Featured, Race & Politics

Why So Many Liberal White Guys Just Can’t Admit The Election Was About Race, Explained

Who are liberal White people?

Liberal White people are somewhere trying very, very hard.

Where can you find them?

Trader Joe’s parking lots. Inner-city bike lanes. Jason Derulo listening parties. Giving TED Talks about couscous. Writing for Slate. Producing feminist porn. 

I see. So, how are liberal White people taking Donald Trump’s election?

Well, I’m not a liberal White person — so this answer may seem incomplete — but it seems as if Trump’s election shook their foundations more than it affected any other demographic. Sure, people of color and other historically marginalized people were definitely hurt by this too. But we never quite lost sight of the possibility of this happening. This is America, after all. It just reinforced shit we already knew.

Liberal White people, however? You’d think someone told them their favorite gluten-free bakery has been using wheat. And some of their reactions to this have been quite telling, particularly in regards to how they feel about race and America’s relationship to it. Liberal White men, in particular.

How so?

As I mentioned last week, their steadfast refusal to acknowledge the role race played in the election makes it seem as if they’re playing some sort of devolved, pre-racial game of Taboo. Of course, there was Mark Lilla’s “The End of Identity Liberalism” which I assumed would be the pinnacle of this train of thought — the fuckshit thinkpiece to end all fuckshit thinkpieces. But a few days later, Mother Jones (perhaps the crunchiest major platform on the Internet) published Kevin Drum’s plea for us to be “careful with the White supremacy label.” Here, Drum defines and limits White supremacy to “people believing non-White people are inferior“; ultimately failing to realize that whether they believe we’re inferior doesn’t matter as much as the effort to ensure White dominance. Which is why the White Supremacy label fits. (It also must be said that Drum’s piece was a defense of Crunchy Jesus himself, Bernie Sanders, who also attempted to minimize the value of identity politics.)

Even Paul Krugman threw his hat into the ring. And while “The Populism Perplex” isn’t as dismissive as Lilla’s and Drum’s pieces were — and acknowledges the role “White resentment” played in Trump’s win — he still expresses a bit of confusion about why so many working class White voters seemed to vote directly against their financial interests. As if the answer isn’t on a fucking billboard.

Interesting. So why do you think this is? Why are they having so much trouble admitting to what’s right in front of them?

One of the more positive byproducts of existing while Black in America is that it forces you to be multilingual. Ebonics, the King’s English, code-switching, Cardi B — we’re well-versed in several different dialects and means of communication. We’re also more in tune to the language of race and racism. We know what’s really being said when Chicago is seemingly randomly name-dropped by a conservative; we immediately knew what “Make America Great Again” meant to convey. It’s a linguistic sensitivity taught to and learned by us; perfected and fine-tuned to the point of virtuosity.

Anyway, maybe this isn’t actually right in front of them. They’ve never had to be as aware of it as we’ve had to be. And maybe they just don’t see or get it because they’ve never had to. White men — by virtue of being White and male — just don’t need to develop the same defense mechanisms everyone else has to.

Also, maybe they do see it, but they just don’t want to admit that the country is as flawed as we’ve been saying it is. Perhaps they’re Neo immediately after he’s taken the red pill; the shock of the real world too much for them to comprehend. And there’s no Trinity available to myrrh for their hot foreheads; just selfies with Ann Coulter.

Those, of course, are optimistic answers to that question. A less optimistic answer would be that they too have a critical stake in the preservation of White supremacy, and their obliviousness is an intentional ploy to retain that status. How do you feel about that?

You said it, not me.

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com and EBONY Magazine. And a founding editor for 1839. And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • Negro Libre

    White voters seemed to vote directly against their financial interests

    I wish we lived in a world where people understood that no one votes their financial interest, if they did, they’d set it up, so they never had to rely on their vote for their financial security.

    • Question

      No one, particularly white people and white males, want to admit they have financial interests other than keep taxes on the wealthy low. Its a weird form of signaling – “I care about wealthy people’s taxes, because I will be one”…

      • Gibbous

        I never understood this. Wealthy people can afford taxes. I don’t give one single hoot about their tax burden. Why would anybody “worry” about wealthy people? They’ve got lawyers for that.

