow | New York Times (Nov 10)
Donald J. Trump is president-elect of the United States. Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write. Mr. Trump will become this country’s 45th president. For me, it is a truly shocking fact, a bitter pill to swallow. I remain convinced that this is one of the worst possible people who could be elected president. I remain convinced that Trump has a fundamentally flawed character and is literally dangerous for world stability and injurious to America’s standing in that world.

There is so much that I can’t fully comprehend. It is hard to know specifically how to position yourself in a country that can elect a man with such staggering ineptitude and open animus. It makes you doubt whatever faith you had in the country itself.

Also, let me be clear: Businessman Donald Trump was a bigot. Candidate Donald Trump was a bigot. Republican nominee Donald Trump was a bigot. And I can only assume that President Donald Trump will be a bigot.

How can I make sense of the fact that the man who will appoint the next attorney general has himself boasted of assaulting women? What will this president’s vaunted “law and order” program for “inner cities” look like in an age where minority communities are already leery of police aggression? How do I make sense of the fact that a man who attacked a federal judge for his “Mexican heritage” will be the man who will nominate the next Supreme Court justice and scores of federal judges?

I can’t make it make sense because it doesn’t. I must sit with the absurdity of it. I must settle this in myself in this way: I respect the presidency; I do not respect this president-elect. I cannot. Count me among the resistance. Read more.

3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: What It Means to Be Black During a Trump Administration | WashPost (Nov 10)
Nicholas M. Butler, the Nobel Prize-winning American philosopher, once said that optimism is the foundation of courage. Today, African Americans will have to dig pretty deep to find that foundation because there’s not much optimism in sight. Yes, we’re all supposed to come together after an election, let bygones be bygones, and march forward unified as neither Democrats nor Republicans but patriotic Americans celebrating the triumph of the democratic process. But it’s difficult to link arms when the home of the free embraces the leadership of a racist.

Let the other groups denigrated and threatened by Trump speak for themselves. The women, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, the LGBT community and others who now must walk through the streets of their country for the next four years in shame and fear, knowing that their value as human beings has been diminished by their neighbors. I only speak for myself as an African American and I speak with the rage of betrayal.

The white Americans who made up a vast majority of Trump’s supporters were reacting to much more than the economy (which has been steadily strengthening), or Washington gridlock (which Trump has no specific plan or power to change), or fear of terrorism (which his unconstitutional plan of extreme vetting shows no evidence of combating). What some fear most is the changing shade of skin color of America. As the Latino, Asian and black population rises, the white majority will soon disappear. Between 2000 and 2010, whites dropped from 75.1 percent of the population to 63.7 percent. By 2050, whites will be in the minority at 47 percent. Trump represents the last wisp of the rich white plantation owner holding on to the glories of the past. Read more.

 

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4. This Is Who We Are -By Vann R. Newkirk II | The Atlantic (Nov 11)
The election of Donald Trump to the presidency reveals the true character of America. This is who we are. Those words often come to me when I see the ugly things in life now. When the first details about Tamir Rice’s death at the hands of police officers came to me on Twitter, they were a scream in the dark. When people questioned with straight faces if our president was even born in America, they echoed about my ears. When the Department of Justice report revealed that Ferguson, Missouri, was a racial kleptocracy, they were a whisper in the wind.

When a man who was accused of multiple sexual assaults, was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, had characterized Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” and has promoted stop and frisk as a national campaign of “law and order” was elected president, they boomed like thunder.

Donald Trump won the thing by appealing to white voters, and running an unabashed campaign of bigotry, racism, xenophobia, and other odds and ends of nastiness. This wasn’t some short-lived populist revolt destined to fizzle out in the summer or disorganized anti-establishment rabble, nor was it a catastrophic rending of the Grand Old Party. It wasn’t soul-searching. This was a juggernaut. It was a repudiation by the American electorate of the grand experiment of diversity of the past few years, as symbolized by Barack Obama. It was the half of America, a half that if not bigoted itself seemed mighty fine with being bigotry-adjacent. This is who we are. Read more.

5. The Illusion Of Allyship: My White Friends Voted For Trump, And I Can’t Make Peace With That -By Keyaira Kelly | Hello Beautiful (Nov 14)
I lived under the impression that I had a strong, rainbow coalition of people on my side, who, despite our differences, respected and cared for the things that I cared for. They were rooting for me and I sure as hell was rooting for them. That reality became blindingly clear as I watched friend after friend proudly proclaim their Trump support, despite his persistent advocacy for hatred against the lives of Black people, immigrants and women. And in this uptick of alt-right support, I questioned if the people I loved and befriended for years of my life ever saw me at all.

