I Will Never Underestimate White People’s Need To Preserve Whiteness Again
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There is an understandable inclination to believe that by voting for and ultimately electing Donald Trump, White people (particularly working class White people) voted against their own self-interests. After all, this is a man who became a billionaire by swindling and defrauding and sometimes just outright not paying people exactly like them, and there’s no real evidence that a Trump presidency will be much different for them than the Trump industry has been.
This is not particularly untrue. But it misses the point. As I did.
It — and in this context, “it” would be “the entire election season and today’s reaction” — reminds me of a story about Dorothy Dandridge. While visiting a hotel in Las Vegas in the 50s, the iconic entertainer dared dip her toe into the all-White swimming pool; an act which made the hotel management so upset — so disgusted by Dandridge’s toe contaminating the water — that they subsequently drained the entire thing.
Now, this story has never been confirmed to be true. But America’s racially antagonistic foundation, history, present, zeitgeist, and legacy makes it believable. Because there are many, many, many other stories — hundreds of thousands of them — of White people being so appalled and repelled by the presence of Blackness that they willingly and enthusiastically did something that would seem to go against their self-interests. And its with this context that the idea of a pool being drained — a painstakingly long and messy and arduous and expensive process — just because a Black person roundly considered one the world’s most beautiful women got her toenails wet becomes a plausible story.
“Of course that happened. Because it happens all the time.”
In this election, White people did not vote against their self-interests. They may have voted against a self-interest — a few actually — but not their most important one: The preservation of White supremacy. Retaining the value of a Whiteness they believed to be increasingly devalued superseded everything else. Including their own livelihoods; their own physical and financial well-beings; their own Christianity; their own agency; their own money; their own educations; their own futures; their own children’s futures, their own country’s legacy; their own country’s status with the rest of the world; their own environment; their own food, air, and water; their own rights; and their own lives.
And please note that I am not including any qualifiers. For working class Whites. Or Whites from rust-belt cities. Or White men. Or White people who didn’t graduate from college. Or rural Whites. Or Midwestern Whites. Or Southern whites. This is on ALL White people. Who are complicit even if they didn’t vote for Trump. Because they obviously haven’t done enough to repudiate the mindsets existing in their families and amongst their friends; possessed by their co-workers and neighbors; shared during private holiday gatherings and public city townhalls. Who have shown us that nothing existing on Earth or Heaven or Hell matters more to them than being White and whichever privileges — real or fabricated; concrete or spiritual — existing as White in America provides.
I admit, I underestimated them. Of course, I knew of the presence of White supremacy and the appeal of perpetuating it. You can not exist as a Black person in America without at least a rudimentary and peripheral understanding of it. What I didn’t realize, however, was exactly how powerful this want to retain Whiteness is. I assumed, wrongly, that enough of them would value their own lives, their own humanity, more than the need for White supremacy to be preserved. But I failed to realize how intertwined these things are for them. There apparently is no point in even existing without existing as White. Whiteness is past an identity or status. It is their oxygen, their plasma, their connective tissue.
I’m trying very hard to find silver linings today. Some source of comfort or consolation. But I can not. Maybe I will eventually. But right now, this, the idea that White people are so possessed with clutching and cultivating and elevating White supremacy that they will endanger and outright sacrifice their own fucking lives to do so, is all I can think about. And if they feel that way about their own lives, how do you think they feel about mine?