        • mr. steal your costco samples

          every broke azz black lung SWPA nothing to lose methhead is a millionaire in waiting

        • AJ70

          1940 to 1982, the richest paid a 50%+ tax rate. Want to “make America great again”, I’d say start by bringing that back.

          And yeah, spot on with “I care about wealthy people’s taxes, because I will be one”

          So delusional.

        • Kas

          Because if they have to pay taxes they won’t keep the economy going. It’s the most ridulous reasoning ever.

          • mr. steal your costco samples

            you called it “reasoning”. you a lie

        • King Beauregard

          I think because it violates a sense of fairness: if you’re rich you don’t get more out of the government than anyone else does, why should you pay more?

          Of course there is a response to that but it’s not emotionally satisfying: our society and its laws are what made it possible for them to get rich in the first place. Sure I’ll credit a lot of rich people for working hard, but no amount of hard work would make them rich in a country without a good infrastructure, healthy educated citizens, and a robust consumer base.

          • Gibbous

            But everybody knows already that rich people don’t pay taxes. They have accountants who find loopholes.

            Also, I don’t think these folks believe taxes are for govt services. They think it’s a scam. Just like 94% of people who claim that they don’t get some kind of govt. benefit but actually do.

            • King Beauregard

              I am by no means claiming there’s any rationality at work, just saying what I think is going on in people’s heads.

              • Gibbous

                Oh I got that! ?

        • Question

          I don’t understand it either, that’s why I think its signaling through association. White people don’t like to think of themselves, or members of their tribe as poor. Apparently, white poor people either a) don’t realize that they’re poor, b) think of “poor” as a condition for minorities, or c) don’t care.

          Its the “food stamps are for poor Brown people….and how I get my food is none of your business” mentality.

        • Brother Mouzone

          Because the term “wealthy” people is code for WHITE people. Poor and working class white people all think that they’re future “wealthy” people based on their whiteness, so they worry about them as if they’re one of them.

          • Gibbous

            Huh. Pondering . . .

    • United_Dreamer

      But white supremacism is in their financial interest.

      • mr. steal your costco samples

        this. keeps property values afloat

    • nominalize

      Yeah, people vote for their social interests, their moral interests, and their emotional interests. THEN you get down to your financial interests.

  • cyanic

    Everyone white benefits from white supremacy regardless of their politics elsewhere. So race is a problem for nonwhites and their narrative. Despite actually having radical change if they participated in the systematic dismantling of white supremacist institutions.

  • Ess Tee

    Even in the face of all this–their shock, their horror, their utter disbelief–they’re like, But guys. You guys! Listen. Hear me out. What if you all admit that there’s no such thing as identity politics…even as I double down in my Whiteness and pumpkin-spiced* everythingness.

    *[aside: I dislike that it’s “pumpkin-spiced” because pumpkin isn’t a spice. It should be “spiced pumpkin.” But I digress.]

    • #thepumpkinspicerevolution must be halted.

      • cyanic

        The spice must flow.

        • Gibbous

          Mu’adeeb!

        • Lea Thrace

          I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me

      • Courtney Wheeler

        The only had pumpkin spiced coffee at work today and I was beyond dissapointed. Such a overrated flavor.

        • Kas

          Overrated?

          • Courtney Wheeler

            oops..yeah..*edits*

      • United_Dreamer

        The pumpkin spice revolution will be both hashtagged and snap-chatted. But definitely not televised.

      • Ess Tee

        I don’t get it!

        • It’s the perfect analogy for white liberalism. Wide-spread, popular, and bland.

          • Ess Tee

            No, I get it lol. I meant I don’t get the rallying behind pumpkin-spice in general.

            • It’s on the things they love to death between dogs, IPAs, and police.

              • Ess Tee

                Lol. In that order.

                I haven’t been in these comment skreets as much as a used to so maybe I missed a convo or two, but do you watch Atlanta? You listing dogs first reminded me of the show.

                • Of course I watch Atlanta. Dogs are definitely at the top of the list which weirds me out because I actually love dogs.

                • Kas

                  VSB did recaps

              • grownandsexy2

                They have a whole cabinet full of pumpkin spice coffee at my job. I just laughed when I saw it.

