Dear White People: Donald Trump Is Happening Because You’re Scared Of Black People, So Don’t Be!
Both Donald Trump and Trump supporters seem to be perplexed that a campaign full of unambiguous antagonism towards people who don’t happen to be White has created the type of climate where what happened in Chicago last weekend happens. Which is like someone who happens to be lactose intolerant drinking an Oreo shake and then complaining all night about a stomachache. (Which is exactly what I did on Friday. Because my willpower vacillates from “six-year-old” to “crackhead.”)
Of course, the message from Trump and his followers is that President Obama is to blame for this atmosphere. Which is true, I guess, the same way it’s true that the guy who invented rap is responsible for Tyga.
The reality, as Slate’s Jamelle Bouie recently articulated, is that Trump is happening because many of you believe Obama inverted America’s true racial hierarchy:
For millions of white Americans who weren’t attuned to growing diversity and cosmopolitanism, however, Obama was a shock, a figure who appeared out of nowhere to dominate the country’s political life. And with talk of an “emerging Democratic majority,” he presaged a time when their votes—which had elected George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan—would no longer matter. More than simply “change,” Obama’s election felt like an inversion. When coupled with the broad decline in incomes and living standards caused by the Great Recession, it seemed to signal the end of a hierarchy that had always placed white Americans at the top, delivering status even when it couldn’t give material benefits.
In a 2011 paper, Robin DiAngelo—a professor of multicultural education at Westfield State University—described a phenomenon she called “white fragility.” “White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves,” she writes. “These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.”
Ultimately, both Trump’s campaign and what happened in Chicago are the results of Angry While White; the anger coming from the idea that Obama’s ascension made your American Whiteness less valuable. Which, in turn, stems from a fear of Blackness. Of Black people. Of Black spaces. Of Black coffee. Of Lance Stephenson. The Blacker America becomes — and no, it doesn’t seem to matter if this spread of Blackness is real or perceived — the scarier it gets. And this fear is very real.
It’s very likely that at least part of this fear is due, at least subconsciously, to guilt. The idea that, once the hierarchy is completely inverted, we (Black people) will treat you the same way you’ve treated us. And not post-racial racism treatment either, but some first week of Roots type shit. Of course, that wouldn’t happen. Having White slaves seems too time-consuming, and we (Black people) generally aren’t big fans of the bookkeeping necessary to keep Jim Crow logistically viable. (Also, related, Trump is an example of what artificial sunlight can do to White skin. And we just don’t want to chance what would happen if we exposed you to prolonged Southern sun. That would be cruel and unusual.)
Mostly, though, you — and I’m speaking both to Trump supporters and those who’ve allowed the conditions that have created Trump supporters to go unchallenged — just seem to be scared of us. Of a permeating Blackness infecting and swallowing everything in its path. The Smoke Monster from Lost, essentially. And while I know this fear exists, I’m completely in the dark (heh) about how it manifests in your minds. Like, how would a Blacker America look? How does this Blackness Boogeyman appear? Do you fear we’d replace the Pledge of Allegiance with Deck’s verse from Triumph? Appoint Justin Slayer Secretary of State? Rename “Texas” to “That Place That’s Really Mexico So We’re Just Gonna Start Calling It Mexico Again Because Why Not?” Make it a federal crime to place an uninvited fingertip on a Black woman’s hair? Go back to the days where a man delivered milk to your doorstep every week, but have that man be the grits and greens man instead? (Actually, a grits and greens man sounds kinda awesome.) Invite Tyler Perry to the Oscars? (Actually, that scares us too.)
And yes, a Blacker America would have some aesthetic changes. Some of the pictures on the wall would change. And we’d make some room on Mount Rushmore for Harriet Tubman and Stringer Bell. But that’s pretty much it. Cities would still function, banks would stay open, and Downton Abbey would still air.
But if you still want America to be great — and not some Sucralose, artificially nostalgic great, but actual great — you can’t allow this fear to allow you to vote Trump for president. And, if that’s not enough of an incentive, just think of the amazing cookout we’ll throw if this doesn’t happen. Picture the tables and tables full of savory grits and sparkling grits and awkwardly tasty pork. And yes, you can even bring a dish too! Just not the potato salad.