In this op-ed, Char Adams, a black female writer who speaks about racial issues, discusses ways to be a better ally to marginalized people.
The morning after Election Day, I walked in to work devastated, afraid, and angry about the results. I would rather have stayed home in bed, but I put on my big-girl pants and went to the office — where I was met with tears from several of my white coworkers.
As the day progressed, I learned that I, one of the few black women in the office, became the go-to source for my colleagues’ comfort in the wake of the election results. In my eyes, it seemed that they assumed I was used to the oppression they anticipated would come with Trump’s presidency. Thus, they seemed to think I was the perfect person from whom they could draw strength and advice.
“What can we do?” they asked. “I can’t believe this happened.” They’d go on to tell me about their family members and friends who had voted for Donald Trump, saying, “I had no idea they were like that!” Although angry, I was incredulous at neither the outcome nor the fact that their white friends had voted for him — 62% of white male voters cast their ballots for Trump and 52% of white women voters did the same, according to CNN exit polls.
I wanted to tell them that, yes, white men and women will be affected by Trump’s presidency. But for people of color, there is a lot more at stake. I wanted to tell them that because of Trump’s promised “law and order administration,” I am even more afraid to simply walk by a police officer — for fear that I might unjustly join the disproportionately high number of black women being imprisoned.
I wanted to tell them that sustaining a career is already difficult enough with my disability — I have a severe stutter — and the fact that Trump’s administration may weaken enforcement of the Americans With Disabilities Act that I depend on each day causes me to fear for my future. Trump’s properties have been sued for violating the ADA several times, according to MSNBC. If he has not respected that law within his own businesses, I shudder to think of what will become of it over the next four years.
I did not tell my distraught white coworkers these things, though. I was too tired the morning after Election Day to take on the role of educator, and the pain of Trump’s win was still too raw. Instead, I fed them a line I did not even believe: “It will all be okay.”
Last year was difficult for the nation. As 2016 progressed, we saw the deep-rooted oppressive nature of our nation rear its head in a violent way. Trump is now president. And as we’ve spent the last few weeks settling into that reality, my friends, family, and associates have repeatedly asked me the same question my coworkers did: What can we do?
I, as a black, disabled woman, panicked as I watched it all happen. I panicked as I wondered what would happen to my black, 13-year-old sister surrounded by Trump supporters at school in her rural central Pennsylvania hometown. I panicked as I rooted for Bernie Sanders and then Hillary Clinton, hoping either would be victorious. I panicked as I spoke out about why Trump is dangerous and not a joke to be laughed at — and I panicked as the white people around me (supposed allies) continued to write him off.
Trump built his platform on bigotry, intellectual cowardice, and red herrings. His rise to power coincided with a rise in public acts of hate, harassment, and the further normalization of bigotry. In fact, a study from the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights advocacy organization, found that more than 800 incidents, some involving harassment and intimidation against black people, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ community had occurred in the 10 days following the election.
However, Trump’s rise has proven to be eye-opening for many privileged people, particularly white Americans who had not fully realized the racism embedded in the nation’s foundation. I would love to jump for joy, praising the fact that white people may start to “get it.” But it is concerning that it has taken a political climate as dire as this for people to see the injustice that has been front and center in the nation for centuries. Still, in the wake of Trump’s election, we have seen white men and women donning safety pins to show their loyalty to those discriminated against and to visually announce their status as allies to the oppressed. We have seen hundreds of thousands of white women across the country protest at the recent Women’s March. Much like my coworkers, many of my white peers have begun to take on the title of “ally.”
We’ve seen activists, journalists, and fed-up citizens of many races, sexual orientations, and religions fighting back against Trump’s harmful rhetoric in the face of forceful bigotry.
Well, white allies. You’re up.
I have tried to hold intelligent conversations and debates with many who claimed they “don’t benefit from white privilege.” And one thing I’ve learned, as a black, disabled woman, is this: Oppressors are most receptive to those who share their privilege. Even the most well-meaning white men and women I’ve encountered could not help but, in a way, dismiss my criticisms of inherently racist social, political, and economic culture as irrelevant to their personal experiences. I’d catch some of my dearest friends rolling their eyes when I’d criticize their favorite white feminists for appropriating black culture, and I’ve often been asked by some of my white coworkers why “everything has to be about race.”
I’ve learned that my experiences being slighted as a black woman often have no effect on the everyday lives of white men and women except that it empowers and contributes to the white supremacy from which they benefit.
Now I am hoping that we see action from these newfound allies. I am hoping that the experiences of the oppressed will be heard and considered.
Marginalized groups have fought and battled hard for centuries to secure equality in our nation built on white supremacy. Although we have made great strides, we have also been silenced, erased, and degraded. And as our battle intensifies in this Trump era, our white allies have a very important job to do: Advocate for us and engage your peers.
Engaging with your fellow privileged white men and women who may find themselves on the wrong side of history is one of the most important ways white people can be active allies to the oppressed. (This is not to say that intersecting oppressions do not include white people.)