          • United_Dreamer

            And meaningless

    • Gibbous

      Pumpkin Spice is a mix of spices that you ADD TO PUMPKIN to make pumpkin pies, etc. tasty. It does not now, nor has it ever, tasted like pumpkin. Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. Pumpkin Spiced Latte should not taste like a pumpkin. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/863265835f577986a61224f80a6126ba3432e24cbfb627fd4da25a74f5acc213.jpg

      • Ess Tee

        I’m scrunching up my nose at this lol

        • Gibbous

          Good, bad or indifferent? I’m not making a judgement call, just sayin’ what is.

          • Ess Tee

            Indifference, really lol

      • HoobaStankyLeg

        Come through with the good word…

    • Brother Mouzone

      And on a similar/side note…what the he// is up with green bean casserole? Why are they so obsessed with this? All through thanksgiving holiday, this is all I’ve heard from 2520s.

  • Val
    • United_Dreamer

      Awww. But they’re so entertaining when they feed…

      • Val

        Nope.

      • cakes_and_pies

        They aren’t. I’m not here for pics of Black men and women being burned, hanged, and shot up. That’s not entertaining to me.

        • mr. steal your costco samples

          that was awful. worst part is they walk among us

          • cakes_and_pies

            and the populate like Gremlins.

        • United_Dreamer

          Ok – not that kind…

        • Question

          Wait…they do that ’round here??

          • cakes_and_pies

            yes. I was a few months ago, but a couple commentors just kept egging them on and the pics and threats of rape and murder against Black people just got worse and more graphic. I quit the site for a about a week after that.

            • Question

              Wow…I wasn’t aware. That sucks.

              • mr. steal your costco samples

                yeah them cats were waaaaaaaay extra

            • United_Dreamer

              I’ll be honest. I haven’t seen that on this forum although I’m not here that often. Am shocked not shocked.

            • Val

              I saw that. I hit the ‘inappropriate flag’ on all of their posts and eventually they were deleted.

          • Blueberry01

            Yup. Someone posted a picture of a boy being lynched and burned.

        • Glo

          Thank you. When they go from dumb arguments to graphic imagery, they stop being “funny.”

          • Vergiecmcfarland

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    • Courtney Wheeler

      I haven’t encountered an troll on this comment section myself..some were trying to set up a confrontation, but I heard they can be brutal.

      • Val

        Brutal? Meh, most have incredibly weak arguments.

        • Blueberry01

          …and utterly nonsensical.

          Don’t they know that the VSBs and VSSs always bring receipts?

      • Junegirl627

        The come with nonsense. you reply with truth and logic. They can do nothing with that so their only recourse is call people ninja’s and post pics of Black people being tortured by whites or some kind of ape pic.

    • Other_guy13

      Yea…I’m staying away

    • truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

      Exactly Sister. Goodnight and Blessings to you.

      • Val

        Same to you, Truth.

  • Courtney Wheeler

    My older sister is a big wig in pharma…she works with a lot of white males. After the election she walked in on all of them having an enthusiastic conversation about their portfolios when Trump comes into office. She told me she made a sour looking face. One of the men says, “Oh well this election wont effect you at all, in fact you should be happy. Maybe uproot your family out of Newark(her husbands a homicide detective there) and move into a bigger house in the suburbs. The housing market is going to be amazing.”
    Of course this pissed her off to no end but this to me was a glimpse into others mind-frame.

    • KNeale

      How did he figure this election wouldn’t affect her? The American education system is such a failure.

      • Courtney Wheeler

        It’s obvious the man was clearly thinking about his and others wallets in the short term and not the international and/or civil effects this might have on our country.

    • Yahmo Bethere

      As jacked up as it seems, if she’s in a position to take advantage of any benefits, she and her family need to do so.

      I will be managing my retirement accounts accordingly.

  • allpoliticsbaby

    What tangible benefit are we going to get from white people taking the red pill? Should our energy be focused elsewhere (whatever that is) or is it important for us to do both? #reallyasking

    • Brooklyn_Bruin

      There are some allies that get it. And then there are those that wear Patagonia.

      If you’re committed to staying in this country, it means giving Save the Whales Sarah a narrative that will change her life.

      Neither intellect nor appeals to self interest are effective.

      • Ess Tee

        I said to a friend recently that for every [insert the name of our White friend], it feels as though there are like 15617362736 clueless azz, dangerous azz, disingenuous azz White people.

