I’m Not Worried About Rural White Voters
Since the election, there’s been a hysteric focus on the role of Rural White Voter’s (*RWV, the acronym by which I’ll refer to them from now on, mostly cuz I’m lazy) in #Election2016, found here, here, here and here. This short list barely scratches the surface of the number of op-eds and surveys of *hard-hitting* journalism illuminating the plight of the forgotten men and women of the flyover states in Middle America.
They decry their economic paralysis, violently and aggressively. They are not beholden to the confines of political correctness for they do not fear offending the Others. They are patriotic. They consider themselves the embodiment of self-sufficiency and individualism — there are no handouts, no Welfare Queens in their communities, despite U.S. census data proving that the overwhelming majority of food stamp recipients are, in fact, Rural White Voters.
They blame immigrants for stealing their jobs (jobs they would otherwise not do). They fear extremist hate and assign an essential violent nature to Islam (Islam is no longer a religion, but a race-baited lens used to criminalize brown bodies. The RWV also vehemently denies that white men statistically commit more mass shootings than any other race). They claim that crime-ridden inner cities aren’t policed enough and counter that Black on Black crime is the real problem at hand (a racist myth, debunked, time and time and time again. #BlackLivesMatter).
They, in all honesty, were left out of the progressive, Obamaian vision of America. Hate and blame have no place in our America.
These references feel trite, shallow even, for RWVs have been neglected throughout our history — FDR had to remind us of them in his “Forgotten Man Speech” of 1932 in the early years of the Great Depression. Henry Wallace again delivered their existence to the public eye with the goal of rallying support for entering World War II in his “Common Man Speech.” We witnessed their firm stranglehold of influence on our electoral college in 2016.
But I’m not afraid of their racism. The politics of the RWV is conspicuous. It birthed the Ku Klux Klan in the post-Civil War Years. It peaked during World War II, with the expansion of the Aryan Nation, war against the Yellow Peril and global genocide. Nixon employed the Southern Strategy to court the RWV, and transformed their anti-civil rights rhetoric into policy as colorblindness and the War on Drugs, consequently resulting in Mass-Incarceration. And now we have the “new and improved,” rebranded Alt-Right.
I can name the RWV strain of racism. I’ve studied it extensively. I know where to seek advice on how to show up to combat that racism (hint: from people of color). We’ve made a mockery of it as a nation in our prime time television. Exemplified by The Daily Show to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, RWVs don’t pose a threat to our coastal and intellectual way of life based on equity and representation. RWV’s are landlocked, passed over in history in favor of an inclusive, bootstrap making of America that knows no color nor creed.
I was taught to believe we solved racism with Martin Luther King and that we solved gender inequality with White Feminism.
“No need to worry about Rural White America,” I was told.
“Their way of life is antiquated, facing the imminence of extinction, ours is progressive and will mold the future,” I was told.
“They are uneducated and vote against their own interests. They are so uneducated that they vote against their own best interests,” I was told.
And so I stood with Bernie and I later stood with Her, moving through the world with the blinders of blissful ignorance that said my way of life was the way of life.
But you know what all of my years of studying the history of race and gender inequality in America didn’t equip me to combat?
Tomi Lahren and Kellyanne Conway. Peter Thiel. Bernie supporters for Trump. Libby Schaaf. Hillary Clinton and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
I’ve found myself referring this Martin Luther King quote extensively in the past couple of months;
“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a ‘more convenient season.’”
62 million people voted for Trump, and we can be damn sure that they’re not all Rural White Voters. Many of them, as we must admit, are White Moderates committed to continuing the American hegemony of the White supremacist capitalist patriarchy.
It’s the White Moderate that laments, “we wish there were more people of color in politics, but they just don’t exist with the support of voting blocs.” It’s the White Moderate that simultaneously claims that technology is the great equalizer, but has no interest in equity or diversity or even considering hiring people of color in the tech sector. It’s the White Moderate that compelled Kanye West to concede that racism is a dated concept, causing him to implode after the fuse of his own self-hate was lit.
And so I’m awakening to the reality that anti-racism is not a static decision, but instead, guerilla warfare. White supremacy is far more complicated, quiet, educated, and literate than the RWV.
From here, I will be embarking on a series deconstructing the spectrum of White Supremacy, from the educated conservative to the Ivory Tower to the coastal liberal. I intend for this to be a collaborative journey, for white supremacy is so elusive and pervasive that to limit it to my own experiences and analysis would be nearsighted.
I’m not afraid of Rural White Voters. White Moderates write policy and continually assume positions of power. I’m afraid of the shadows of White Supremacists who divide and conquer experiences of living on the margins, through gaslighting, distorting, co-opting and silencing. I hope with this series to bring it further into the light to name their racism.