There are myriad ways you can actively stand in solidarity with those discriminated against:
As the saying goes, knowledge is power. A basic understanding of the intersecting oppressions that the marginalized face in America is key to standing with us. For centuries, intellectuals of many races, religions, and sexual orientations have done great work. For example, legendary novelist Toni Morrison recently wrote about race relations and the dangerous perception of white superiority for The New Yorker. And for Remezcla, Veronica Bayetti Flores wrote about the impact the Pulse nightclub shooting had on the queer Latin community. Those are just two of many great works written by members of marginalized groups. Countless books have been written on the pursuit of justice. Read. Absorb. Understand. Rinse and repeat.
Get involved locally.
Getting involved doesn’t necessarily mean you need to venture too far outside of your own backyard. There are many great justice-seeking organizations. Contact your local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Black Lives Matter, etc. These groups need your support. More hands and feet aiding in social justice work only strengthens the cause. Local organizations do the work necessary to influence larger ones. And every person counts in the march toward equality.
Call out your friends, family, and peers on oppressive comments and behavior.
Do not let microaggressions go. A microaggression is a verbal, nonverbal, or environmental — usually racial — slight done either intentionally or unintentionally in daily behavior. For example, asking a multiracial person, “What are you?” in regard to their ethnicity is a microaggression — whether you mean well or not. Calling your peers out on oppressive behavior is a necessary way to interrupt the normalization of racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia. Oppressive behavior usually comes by knowingly or even inadvertently asserting your superiority and the inferiority of someone different from you. Or, as feminist scholar and activist bell hooks said in her 1984 book, Feminist Theory, “Being oppressed means the absence of choices.” When you make it known that offensive comments are just that — offensive — your friend, although they may show resistance, will be forced to think about their behavior. As an ally, it must be made known that your company is a safe space for the oppressed and that you will defend the marginalized at all times. Do not tolerate discrimination in your inner circle, no matter how uncomfortable the ensuing confrontation may be. Those confronted may be stubborn, and likely will, but by condemning every act of discrimination, you make it known that acting in such a way is not okay or normal.
Constantly evaluate yourself.
We are all a work in progress. Most Americans hold some form of privilege, whether it be in terms of race, ability, religion, or sexual identity. We all have to evaluate our behavior — and evaluate it often — to make sure we are not being oppressive. Social conditioning has led all of us to hold some type of prejudice (as Gail Price-Wise, former president of the Harvard School of Public Health Alumni Council, has explained), and that means we must work that much harder to eradicate it. Evaluate your language, how you interact with people, and even your mannerisms. In other words, check yourself. Examine your behavior and make the necessary changes to be a promoter of equality.
We have a long, difficult road ahead of us. Each and every American has a responsibility to press toward equality. The fight is an individual one as much as it is collective. We all have a job to do: Live out and promote justice in our everyday lives. In our homes and our schools. On the streets and behind closed doors, it is our duty to pursue justice. For white self-proclaimed allies who have recently decided to join the movement: Welcome. It’s time to get to work.
How The Racist Backlash To Barack Obama Gave Us Donald Trump
The evidence was there all along, according to a top Democratic pollster.
WASHINGTON ― Remember when pundits hailed the election of Barack Obama as the beginning of a “post-racial” America?
After the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, it seems like a distant memory. But in 2008, it was the prevailing wisdom among political commentators.
Cornell Belcher, a long-time Democratic pollster who worked on both of Obama’s presidential campaigns, started seeing through the mirage of racial harmony well before Trump’s election made it obvious. In Belcher’s book, A Black Man in the White House: Barack Obama and the Triggering of America’s Racial-Aversion Crisis, released weeks ahead of Trump’s election, he presents years of research showing that white resentment grew steadily under Obama.
He too had hoped Obama’s presidency would usher in a period of post-racial politics. But in his public opinion research in the ensuing eight years, he told HuffPost on Thursday, he saw a “rise in racial aversion … which accumulated in a sort of perfect storm for a candidate like Donald Trump.”
To measure “racial aversion,” Belcher surveyed people’s responses to “a range of questions … from affirmative action questions to government doing too much for people of color, to people of color not being as patriotic.”
The answers, collected over the course of eight years, showed a hardening of white attitudes toward people of color. Belcher attributes that trend not just to Obama, but to the rising coalition of communities of color that elected Obama.
Obama won reelection with just 39 percent of the white vote nationwide, not just by turning out more people of color, but also by taking advantage of the fact that the country simply had more voting-age people of color to turn out, Belcher noted. The changes that made that victory possible scared many of the white voters who went on to vote for Trump, according to the pollster.
Trump “is a George Wallace-like historical figure. The difference is that George Wallace could not win the Republican primary. He couldn’t win the nomination and become president,” Belcher said.
“But Donald Trump could, because now, with the rise of really, not Obama, but the Obama coalition, the wolf is now at the door,” he continued. “And what I mean by the ‘wolf is at the door’ is, I mean America is going through dramatic shifts, demographic shifts.”
Now Belcher is warning against Democratic analysts who see a message of economic empowerment alone as the key to rebuilding the party.
“[The country is] only going to get browner, so we have to solve for this, or we lose the future,” he concluded. “And again, that’s not pointing fingers at so many working-class whites, who, you know what, their world has changed, and the changes that are happening in our country, in this country, are stark. And we shouldn’t be surprised that some people are uneasy about it. But we should have that conversation about that unease, and a prescription about that unease that doesn’t pit us against each other.”