Somehow, my friends chose to rationalize their political decisions immersed in so much Whiteness, they actually couldn’t see how this decision harmed and hurt the very people they claim to love. In this dissonance, it is clear the last 8 years cradled us in the farce of progressiveness. Let’s keep it funky. A Black man walked his Black ass and his Black-ass family and Black-ass children into that White House and we thought America’s bloodthirsty diet was changing. But 8 years passed and it was time to feed the beast. And now, in the disillusioned cloud of this election, I fear the beast was sitting hungry next to me all along. Holding hands with me and smiling in my face as we conversed over breakups and grades and our frivolous social lives.

Because ‘Making America Great Again’ in Trump’s dystopian view meant returning to a time when Black protesters were carried out on stretchers and women could be arrested for exercising their right to choose. It meant it was acceptable for Black men and women to be racially profiled in the name of law and order. It meant women were toys you could ‘grab by the pussy’ without repercussions. And 63% of White men and 53% of White women cosigned, endorsed and suckled on this venom, and had the nerve to look up to say ‘it doesn’t taste so bad’ in the name of “change.”

The republican base prides itself on aligning with a candidate who shares their values and traditions. So let’s get one thing straight, Trump is who you are. Voting decisions are personal and you cannot conveniently clear your name from his platform of hatred in the name of politics. You are Pontius Pilate. You cosigned, endorsed and voted for hate, and if that’s what you agree with, I don’t know you. And I never did. Read more.

 

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6. Watching 81% of My White Brothers and Sisters Vote for Trump Has Broken Something In Me -By Yolanda Pierce | Religion Dispatches (Nov 15)
As my election night tweet clearly shows, I am left with a crisis. How do I continue to build bridges across racial divides with those who have demonstrated, in overwhelming numbers, that they will partner with a person endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan? Or with those who affirm someone who continues to insist, after eight years, that our current president is not a citizen and is therefore illegally occupying office?

How do I continue to be in Christian fellowship with those who embrace a man still calling for the deaths of five innocent African-American men acquitted of a crime by DNA? How can I believe that racial justice is possible when dealing with those who are quick to forgive the president-elect’s egregious moral lapses, while simultaneously supporting his contention that black and brown youth are inherently criminals deserving of constant surveillance?

As a descendant of enslaved persons my ancestors have been in the United States longer than almost any other group besides American Indians. I am not going to leave the country my ancestors built with their blood and uncompensated labor. And I am a Christian–a faith that was birthed in an African cradle. I am not going to leave the faith bequeathed to me by my foremothers and forefathers. But I will always speak truth from my lived experience as an African American living in a nation in which the structural sins of racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression are clearly evident even in the body of Christ.

Yet I do not know as I write this whether the work to which I have given my career can continue. I do not know if I can continue to pay the cost of being a peacemaker and a bridge-builder with those who refuse to see how their actions have so deeply wounded minority communities. Something has been broken for me; a fragile hope that the work of racial and gender justice will be embraced by the larger church. Read more.

7. Team of Racists: Trump’s Cabinet Looks Just Like His Campaign Sounded -By Jodi Jacobson | Rewire (Nov 21)
One of the first cabinet appointments made by President-elect Donald Trump was of Steve Bannon as his “chief strategist and senior counselor.” Bannon is the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, a leading white nationalist website known for spreading fake “news” and for pushing racist, Islamophobic, misogynistic, and anti-Semitic tropes. Bannon’s selection drew widespread condemnation from Democratic members of Congress as well as civil rights, reproductive rights, and immigrant rights groups.

Retiring Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) called Bannon a “champion of racial division.” The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which monitors hate groups, noted Bannon’s “long history of bigotry” and his role in making Breitbart the media arm of the racist “alt-right” movement. And several organizations, including MoveOn.org and BoldProgressives, launched “Stop Bannon” campaigns. Leaders of white nationalist groups in the United States, on the other hand, rejoiced at Bannon’s ascension. In fact, I suspect every time Trump and his surrogates have said, “this isn’t a campaign, it’s a movement,” it’s a call-out to the very white nationalists celebrating Trump’s win.

This should be no surprise: Bannon may be the most blatant example of Trump’s true intentions, but he is by far the rule. Trump’s campaign was relentlessly and unapologetically rooted in racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, and anti-immigrant statements, themes, and proposals, and his cabinet reflects the same. As the saying goes, when someone tells you who they are, believe them. Read more.

 

kkk-flagKKK flag flies during a demonstration at the South Carolina State House Building (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

8. Making America White Again -By Toni Morrison | The New Yorker (Nov 21)
Under slave laws, the necessity for color rankings was obvious, but in America today, post-civil-rights legislation, white people’s conviction of their natural superiority is being lost. Rapidly lost. There are “people of color” everywhere, threatening to erase this long-understood definition of America. And what then? Another black President? A predominantly black Senate? Three black Supreme Court Justices? The threat is frightening.

