We live in a moment in America where our politics is increasingly defined by race and ideas about race relations. However, what is race? What is ethnicity? How do social constructs reflect biological differences, and to what extent can any race actually be identified as a stable classification? These are issue we hope to explore, while opening the discussion to a wider and wider audience. Join us in this national conversation.
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President Trump’s win was predictable. It was not only due to an abstract “populism” as has been suggested by some, or the democrats not doing their job, as others have said. A large part of his victory was due to “race” –short-hand for the matrix that describes the inequality, insults and assaults based on differential status and privilege between those groups erroneously defined as “races” in old books and in the census (and related documents). A subset of Trump supporters clearly indicate that they see him as some sort of champion of an Anglo order—writ large to refer to “white” which is problematic on close examination. For this subset of Trump supporters, but not others, there was an inherent dislike of Obama from the time of his election, not because of his philosophy or policies/what he had done, but simply because of who he is as formulated by the US census (and self -description).
One marvels that Trump billed himself as a defender of the working class. And he was successful enough in its Rust Belt segment. This is somewhat astounding considering his wealth and treatment of workers based on media reports. Apparently to a certain swathe of voters it was more important to be anti-establishment (and anti-Obama) than be consistent with the interests of all working or struggling people. This group of voters may or may not contain both those who voted due to “race” as well some who had voted for Obama. The polls do not tease out this nuance. However it is also true that Clinton and her campaign did not speak enough to the “group constituency” called the “white working class,” itself not homogenous and descended from groups who may have fought with each other in the past in the US and Europe. This is now forgotten due to the myth narrative of “race” which strips folk of cultural identity, memory and history in the name of skin color. In the south Trump may have gotten some of the vote simply because he ran as a Republican but for others there was the element of race. He also got votes because he promised to bring back a particular kind of prosperity. Obama hands off to Trump an economy in far better shape than Obama inherited, something that seems to be forgotten.
“Race” is clearly present in the Trump victory, even if we ignore some of his staff’s connections to specific white right wing movements. “Race” is this thing that connects the various aspects of Trump’s appeal for some at a psychic level. President Trump’s New York/urban personality and attitude—assertive, in your face, can do attitude–was laced with an air of imperialism. Attached to it was a notion, according to some interviewed on radio, of a “right” to rule, and that the US was being changed from its roots as an Anglo settler colony—something that must not be allowed to happen—or so some of his supporters saw it.
Trump’s non-“white” supporters, specifically US-descendant African Americans, had another reason to support him—promises of jobs. (This was true of some others as well.) They believe that since they deal with racism every day that Trump’s other supporters can be dealt with as needed. This is understandable and reasonable. There is the on the ground issue of empowerment and the path to self- sufficiency or self-reliance like that exhibited by the “black wall street” in Oklahoma—which was burned down. Community building is important which is Jim Brown’s and others’ interests. Will President Trump make telephone calls and enact policies that further community development and restoration in all communities? Time will tell. There are problems with President Trump’s blanket description of U.S. descendant African American communities, and one in particular not much commented upon. Trump did not address, nor did the press ask him to address, the roles of racism and structural inequality in the creation of indigenous African American poverty—those inner city communities and schools of which he spoke. His descriptions were not only overblown and inaccurate, but ahistorical. Let us make American great for everyone—which also means restoring US public education to the glory that it had when most of the students in the city schools were “white” (in the “good” old days). City College in New York, a public school, has produced as many if not more people who went on to get Nobel prizes as the more prestigious Ivies, if I am not mistaken.
What of the relationship to other “nativist” and “nationalist” movements in Europe? These are said to be a reaction to globalism. It is of course amusing at this time to see “liberal” Europeans and Euroamericans recoil at nationalist movements tinged with white racism in many countries. This distaste was lacking when African natural resources were/are being exploited and the people murdered by Western backed dictators, and before this by colonialist brutality, all in the name of European prosperity (and a notion of Europeans and “whites” having a “right” to take over Africa or New Zealand or Australia or Mexico, the-next-place-to-execute-manifest-destiny, etc. ). Even now the white settler descendant communities in certain African countries (e.g., Namibia), who never left, have more economic power than the indigenous Africans. Exploitation still goes on. Liberal Germany pays Israel but not Namibia or at least not sufficiently for the genocide done there. The United States, a settler colony, whose European settlers threw off rule from the mother country, was no longer simply a European off-shoot. The American revolution was not the same as anticolonial struggles in which the indigenous people threw off colonial rule.
Trump’s victory may also be credited to some degree perhaps with what W.E.B. DuBois called the “wages of whiteness.” Some, though not all, of Trump’s supporters gleaned a vicarious pleasure, sense of power and identity from the older man with his younger glamorous wife, his bullishness and attitude. They are living out their dreams via the imagery of Trump. This vicarious pleasure would not necessarily only be confined to “whites”. This psychic imagery and its benefit were more important than accepting Clinton’s qualifications and over-looking her problems. Of course the FBI director had a role. The Russians did something also. None of this in my view makes the election illegitimate in terms of the result at the ballot box.
The issue is not party membership, but equity for all Americans. Equity means that solving some problems in some places will require more resources and effort than in other places. To see over a nine- foot wall, people of drastically different heights will need footstools of different heights, not of equal heights. The five foot tall person will need a higher stool than the person who is seven feet tall. The stool height cannot be based on the taller person. Let us not be ahistorical in understanding the problems in the US be they related to health inequity, poverty, discrimination or crumbling infrastructure. Optimal resources and strategies will be needed to jumpstart some communities so that they can be self-sustaining. Perhaps some of the brilliance of those who have plans to colonize Mars can be brought to bear. Paul Ryan (and Jack Kemp before him) admitted that many of the Republicans and maybe the party has ignored the issues of poverty and other things. Robert Woodson at a Republican convention made a more trenchant point about how the black poor have been ignored or put last by both parties, although one may give some philosophical lip service. That is not enough.
(A Lincoln-Douglass-Tubman Republican)