It was after President Obama was elected to the White House that I realized that we were still a racist country. I thought it had eaten itself out like a bacteria. Wrong. It went underground. It hid in the shadows and it slinked around corners. I saw it and I was sickened by the pure evil racism. I talked to friends. I talked to black friends who were patient as I tried to explain why I thought it was over. They were good to me. Better than I probably deserved. now I look around with open eyes and I see discrimination and racism and sexism wherever they raise their filthy little heads. I wish I had been right but I wan’t and I can’t change the world unless I see it as it as it actually is. So I am here for the marginalized. I will stand with you. And if I have more to learn, and I am sure that I do, teach me. I am on this journey to learn and to be more like divinity.
How The Blood of Emmett Till Still Stains America Today
A new history of the most famous lynching in the country provides context on how racism continues to work in the present.
What does American tyranny look like? In the past few months, fears about the collapse or degradation of the American democratic system have led many to engage in the grim exercise of game-planning the endgame of tyranny. For some, dystopian novels ground that exercise. Some take stock of the rise of authoritarian powers in the past. Others rely on expert realpolitik analysis from political minds like my colleague David Frum. Regardless of the source, we have arrived at Belshazzar’s feast. The writing is on the wall: It could happen here.
Or, it could happen here again. After all, it wasn’t too long ago in American history that millions of Americans were trampled under the heel of a repressive, anti-democratic kleptocracy and faced economic reprisals, violence, or death for any dissent. And nowhere was the iron grip of that system—known as Jim Crow to some of us—stronger than in Mississippi. That grip manifested itself most notoriously in the murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black boy, in 1955. That year, Till was tortured and lynched by white men after allegedly making lewd comments toward a white woman. His mutilated corpse became one of the first mass-media images of the violence of Jim Crow, and the trial of his killers became a pageant illuminating the tyranny of white supremacy. And through protests across the country, Till’s broken body became a powerful symbol of the civil-rights movement.
In his new book, The Blood of Emmett Till, the historian Timothy B. Tyson revisits the circumstances of Till’s death, and brings to bear a wide scope of reporting, historical research, and cultural analysis. It’s not a definitive history of the Till case; other works have synthesized more primary sources and firsthand accounts. Rather, The Blood of Emmett Till is focused on the historicity of race in America: It posits that Till’s death is an emblem of the ways in which American tyranny works. To that end, the climax of his book comes not in the death of Till, in the ensuing sweltering court proceedings, or in the backwoods thriller of the black Mississippi Underground that investigated the case, but in the present.Tyson tells the story of how a young Chicago boy’s summer sojourn in Mississippi ended with him kidnapped, beaten, shot, and tossed into a river by Roy Bryant, J.W. Milam, and a group of others. The historical context Tyson provides often dwarfs the actual tick-tock of the case: An account of Mamie Till-Mobley’s childhood and her close bond with her son is wrapped in a narrative about the Great Migration of black people from the South to the West and North in the mid-20th century. Till’s lynching is backgrounded by an instructive history of the genteel and intellectually racist Citizens’ Councils and how they fueled the raw violence of a white proletariat. The surfeit of contextualization verges on digression at times, but serves the ultimate purpose of giving Till’s life weight six decades after his death.The effect of Tyson’s wide-angled framing is especially pronounced in the bombshell revelation that Carolyn Bryant—the white woman who originally claimed Till grabbed and sexually harassed her in her husband’s store—lied about those claims. Media coverage has focused on that explosive admission and the conversation around redemption that it seems to spark, but Tyson’s book, in the end, is largely unconcerned with that line of inquiry. Bryant’s testimony on the stand and her later admission have little to do, in this narrative, with her own battle with guilt; rather, they serve to advance Tyson’s thesis that culpability for Till’s death rests on millions of shoulders. The unlikely thing, he argues, was not that Emmett Till was lynched, but that his lynching actually stirred a national response.Tyson takes great pains to illustrate how the mechanisms working in Jim Crow Mississippi in 1955 still animate life today, and how America has never really found justice for Till. He details the rise of the civil-rights movement and how Till’s death helped to forge a common purpose for the wide-ranging and often contentious factions of black activism. He describes how white supremacist organizing arose in direct response to that mobilization. And he examines how school desegregation and black suffrage undergirded the social tensions of the Jim Crow era.Perhaps most importantly, Tyson considers all the ways in which an American populace was complicit in its acceptance of violence against black people—and then considers all the ways in which it is still complicit in the deaths of people of color today. For instance, in his examination of the Citizens’ Councils’ literature, which fomented mass fears of black criminality and fantasies of rampant black sexual deviancy, Tyson also shows how poor white “peckerwoods” were loathed by wealthier white people, and manipulated into doing the bloody business of physical violence. In this, he provides a thinly veiled parable for today’s politics in how the rhetoric of white supremacy—even in its subtlest dog-whistle form—is used to radicalize people, and how the uneasy detente between classes of white people is often maintained by propaganda built around the threat of the other, even as the culpability is passed to the lowest rungs. “We blame them,” Tyson writes about those radicalized perpetrators of physical violence, “to avoid seeing that the lynching of Emmett Till was caused by the nature and history of America itself and by a social system that has changed over the decades, but not as much as we pretend.”In service of his analysis of the present, Tyson also compares the “Emmett Till generation” of civil-rights leaders that developed after Till’s death to the Black Lives Matter movement that gathered force after the killings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. In The Blood of Emmett Till, that comparison is not just a coincidence, but, rather, the end result of a social system that continues to perpetuate injustice today. “America is still killing Emmett Till,” Tyson writes, “often for the same reasons that drove the violent segregationists of the 1950s and 1960s.”The Blood of Emmett Till is a critical book not just because it provides a good reason to revisit a foundational moment in American history—though it manages that feat in spades—but also because it manages to turn the past into prophecy and demands that we do the one vital thing we aren’t often enough asked to do with history: learn from it. In firmly tying Till’s legacy to protests over black bodies, re-segregation, voting-rights struggles, hate crimes, and the creeping reemergence of bigotry today, Tyson implores readers to learn that American tyranny already has a face, has already left millions of victims in its wake, and doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination to fathom. Perhaps the dystopia we envision isn’t some far-off future, but simply a return to the past.