In order to limit the possibility of this untenable change, and restore whiteness to its former status as a marker of national identity, a number of white Americans are sacrificing themselves. They have begun to do things they clearly don’t really want to be doing, and, to do so, they are (1) abandoning their sense of human dignity and (2) risking the appearance of cowardice. Much as they may hate their behavior, and know full well how craven it is, they are willing to kill small children attending Sunday school and slaughter churchgoers who invite a white boy to pray. Embarrassing as the obvious display of cowardice must be, they are willing to set fire to churches, and to start firing in them while the members are at prayer. And, shameful as such demonstrations of weakness are, they are willing to shoot black children in the street.

To keep alive the perception of white superiority, these white Americans tuck their heads under cone-shaped hats and American flags and deny themselves the dignity of face-to-face confrontation, training their guns on the unarmed, the innocent, the scared, on subjects who are running away, exposing their unthreatening backs to bullets. Surely, shooting a fleeing man in the back hurts the presumption of white strength? The sad plight of grown white men, crouching beneath their (better) selves, to slaughter the innocent during traffic stops, to push black women’s faces into the dirt, to handcuff black children. Only the frightened would do that. Right?

These sacrifices, made by supposedly tough white men, who are prepared to abandon their humanity out of fear of black men and women, suggest the true horror of lost status. Read more.

9. Now Is the Time to Talk About What We Are Actually Talking About -By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie | The New Yorker (Dec 2)
The election of Donald Trump has flattened the poetry in America’s founding philosophy: the country born from an idea of freedom is to be governed by an unstable, stubbornly uninformed, authoritarian demagogue. And in response to this there are people living in visceral fear, people anxiously trying to discern policy from bluster, and people kowtowing as though to a new king. Things that were recently pushed to the corners of America’s political space—overt racism, glaring misogyny, anti-intellectualism—are once again creeping to the center.

Now is the time to discard that carefulness that too closely resembles a lack of conviction. The election is not a “simple racism story,” because no racism story is ever a “simple” racism story, in which grinning evil people wearing white burn crosses in yards. A racism story is complicated, but it is still a racism story, and it is worth parsing. Now is not the time to tiptoe around historical references. Recalling Nazism is not extreme; it is the astute response of those who know that history gives both context and warning.

Now is the time to recalibrate the default assumptions of American political discourse. Identity politics is not the sole preserve of minority voters. This election is a reminder that identity politics in America is a white invention: it was the basis of segregation. The denial of civil rights to black Americans had at its core the idea that a black American should not be allowed to vote because that black American was not white. The endless questioning, before the election of Obama, about America’s “readiness” for a black President was a reaction to white identity politics. Yet “identity politics” has come to be associated with minorities, and often with a patronizing undercurrent, as though to refer to nonwhite people motivated by an irrational herd instinct. White Americans have practiced identity politics since the inception of America, but it is now laid bare, impossible to evade. Read more.

10. My President Was a Black Man -By Ta-Nehisi Coates | The Atlantic (Jan-Feb 2017 Issue)

the-obamasBarack Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012 were dismissed by some of his critics as merely symbolic for African Americans. But there is nothing “mere” about symbols. The power embedded in the word nigger is also symbolic. Burning crosses do not literally raise the black poverty rate, and the Confederate flag does not directly expand the wealth gap.

Much as the unbroken ranks of 43 white male presidents communicated that the highest office of government in the country—indeed, the most powerful political offices in the world—was off-limits to black individuals, the election of Barack Obama communicated that the prohibition had been lifted. It communicated much more. Before Obama triumphed in 2008, the most-famous depictions of black success tended to be entertainers or athletes. But Obama had shown that it was “possible to be smart and cool at the same damn time,” as Jesse Williams put it at the BET party. Moreover, he had not embarrassed his people with a string of scandals. Against the specter of black pathology, against the narrow images of welfare moms and deadbeat dads, his time in the White House had been an eight-year showcase of a healthy and successful black family spanning three generations, with two dogs to boot. In short, he became a symbol of black people’s everyday, extraordinary Americanness.

Whiteness in America is a different symbol—a badge of advantage. In a country of professed meritocratic competition, this badge has long ensured an unerring privilege, represented in a 220-year monopoly on the highest office in the land. For some not-insubstantial sector of the country, the elevation of Barack Obama communicated that the power of the badge had diminished. Read more. Photo by Miller Mobley for Parade Magazine.


Read 10 Commentaries on Being a Woman in Donald Trump’s America

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