White supremacy helped Donald Trump win the 2016 election.
Stop the presses! I can see the fury and outrage from Republicans already. “This writer said ALL Trump supporters are racist!” That is not what I said.
I said, ‘White supremacy helped Donald Trump win the 2016 election.’ Helped is the key word; like how an offensive lineman helps his team win the Super Bowl. One part of a larger whole that resulted in an outcome.
And it was not the type of white supremacy you see in movies or is reported on the news. No white hoods and swastikas, although Charlottesville did provide us with plenty of that imagery. There were “very fine people on both sides” though, right?
No, this type of white supremacy is subtle, even subconscious.
It is the gulp when you turn the corner in the grocery store and two young black men are walking in your direction. It is the glance over your shoulder at the new Latino family that moved in next door. It is the bad joke uttered to your friend at 2:00 in the afternoon about how “this neighborhood is starting to get a little dark, right?”
White people do not view this behavior as racist. Most of the time they will just excuse as it being overly cautious, curious, or a justifiable observance of their neighborhood and surroundings. Trust me, it is racist.
But like everything else in life, there are shades of racism. You might not think black or brown people are going to rob you. But you may think they will lower your home value if they move into the neighborhood.
You may not want them to “go back to where they come from.” But you may think your black co-worker got that promotion over you because they were a ‘diversity hire.’ Your hands are not clean after all.
This low level, just under the surface white supremacy is what gave Donald Trump the fuel to win the Presidency in 2016.
This is the bedrock of the next Lost Cause in American history. Revisions of history are sure to take place in the coming years and decades by supporters to explain away why Americans chose to elect Trump.
Rising Tide of Nationalism
White supremacy and white nationalism are not new concepts. They have existed in the United States since the very beginning. However, with the spread of social media and election of the first black President, America has seen a drastic spike in activity.
Year after year, the number of known hate groups has risen, reaching its peak during the first four years of Obama’s Presidency. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, in 2000 there were 599 known hate groups. In 2006, 841 known hate groups. In 2011, 1,018 known hate groups. A near 70% increase in just over a decade.
More interesting, the number of hate groups dipped from 2012–2015, but surged back into record numbers during Trump’s first two years in office; culminating with a record 1,020 known hate groups in 2018.
A black man living in the White House did not sit right with white supremacists. To them, he did not belong there. It was a degradation of the office. They could not accept that a black man was now sitting where Reagan, JFK, FDR, and Abraham Lincoln once sat.
The alt-right conspiracy theory of “the great replacement” is a driving force behind why white nationalists organize and why some choose to kill.
“The radical right’s story is rooted in the most basic plot of all: us versus them. Its main nemesis is determined, so the tale goes, to storm the battlements of the “civilized world” and, in what’s called a “great replacement,” oust its innocent inhabitants… …Its tactics are more insidious: taking over institutions from the inside, infiltrating culture, and worst of all birthing lots of babies.” — The Nation
Ironically, their belief in the great replacement is similar to what white settlers did to the indigenous populations of North America.
Everything that is happening today, from the outright killing of black and brown people at the hands of white supremacists to the more subtle shunning of neighbors and community members, all stems from this unfounded existential fear of annihilation, of going extinct.
Battle of the Bulge
The Battle of the Bulge took place towards the end of World War II. Germany, despite being on the run for months and retreating frequently, decided to give it one last concentrated effort to see if they could turn the tide of the war.
For six weeks, Hitler launched a massive counteroffensive in Belgium, attempting to split the allied forces as they marched toward Germany. The walls were closing in and a desperate, risky move was needed to attempt to change what fate had in store for the Nazi regime.
The offensive failed as Germany did not have the supplies or manpower to maintain the push; something the German commanders warned would happen before it began. Hitler pushed forward anyway, lost steam, and the bulge receded. Shortly there after, Germany retreated all the way to Berlin where the war ended eight months later in September 1945.
The parallels between the Battle of the Bulge and the increased white supremacy activity and violence today are structurally intriguing. The Germans knew they were going to lose. In some small corner of their mind, white supremacists must know that as well.
The demographics of the world are changing, people are traveling and mixing cultures, and eventually mixing DNA. We have a more diverse population now than ever before. Unfortunately for white supremacists, scientists have shown that ‘genetic diversity’ is ultimately better for long term growth and adaptation.
Due to the increased diversity of our world, and in particular the United States, whites will soon find themselves in the odd position of being the ‘majority minority.’
According to the Census Bureau in 1940, 89.8% of the U.S. population identified as white. In 2010, it was down to 72.4%. The pace of change has been accelerating as well. From 1940 to 1980, there was a 6.8% decrease of citizens who identify as white. However, from 1980 to 2010, that decrease jumped to 10.6% in just a 30 year period.
Researches anticipate by 2050, ‘whites’ will represent less than 50% of the U.S. population. At that point, for the first time in the country’s history, white Americans will be classified as a minority population.
The White Delusion
Because of this reality, white nationalists around the country have begun to panic. If they are not superior, the ones in charge, the ones in the majority, the ones in control, then how will they be treated by ‘the others’?
This is the bedrock of their psyche. They know how terrible they have treated black and brown Americans. What happens to them when the tables are turned?
So they turned to Donald Trump; a man that represented their fears of those that looked different, their illusion of what it would look like to achieve the American Dream, and someone who would put white Americans first, even if he did not say it explicitly.
Trump labelled Latinos murderers and rapists; white people cheered. He said of migrants, “These aren’t people, these are animals;” white people cheered louder. Trump shut down Muslim countries from traveling to the U.S. and white people exploded into an orgasmic chant of, “four more years!”
Finally they had someone in the White House who looked like them, talked like them, and most importantly, thought like them. The others were bad people and finally the President knew it too.
Even as they celebrate their supreme leader, somewhere in the back of their minds they have to know that their time of supremacy is coming to an end. That soon, America will not look like some Pleasantville cutout. It will have a national identity looking more like the cast of Hamilton than the cast of Leave it to Beaver.
White America’s fear of having their hundreds of years of subjugation turned on them was too much to handle. They looked around and saw a black president, their favorite movies and tv shows “were getting darker”, and their neighborhoods were growing more diverse.
So they turned to a man who spoke their language, displayed their same discontent, and legitimized that gulp and look over their shoulder. They did not feel shame for those anymore, because the President of the United States felt the same way.
Donald Trump gave white supremacists something they had not felt in a very long time: hope.
A chance to be ‘out and proud’; to tell someone speaking Spanish to go back where they came from, and to feel patriotic when doing it. “Because Donald Trump is my President, and he approves this message.”