It is still Black History Month and I feel that this is an important subject. America is racist and many Americans are racist. We all, despite color, need to read and be honest with ourselves when we take a closer look at who we are and what we believe. Many Americans do not think they are racist, the society that they were raised in often hides racism as jokes, small glitches and not being understood by another race of people.
People have begun to trash the concept of “being politically correct” and there are many reasons to be politically correct. If you look back perhaps three decades or more, you hear words being used that are hurtful and fuel buried feelings of inadequacy and fear. You used to hear: wop, spic, mick, jungle bunny and an assortment of others. White people who tend to enjoy using labels that are not politically correct are afraid of others. They are not afraid in the sense of physical fear but if this black man or that Asian, or those Muslims can come to America and accomplish that great job, the huge home and the brand new Lincoln Town Car, why am I in this dead end job? Why do I drive a used Ford? Why do I live in a nice middle class neighborhood but wish that I lived in an exclusive area?
When a racist type of person compares themselves to other people of color, they feel anger if the others have accomplished more in life than they have. The average white middle class male goes to work, comes home and lets the dog out. He eats the dinner his wife has prepared, sprawls out on the couch to drink beer and watch TV. Mindless TV that does not challenge him mentally or morally. Beer is the perfect anesthesthetic to forget he saw a guy he went to high school with today and he is black. Not a bad guy but he now has the job he always wanted. It makes him feel very bad about his own life.
His job could be done by anyone, though he would never admit it to another living soul. He is comfortable in his middle class life because it asks nothing further of him. He never talks about the future or plans anything. To do that he would have to look at his life and admit that there had to be something more. Perhaps he should go back to school. What is he good at now? Could he get an online college? No, he’d have to give up Thursday bowling with the guys and Sundays at the Sports Bar to watch the game with his buds and drink beer. These are his social activities. He thinks maybe he should get a motorcycle. That would be cool and he’d be the envy of all his friends.
Does he do any of this? No because it would take effort and he probably couldn’t get the grades if he went back to school. People would laugh at a guy almost fifty going back to school. It could be very embarrassing and he sure doesn’t need that. Maybe the wife should go back work full-time. Yeah, that’s a good idea. She is putting on weight anyways. She could take some of the burden off of his shoulders of supporting this family. Then he would feel better. He is just overwhelmed with too much responsibility. He could get the motorcycle with the money she earns. Yep this is a good plan. He’ll tell her tomorrow. Right now, he needs another beer. Survivor is coming on…
The successful person of color who accomplishes all that the American dream promises, is a threat to this man. A serious threat to his sense of entitlement. His Dad had a good life and he didn’t have to go to school. The president is the problem. They are shipping too many jobs overseas. The president isn’t doing enough for the real Americans. Guys like him. America is for guys like him. The people of color are taking the really good jobs. Next election, he plans to vote for a no nonsense candidate. Someone who will shake up Washington and get things back where they used to be. And get rid of that Affirmative Action stuff, those jobs belong to the real Americans.
Well, he’s done that: voted for the “outsider”, the guy who promised to get rid of political correctness, promised to keep out all the “others” and talked about watching “certain areas” for voter issues.
And now, that white man on his couch is watching, and waiting, with a growing sense of dread, most likely, as he looks around and sees that things aren’t getting better, that the swamp isn’t being drained, and that the rights of his wife, his friends, and neighbors are being slowly eroded.
Perhaps by the next election — in 2018, not 2020 — he’ll realize being politically correct wasn’t the problem.
Many people are calling for us to give Trump a chance; to not condemn him for what he said on the campaign trail, and for what he’s done since he won the election: for the Twitter rants and for the nominations he’s made, appointing people who seem both unqualified for the office assigned, and who in many cases have long espoused views in direct contradiction to the roles of the departments they have been proposed to head.
But I, and many others, cannot overlook either his words or his actions. For so many of us it is not about politics, as some have suggested; it is about what his administration brings to our country. The misogyny, the racism, the discrimination of immigrants (Muslims and others), anti-semitic views, and the general bigotry he prescribes to. We are one country, but if we descend into hating people we go against the very principles that our Founding Fathers crafted in our great constitution.
