So You Say You’re Not Racist, or Xenophobic, or Misogynist, or a Homophobe…
I’ve been alternating between thinking hard about what happened and putting my head in the sand in denial. I’ve felt full with emotion and not able to get it out, even with music. A Facebook post by Mike Rowe gave me the incentive to sit down and add my two cents. This is a vent piece; I’ve done no studies, no research other than the links you see.
Mike Rowe weighed in on the election results on Facebook a few days ago. I dig and respect Mike Rowe. I don’t entirely discount his understanding of why Donald Trump won the election. There are a lot of angry people who felt insulted and ignored by the so-called “liberal elite”—and they’re not all white people either. This line, though, is the kind of thing I’ve seen echoed many times post-election by Trump supporters:
I’m worried because millions of people now seem to believe that Trump supporters are racist, xenophobic, and uneducated misogynists.
I realized, after I got over my anger and disbelief at who would be in charge of the most powerful nation in the world—sans checks or balances with a Republican House and Senate, regardless of how reluctant they were to stand behind him—that over-simplifying things to cast the same wide net over all of Trump’s supporters was easy. Calling them all a bunch of racist idiots admittedly made me feel better in the moment, but wouldn’t do for longer-term understanding—and preventing another four years.
Let’s not play dumb. Trump said a lot of racist, xenophobic, misogynist things during his campaign and during his life. You can try and rewrite the history of some of his bigotry as you like, but he presented himself, by his own words, as a racist, a xenophobe, and a misogynist. And you, dear Trump supporter, voted for him. Some of you are white, some of you are Black, some of you are gay, some of you are even Muslim…but you have this commonality. That leads me to believe one of two things:
- You are in fact a card-carrying bigot and you’re ecstatic that someone is now in office who feels just like you. Maybe you like to hang out in bedclothes on the weekends with your other “disenfranchised” sheet-loving friends, or maybe you prefer the more subtle art of hanging out on white power forums. Perhaps you’re angry at the strides people of color, women, and LGBTQ folks have made under this more socially liberal America. Maybe you’re one of these alt-right peeps who like to go around calling other dudes “cucks” because they actually give a shit about someone other than themselves. Whatever the case you’re psyched because you’ve just been vindicated. America’s vote and Trump’s whole campaign has given you hope that maybe, just maybe, we can go back to oppressing people like the good ol’ days.
- You enumerated all the things you care about and social justice issues just couldn’t compete with whatever else you’ve got going on in your life. Whether or not a woman feels safe wearing a hijab maybe isn’t on the radar for you when you’re not making money or you lost your house. Maybe you’re pissed that the “liberal elite” seem to care more about immigrants and Muslims than middle America, and you just wanted someone who paid attention to the issues that affect you directly. To this end, perhaps you pretended not to hear the ugly things Trump said, or you heard them but you were able to ignore them for your own interests. Maybe you didn’t even hear those things the same way because he wasn’t talking about you. Possibly you got really good at finding alternate ways to interpret things like ‘grabbing women by the p***y’.
I’m banking on the majority of Trump supporters falling somewhere into the second category, because that’s what you’re out there saying according to the LA Times and the Washington Post, so those are the folks I’m addressing in this post (you folks who’ve made peace with your bigotry can stop reading here; there’s nothing I can do for you.). I know we’re hearing a lot of frightening and disheartening stories of violence and intimidation from folks in Group 1, but I think we all know that the worst of any group tend to be the loudest. And honestly, I don’t think I could handle having to truly believe that half of America could hate me for something as stupid as the color of my skin. Blame my liberal bubble for thinking that my fellow countrymen and countrywomen are better than that…mostly.
Let me say that I kind’ve get it, Group 2 folks, even though I don’t want to. We all vote in our own best interests. I was born and raised in Cleveland, a city that has seen its share of economic struggles, and worked multiple minimum wage jobs from the time I was 13 until I got into an awesome liberal arts university on the east coast. Even though I still have family in Cleveland, family that struggles to make it paycheck to paycheck, my world has changed and it’s affected my perspective. I’m an upper-middle-class Black lesbian mom working in the tech sector: I care about reproductive rights, gay rights, and education among other social issues. I care about jobs and the economy as well, but in a vague, non-concrete sense: jobs are good, a strong economy is good. When we talk about a bad economy, I don’t necessarily see that first-hand. I don’t live in your world; I don’t have your same concerns.
