No, Trump Supporters, I Will Not “Hold Space” For You
This is a journey I have always feared. There is no historical model for a pluralist democracy and that has condemned the United States, from its founding, to forever be an experiment in the democratic process, fraught with crushing failures amid shining success.
Yet after 200 years, it was working — crime was at historic lows, a recovery from the Great Recession was spreading, civil rights were expanding to all, and a serious national dialogue was in progress to heal implicit racism and sexism in civil society.
Sure, income inequality was growing, capitalism unfairly influenced politics, and climate change had yet to be meaningfully addressed — we knew we were not perfect. But the central premise of a pluralist immigrant society where everyone received equal treatment under law was slowly coming to fruition.
Now, that premise is in question.
I am told that, as an “urban coastal elite,” it is up to me to reach out to Trump supporters, that I have somehow failed the white working class by ignoring the economic struggle of rural America.
I reject that assertion.
I reject it because it asks me to speak within a narrative which tacitly endorses racism, sexism, bigotry, and xenophobia by “holding space” to understand white plight.
I reject it because it asks me to believe that it’s more important for a white person to find a new job than for a black person to safely interact with police, more important for a public school to put up Christmas decorations than for a Muslim to freely immigrate to this country, more important for conservatives to feel comfortable in trans-free bathrooms than for an LGBT person to have the same rights and protections as any other human being.
I reject it because it fetishizes anti-intellectualism, elevating the idea that it’s better to be ignorant and provincial than smart and worldly, demonizing higher education and thoughtful analysis as “condescending liberal whining.”
I reject it because it places the onus of change squarely on defeated minorities and their allies rather than asking white Americans to evolve as human beings.
These assertions, while no doubt rooted in some personal truth for the white working class, represent gaslighting of the worst kind: an attempt to convince me that I’m insane for taking seriously the threat of white nationalism.
We are judged by the company we keep — and if you voted for Trump, you now keep company with people who are enraged that it’s no longer acceptable to say “n*gger” in public, people who think Islam represents an existential threat to the United States, people who think undocumented immigrants should be deported, people who think a president can say “grab ’em by the pussy” with impunity.
Indeed, many of you knew this and that is precisely why you kept your support for Trump a secret. You knew you would face shaming at the hands of your friends and family who were appalled that you could put your own economic welfare ahead of the very real discrimination faced by others. Conned by a gold-plated reality TV star, you put money ahead of people — and for that you should be ashamed.
You will rationalize why “things were so bad we needed change,” offer platitudes about American unity, tell me to stop whining, and repeat the same tired “biased media” narrative you’ve been shouting for the last decade since Fox News convinced you that your opinions matter more than objective facts.
But let’s be honest: it’s not like you were waiting in bread lines. Your lives aren’t THAT bad. And rest assured, history will judge you as I have.
You elected a man with no political experience who has blatantly courted the Alt-Right to coddle your hypocrisy.
Consider the following:
You spout “bootstrap ideology” and “personal accountability,” yet you didn’t retool your own skillset when globalization and automation took your jobs.
Your median household income is $72,000 — a full $16,000 more than the national median, yet you claim the economy isn’t working for you.
You believe climate change is unimportant or not even real, yet your states experience stronger hurricanes, tornadoes, and temperature extremes than ever before, costing billions in taxpayer-funded repairs.
You support the deportation of undocumented immigrants, yet you yourselves will not pick apples, clean hotel rooms, sew clothing, or mow lawns once they are gone.
You claim anti-establishment values, yet Trump has already stocked his inner circle with DC insiders.
How awful… to possess all the privileges of white skin in America, yet be unable to move up another income bracket or realize that you’ve been conned — all while blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, women, and LGBT people face systemic discrimination.
White plight, indeed.
In an interview before the election, former British Foreign Secretary David Milliband said: “Populism is popular until it gets elected.” Prescient words in the wake of Brexit, anti-immigrant sentiment, and a global realignment of power.
I used to wonder whether Germans knew in 1933 where they’d be a decade later. Now I realize they didn’t care: their own economic hardship was more important to them than treating all people like human beings.
You may cite Godwin’s Law and gaslight me with accusations of impropriety, but I will not back away from comparing a demagogue like Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler when the Southern Poverty Law Center is tracking a verified uptick in hate crimes since the election and Steve Bannon, an ally of the Alt-Right, will now be a White House advisor.
Nor will I shy from invoking the Holocaust, in visceral imagery, to remind humanity of the cost to be paid for prioritizing personal gain ahead of equality, social equity, and justice. To do otherwise would dishonor the memory of those who perished at the hands of hate and undermine the pledge “Never Again.”
Time will tell whether Trump turns into a locker-room Fürher, casually stoking the fire of white nationalism in an apathetic country, or whether he has the capacity to wield power with consideration for the marginalized in this world.
Time will tell whether the civil liberties for which so many have fought and died will be preserved and indemnified or whether they will be struck from the annals of history, a footnote in human civilization.
Time will tell — and I fear this journey for our country.
And if we are that footnote, if these decades of progress and civility are to be our last for the foreseeable future, let us remember that we had the privilege of freely voting for a black man and a woman in our lifetimes.
Let us remember that a pluralist democracy attempted to shed the last vestiges of discrimination to stand for something greater than the petty divisions of race and gender: a vision of inclusion, peace, and knowledge.
Let us remember that for a brief moment in time, we had it good.
How fortunate we have been.