If we don’t take a stand to protect others in our country, we will lose the fundamental precepts that we were founded upon. That is why many of us are resisting Trump, his views and words go against all we believe in. To care about others and to act on that care is vital to what our democracy stands for and what the Founding Fathers dreamed of.
In reality, hate crimes have gone up since the election, synagogues are being threatened,the poor are being disparaged, the disabled are being mocked, immigrants are being threatened (the country was founded by Europeans and they killed the indigenous people which makes us great hypocrites). Immigrants are the richness that has fed America through the centuries. They brought to America their skills, dreams and hard work and are part of the reason America is great.
Yes, I realize that this isn’t what Trump says, but based upon my beliefs and others, America is still great. America gives everyone the ability to dream and work hard and move up in our society. America, because of the influence of many immigrants, is still the place that you can work to make yourself rise above where you were born in the social structure of your country of their birth. America is also the country where others care about your education, health, losses, accomplishments and ability to work for yourself and your family, The desire for our children to become more than what we are is paramount to the American dream.
America is not perfect. Hatred is a great deal of the reason why. For instance, because the Founding Fathers could not come to any type of a decision on slavery, they postponed that decision until a future generation would be able to come to a moral and ethical solution. We ended up freeing the slaves during the Civil War. Has America provided minorities equality and the same opportunities that white people have? No. The racism that stumped The Founding Fathers and that crippled the South for many years is still a problem.
As Americans, we must look at the bigotry, racism, and sexism that dwells within our hearts and souls. We need to be honest with ourselves, face it head on, and overcome the desire to blame others for what is not right in our lives. Black people, Jews, and women are not the reason you find your life lacking. They are not the reason you lost your job or don’t have health insurance, or don’t have the family you always dreamed of. But other caring Americans can help and give you support. Often, others can and would advise you, give you a hand, or just assist in ways you can determine.
America has never been perfect but we have continued to try. We haven’t tried hard enough and there are people whose lives can testify to that. Education, hard work and being honest with ourselves will take us to what we desire. By being responsible for all of our actions we negate the habit to blame others for our losses and disappointments.
America must realize that while we are great, we each need to love our fellow citizens despite their religion, color, gender, education level, and socio-economic place in our society. Only then we can rise together to fulfill our dreams and to make America the best it can possibly be.
Germans are taught that their historical horrors were collective failures. Americans, on the other hand…
Both the US and Germany have committed horrific racist atrocities in the past. But Americans learn about their own cruelties differently than Germans do, writes Megan Carpentier
In America, we learn that Hitler and the Nazis committed the Holocaust; in Germany, German children learn that they all participated in it, because the Germans came to believe that acknowledging their collective culpability as individuals was the only way to prevent it from ever happening again.
Americans, meanwhile, continue to debate whether the Civil War was fought to preserve the institution of slavery, as stated by actual Confederates at the time, or to settle a far more abstract and nebulous quarrel over the less morally indefensible concept of “states rights.” History isn’t always written by the victors, especially if there’s a version that makes everyone feel a little less guilty.
Obviously, this is to some extent simplifying the cultural and political differences between the US and Germany. (For one, Germany hasn’t wholly avoided the rise of right-wing extremism since the Nazis.)
But as Carpentier explains in her piece, America tends to take individualistic views of its history, focusing on heroes like George Washington or Abraham Lincoln and villains like Adolf Hitler. Germany has instead made a conscious effort to look at its role during World War II not through individuals but through a collective view — hence the focus not on how Hitler himself went wrong, but on how the nation that supported him and the Nazis did.
The impact of these distinct approaches sticks with us today. Germany still atones for World War II in its schools. Americans learn of slavery and other racist acts as largely the mistakes of their individual ancestors, and sometimes even refuse to admit what the mistakes were at all.
Just last year, there was a big debate about the Confederate flag after the Charleston church shooting, in which a gunman — who donned the flag and describes himself as a white supremacist — shot and killed nine black parishioners.
The flag is a racist symbol of a racist institution that defended slavery, based on the direct admissions of the Confederate states at the time. But some Americans refuse to see the flag in this way, terrified of what that would say about ancestors who once supported the Confederate cause. So there was a national conversation about the issue, mostly focused on if the flag should come down at the South Carolina Capitol.
It seemed ridiculous to be having this debate 150 years after the Civil War, but that’s emblematic of how much of the country has never truly atoned for America’s racist past.
The sun sets behind the Jefferson Memorial in Washington.
America died on Nov. 8, 2016, not with a bang or a whimper, but at its own hand via electoral suicide. We the people chose a man who has shredded our values, our morals, our compassion, our tolerance, our decency, our sense of common purpose, our very identity — all the things that, however tenuously, made a nation out of a country.
Whatever place we now live in is not the same place it was on Nov. 7. No matter how the rest of the world looked at us on Nov. 7, they will now look at us differently. We are likely to be a pariah country. And we are lost for it. As I surveyed the ruin of that country this gray Wednesday morning, I found weary consolation in W.H. Auden’s poem, September 1, 1939, which concludes:
“Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.”
I hunt for that affirming flame.