Similarly maybe you’re not too concerned about whether women have access to reproductive health care, or whether a law gets passed that makes people feel free to question my gender when I go to a public restroom. You don’t live in my world; you don’t have my same concerns.
Dave Chappelle said in his opening monologue on SNL:
The first time I got some money, it didn’t work out like that. The most unlikely thing happened ever. A black president came out of nowhere, like “Come on everybody, let’s start thinking about everyone else.” Ah, n — -, I just got this money! I didn’t think you was possible!
Maybe you got tired of not being the “everyone else” that people were thinking about, of being asked to think of others when you and your neighbors were struggling.
So fine: we vote our own interests. We’re human, humans tend to see the world through a lens of Me, Me, Me. This isn’t new.
Here’s the thing: own it. You’re not racist/xenophobic/misogynist; that’s just a bunch of liberal ballyhooing and whining you say. You voted for someone who ran a platform embracing those ideas though. Don’t be surprised that people lump you in with that. Don’t look around all offended like, “Whaaaaat? I have a Black friend” or “My uncle’s gay”. You made a decision, consciously or unconsciously, about what mattered to you in this election. It was not the rights of gays, transgendered people; the safety of Muslims and other non-Christian people; the safety of non-white people; or the reproductive rights of women. It was the economy, jobs, taxes, and immigration.
However, even if you are not overtly a racist/xenophobe/misogynist, you signed off on one and you know what? That’s worthy of a little side-eye. Maybe even an un-friending:
Are my friends now convinced that people they’ve known for years who happen to disagree with them politically are not merely mistaken — but evil, and no longer worthy of their friendship?
The thing Mike Rowe misses here is that this isn’t simply a political disagreement. A political disagreement is differing ideas about tax laws, or whether or not the US should get involved in some national matter. It is not whether or not a group of people should be treated humanely and fairly, because that question becomes an indication of what kind of person you are at your core, not just politically. I probably don’t want to have a beer with you if you voted for a dude who may work to reinstate the Defense of Marriage Act. Do you know how nice it was to finally be able to travel within our own country and not think, “Crap, did we bring our daughter’s birth certificate? Did we bring our Power of Attorney docs? We’re traveling through some states that won’t recognize our marriage/parental rights.” Yeah, if I had a friend who voted for someone that could put that freedom in danger, they would also be deserving of a side-eye and potential un-friending.
You may personally support LGBTQ rights, or believe in equal opportunities for women, or have concerns about climate change, or any other number of so-called progressive topics. That is hollow consolation when you voted for someone who is currently appointing people in positions of power whose track records speak to beliefs that are diametrically opposite.
So you’re annoyed or insulted that we keep calling you racists, et. al. Tell you what: instead of flocking to posts to accuse people of fear-mongering and making stuff up, how about flocking to the posts of those people in Group 1 and representing? Instead of writing op-eds and blog posts trying to convince people that despite the things he said, Trump’s not a racist so therefore neither are you, why don’t you write something positive about how despite our differing priorities, you’ll stand in solidarity against bigotry when it arises? Were you one of the people who said something along the lines of, “Well, if all Muslims aren’t bad then the good ones need to stand up and take control of this. It’s their responsibility to stop it.”? Then stand up and take control of your group as well, because they’re writing the story for you. If all Muslims are responsible for the nut jobs getting the attention, you are responsible for your nut jobs too, including the unsavory characters your candidate is choosing for key positions in his cabinet (Steve Bannon, you guys? Are you okay with this?).
By voting for Trump, whatever your reasons, I believe you are complicit in whatever sanctioned bigotry rises from the coming administration, and if you fall into Group 2 I also believe you bear a responsibility to stand alongside the people who are most vulnerable in this time. You think we ignored you during the last administration; you think we should do better by you. We think you’ve thrown us under the bus this time around, and should do better by us. Maybe the next step is that we can all do better by each other. Surely we can elect someone who wants a strong economy and believes in basic human decency and kindness…