This generally has been called the “hate election” because everyone professed to hate both candidates. It turned out to be the hate election because, and let’s not mince words, of the hatefulness of the electorate. In the years to come, we will brace for the violence, the anger, the racism, the misogyny, the xenophobia, the nativism, the white sense of grievance that will undoubtedly be unleashed now that we have destroyed the values that have bound us.
We all knew these hatreds lurked under the thinnest veneer of civility. That civility finally is gone. In its absence, we may realize just how imperative that politesse was. It is the way we managed to coexist.
If there is a single sentence that characterizes the election, it is this: “He says the things I’m thinking.” That may be what is so terrifying. Who knew that so many tens of millions of white Americans were thinking unconscionable things about their fellow Americans? Who knew that tens of millions of white men felt so emasculated by women and challenged by minorities? Who knew that after years of seeming progress on race and gender, tens of millions of white Americans lived in seething resentment, waiting for a demagogue to arrive who would legitimize their worst selves and channel them into political power? Perhaps we had been living in a fool’s paradise. Now we aren’t.
This country has survived a civil war, two world wars and a Great Depression. There are many who say we will survive this, too. Maybe we will, but we won’t survive unscathed. We know too much about each other to heal. No more can we pretend that we are exceptional or good or progressive or united. We are none of those things. Nor can we pretend that democracy works and that elections have more-or-less happy endings. Democracy only functions when its participants abide by certain conventions, certain codes of conduct and a respect for the process.
The virus that kills democracy is extremism because extremism disables those codes. Republicans have disrespected the process for decades. They have regarded any Democratic president as illegitimate. They have proudly boasted of preventing popularly elected Democrats from effecting policy and have asserted that only Republicans have the right to determine the nation’s course. They have worked tirelessly to make sure that the government cannot govern and to redefine the purpose of government as prevention rather than effectuation. In short, they haven’t believed in democracy for a long time, and the media never called them out on it.
Democracy can’t cope with extremism. Only violence and time can defeat it. The first is unacceptable, the second takes too long. Though Trump is an extremist, I have a feeling that he will be a very popular president and one likely to be re-elected by a substantial margin, no matter what he does or fails to do. That’s because ever since the days of Ronald Reagan, rhetoric has obviated action, speechifying has superseded governing.
Trump was absolutely correct when he bragged that he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and his supporters wouldn’t care. It was a dictator’s ugly vaunt, but one that recognized this election never was about policy or economics or the “right path/wrong path,” or even values. It was about venting. So long as Trump vented their grievances, his all-white supporters didn’t care about anything else. He is smart enough to know that won’t change in the presidency. In fact, it is only likely to intensify. White America, Trump’s America, just wants to hear its anger bellowed. This is one time when the Bully Pulpit will be literal.
The media can’t be let off the hook for enabling an authoritarian to get to the White House. Long before he considered a presidential run, he was a media creation — a regular in the gossip pages, a photo on magazine covers, the bankrupt (morally and otherwise) mogul who hired and fired on The Apprentice. When he ran, the media treated him not as a candidate, but as a celebrity, and so treated him differently from ordinary pols. The media gave him free publicity, trumpeted his shenanigans, blasted out his tweets, allowed him to phone in his interviews, fell into his traps and generally kowtowed until they suddenly discovered that this joke could actually become president.
Just as Trump has shredded our values, our nation and our democracy, he has shredded the media. In this, as in his politics, he is only the latest avatar of a process that began long before his candidacy. Just as the sainted Ronald Reagan created an unbridgeable chasm between rich and poor that the Republicans would later exploit against Democrats, conservatives delegitimized mainstream journalism so they could fill the vacuum.
Retiring conservative talk show host Charlie Sykes complained that after years of bashing from the right wing, the mainstream media no longer could perform their function as reporters, observers, fact dispensers, and even truth tellers, and he said we needed them. Like Goebbels before them, conservatives understood they had to create their own facts, their own truths, their own reality. They have done so, and in so doing effectively destroyed the very idea of objectivity. Trump can lie constantly only because white America has accepted an Orwellian sense of truth — the truth pulled inside out.
With Trump’s election, I think that the ideal of an objective, truthful journalism is dead, never to be revived. Like Nixon and Sarah Palin before him, Trump ran against the media, boomeranging off the public’s contempt for the press. He ran against what he regarded as media elitism and bias, and he ran on the idea that the press disdained working-class white America. Among the many now-widening divides in the country, this is a big one, the divide between the media and working-class whites, because it creates a Wild West of information — a media ecology in which nothing can be believed except what you already believe.
With the mainstream media so delegitimized — a delegitimization for which they bear a good deal of blame, not having had the courage to take on lies and expose false equivalencies — they have very little role to play going forward in our politics. I suspect most of them will surrender to Trumpism — if they were able to normalize Trump as a candidate, they will no doubt normalize him as president. Cable news may even welcome him as a continuous entertainment and ratings booster. And in any case, like Reagan, he is bulletproof. The media cannot touch him, even if they wanted to. Presumably, there will be some courageous guerillas in the mainstream press, a kind of Resistance, who will try to fact-check him. But there will be few of them, and they will be whistling in the wind. Trump, like all dictators, is his own truth.
What’s more, Trump already has promised to take his war on the press into courtrooms and the halls of Congress. He wants to loosen libel protections, and he has threatened Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos of Amazon with an antitrust suit. Individual journalists have reason to fear him as well. He has already singled out NBC’s Katy Tur, perhaps the best of the television reporters, so that she needed the Secret Service to escort her from one of his rallies. Jewish journalists who have criticized Trump have been subjected to vicious anti-Semitism and intimidation from the white nationalist “alt-right.” For the press, this is likely to be the new normal in an America in which white supremacists, neo-Nazi militias, racists, sexists, homophobes and anti-Semites have been legitimized by a new president who “says what I’m thinking.” It will be open season.
This converts the media from reporters to targets, and they have little recourse. Still, if anyone points the way forward, it may be New York Times columnist David Brooks. Brooks is no paragon. He always had seemed to willfully neglect modern Republicanism’s incipient fascism (now no longer incipient), and he was an apologist for conservative self-enrichment and bigotry. But this campaign season, Brooks pretty much dispensed with politics. He seemed to have arrived at the conclusion that no good could possibly come of any of this and retreated into spirituality. What Brooks promoted were values of mutual respect, a bolder sense of civic engagement, an emphasis on community and neighborhood, and overall a belief in trickle-up decency rather than trickle-down economics. He is not hopeful, but he hasn’t lost all hope.
For those of us now languishing in despair, this may be a prescription for rejuvenation. We have lost the country, but by refocusing, we may have gained our own little patch of the world and, more granularly, our own family. For journalists, Brooks may show how political reporting, which, as I said, is likely to be irrelevant in the Trump age, might yield to a broader moral context in which one considers the effect that policy, strategy and governance have not only on our physical and economic well-being but also on our spiritual well-being. In a society that is likely to be fractious and odious, we need a national conversation on values. The media could help start it.
But the disempowered media may have one more role to fill: They must bear witness. Many years from now, future generations will need to know what happened to us and how it happened. They will need to know how disgruntled white Americans, full of self-righteous indignation, found a way to take back a country they felt they were entitled to and which they believed had been lost. They will need to know about the ugliness and evil that destroyed us as a nation after great men like Lincoln and Roosevelt guided us through previous crises and kept our values intact. They will need to know, and they will need a vigorous, engaged, moral media to tell them. They will also need us.
We are not living for ourselves anymore in this country. Now we are living for history.
Me, in Washington D. C. for art exhibit circa 1980’s.
I often went to Washington for art and protests.
I believe that Progressives and Liberals all had independent wakes for our country beginning the morning after the election. I remember my mind all a-swirl with thoughts about what had just happened to the country I loved so much. I flashed back to 1976 and my dad grilling in the backyard with his red, white and blue apron on, that said 1776-1976. Hot dogs and hamburgers were coming off of the grill. America was not a perfect country then but we let our voices, me and the rest of the young people, be heard and the government was beginning to listen about Vietnam and Civil Rights for black people. We were doing new things like reading Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. It changed my life as it did the lives of millions of other women, young and old.
I helped to start a Domestic Violence shelter in Pennsylvania. It was a journey in faith, but it is still there and helping women and children. There are still women who are in violent relationships today; but more about that another day.
I became a feminist and devoted myself to helping women and children to lead better lives. It was important to me that they would be able to access the justice they needed and would not suffer because someone looked at them and decided they should have acted different or been different.
Over the years, I watched as racism raised its ugly head when a Mom had kids who were several different shades. That didn’t bother me. Once I fought Children’s Services when they tried to take the aforementioned children away from the Mother. I won and this good mother whose only “crime” was to have been beaten by a man kept her kids. They were beautiful and smart and sweet.
When I counseled for Rape Crisis, I often had to protect the victims from the misogyny of the police and even their fathers and brothers. It was no easy task but we educated people and they learned that the important thing was that the woman who was their baby girl or sister or wife had been hurt in a brutal way and we could stop it happening to other women.
We were able to stop back alley abortions and I lobbied in Harrisburg to convince legislators of the importance of keeping teen girls and young women out of the hands of questionable doctors who would perform these abortions for a lot of money with no guarantees that the woman would survive. Women were still having to cross state lines at that point.
I remember a 10 year old girl who came to an abortion clinic with her Mom. Counseling was required before all abortions and this case was no exception. The girl was seen by a counselor first and then her Mother joined them. Her Father had molested her and gotten her pregnant with his child. He was in jail, which was where he belonged. This 10 year old had been through enough. It was cruel to ask her to now ask her to remain pregnant for the entire nine months and go through labor and delivery. She carried her Mickey Mouse doll into surgery and held a nurse’s hand. She came through very well and was up and around quickly. There are so many stories where abortion is a blessing and not a convenience.
I have friends everywhere. They don’t look like me. We don’t all have the same religious beliefs. We are from both genders. Some are musicians, some are retired business people, some are artists and activists like I am. We all look different although now that some of us are aging, we do have that similarity in our looks.
What I am trying to say is that the America I am grieving is lost. It is lost as if a conquering army came and destroyed it and all we can do is look around and shake our heads. Well, I have been shaking my head for over a month now and I have begun to strengthen my resolve. The election was a disaster. The History books will discuss how this all happened. Your great-grandchildren and mine will study it in school and will feel wise because they understand.
What Progressives and Liberals must do now, whether we understand or not, is to give ourselves a good shake. We need to tell ourselves that American life isn’t over. It is different now. It includes mega racism, misogyny, anti-Muslim feelings, anti-Semitism, a distaste for both the poor and for higher education, and blatant bigotry. We have to promise ourselves, our friends, the people we go to school with, the people in our churches and synagogues and mosques that we will stand with them. We will find a lot of hassle and bigotry at work, so prepare yourselves. The people who feel they were voiceless will now want to spew their hatred over everyone frequently and in the direction of the rest of us. Don’t take the bait. Try the rubber band on your wrist if necessary; snap it when you are angry or need to stop yourself from speaking. Live your lives in the caring, helpful ways you have always done. Read what will fill you up and prepare you for the future. Keep your spiritual life healthy and filled with positive energy. Remember we are all children of the Universe. We have a responsibility to be there for each other until the nightmare is over.
This is the bottom line. Get off of the land of the native peoples. Over history, America has committed some horrific crimes against minority people. I have blogged about them in the past couple of weeks. Slavery is a shame we must deal with far into the future. Racism unfortunately still thrives in America. What America did and continues to do to minority people is horrific, including the rounding up and putting Japanese into camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
We should be putting all of this bigotry and racism behind us and we should be looking at people as our brothers and sisters in the family of man. What is happening in North Dakota with the Indigenous Peoples is completely shocking. It shows that we as a supposedly civilized society have a very long learning curve. I invite you to follow the links to get the entire story. I want to say to those who won’t take the time: when Europeans landed here in America, the land was settled by many Indigenous Peoples. Did the cultures live together peacefully? No. The white Europeans wanted what the natives had. The land was coveted. The Indigenous People were demonized because they were so different. They looked different and spoke differently and they prayed differently. Mostly they lived on land that white people wanted for their own. So the tribes were almost wiped out. Most of their buffalo were destroyed. The buffalo fed, clothed and housed the people. Their land was confiscated, and both natives and pioneers were killed with constant war. It was hateful. It was racist.
Now, we have big oil corporations trying to re-victimize the Indigenous Peoples once gain. They have lived for over a hundred years on reservations, the little bit of land that was given to them by the Federal government. They have paperwork signed by a President of the USA giving them clear right and title to this land. We have no right to take their land away from them yet again. We have no right to destroy their sacred burial grounds. We have no right to attack their peaceful protests. Law enforcement doesn’t have the right to attack the protesters on the land they rightfully own.
Speak up for the rights of America’s Indigenous Peoples. They need our help.
THIS is the bottom line.
Dakota Access Pipeline does not own this land. Transfer Energy Partners does not own this land. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers does not own this land. Private citizens do not own this land.
They never have. None of them.
This land is native American land. This land was ceded to native Americans in the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie, no matter what fuckery the government attempted to do since then, and are doing now, and will attempt to do in the future.
“A Shameful Moment for This Country”: Report Back on Militarized Police Raid of DAPL Resistance Camp
We go to Standing Rock, North Dakota, for an update on how hundreds of police with military equipment raided a resistance camp Thursday that was established by Native American water protectors in the path of the proposed $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline. More than 100 officers in riot gear with automatic rifles lined up across a highway, flanked by multiple MRAPs, an LRAD sound cannon, Humvees driven by National Guardsmen, an armored police truck and a bulldozer. Water protectors say police deployed tear gas, mace, pepper spray and flash-bang grenades and bean bag rounds against the Native Americans and shot rubber bullets at their horses. “We learned a lot about the relationship of North Dakota to Native people,” says Tara Houska, national campaigns director for Honor the Earth. “I was standing next to a group of teenagers that were all maced in the face. … Myself, I actually was almost shot in the face by bean bag round.”
After showing video of Crutcher putting his hands on his car in compliance with the officers, Noah said there is no way that he wasn’t “cooperating” with the police, as they have asserted. While we will never know all the facts of any situation, even when there is video evidence, Noah said, “What we do know is this: It seems extremely easy to get shot by police in America, which is not right.”
Naturally, the officers in these situations tend to deny that racism played a role in their actions, but Noah suggested that they “possess a bias they don’t even know they have.”
“That looks like a bad dude,” the cop in the helicopter can be heard saying of Crutcher in the video. “What exactly about that man looks bad to you from all the way up there in your helicopter?” Noah asked. “He’s not holding a weapon, his hands are up. He doesn’t even have a hoodie on, I mean, isn’t that the universal symbol for ‘bad dude’? You can’t tell anything about this man from up in the helicopter except for one thing: He’s black.”
Noah admitted that even he is guilty of “implicit bias,” sometimes seeing a black man and imagining he might get mugged. But to those who wonder why black people are rioting over these incidents, he had this question: “If the only time you encounter black people is when you’re policing crime, then your only experience of black people is that they’re criminals.”
Nothing is going to change “racial bias” overnight, but Noah said the “one thing you can do is not think black people are crazy for feeling oppressed, because every time they see a video of themselves being engaged by police, it ends with them getting shot.”