        • cyanic

          Radicalized white allies are uncommon. Liberals are well intentioned white people. The radical ones are woke and ready to take a bullet for the cause.

          • KNeale

            So those radical ones need to go out and organize the clueless ones. We need to be organizing and building up each other not getting into debates with becky or billy about whether or not they racist. (Not saying you’re saying that.) We have so much history about ourselves to learn, so much negative things that have been drilled into us to unlearn. We have plenty of work on our hands we need to get to it. The allies need to be real allies and go organize their people.

        • Brooklyn_Bruin

          Got to find em, vet em, teach em, and keep moving forward

          • Ess Tee

            This particular friend gets it. She’s been less hand-wringing and more taking her fellow White folks to task, post-election. She’s also really really good about not centering her Whiteness in any of this.

            • Brooklyn_Bruin

              How she came to her orientation would be a useful conversation to have

            • KNeale

              Don’t know her but sounds like she doing it right.

      • allpoliticsbaby

        3 categories of
        Woke – 5%?
        Well Intentioned/Apathetic – 75%?
        Alt Right/Hostile/White Supremacist: 20%?

        It’s the “don’t have a racist bone in their body”, or “i don’t have a problem with nobody” folks that are the problem.

        If we really think we as Black folk are going to get something out of having Woke white folks (in terms of improving legislative policy) We might have to shift to having more policy discussions instead of talking about the broader idea of white supremacy/privilege/bubble.

        • United_Dreamer

          “We might have to shift to having more policy discussions”

          Yes.

          • mr. steal your costco samples

            they’ll just think it’s cute we use polysyllabic words and pass us over for promotion or reject our mortgage application

        • grownandsexy2

          “It’s the “don’t have a racist bone in their body”, or “i don’t have a problem with nobody” folks that are the problem.”

          I notice that with the “I’m not racist/don’t have a racist bone in my body crowd, the next thing out of their mouths is always racist.

      • Yahmo Bethere

        Hold on now…Deray wears his Patagonia!

        • Brooklyn_Bruin

          *Not sure if serious*

          The guy who was in TFA under cutting black public school teachers, who ran for mayoral office as a stunt…

          We could break Ol Boy down if you want, but that might get into a discussion about the efficacy versus the imagery of the BLM movement. That’s a topic for a different day and I’m pretty sure it’s only a handful of us that know anything about the criminal injustice system

          • Yahmo Bethere

            *Amphibious Muppet imbibes lapsang souchang* pass the cream and sugar!

    • United_Dreamer

      As I see it…

      When an oil-man sees an oil-well they drill regardless of what it does to the immediate environment.

      If a white person offers an opportunity to exploit, exploit it in the same way. If they really get it they will be just happy that they helped a black person move forward. If they are waiting for complements and gratitude, then move on.

      If they press you then you can lay it out or not.

      In many ways you need to have an exploitational mindset and a clear vision of the bigger picture.

  • Brooklyn_Bruin

    I just need someone to bring Adolph Reed to task.

    • KNeale

      My friend what did he do now? He came to speak at my job for Bernie Sanders and I was blown! Let me give you an overview: [black people aren’t really being disproportionately targeted by police, the existence of rich black people somehow negates all economic disparities and disenfranchisment of black communities, oh yeah thats right I forgot there is no black community, Good White People Inc. (my job) is the only real way to make change.] I wanted to throw up! I had never heard of him before and was disgusted

      • Brooklyn_Bruin

        He’s problematic

  • United_Dreamer

    “A less optimistic answer would be that they too have a critical stake in the preservation of White supremacy, and their obliviousness is an intentional ploy to retain that status. How do you feel about that?”

    I would love that to be an actual question put to any white politician in the public eye.

  • Abel Garrido

    So good. Don’t. Stop. Writing.

  • Val

    “…they too have a critical stake in the preservation of White supremacy, and their obliviousness is an intentional ploy to retain that status.”

    This is and has always been the answer to this question and a lot of others.

    • KNeale

      Corner them and you’ll get this answer said out to you very plain. Lol. When you actually challenge the white liberals around 1-they’re racism in interpersonal dealings and/or 2-why they feel like they are more capable and more deserving of leadership and power over the po peeple of color they claim to be fighting for…you’ll see fireworks AND you’ll hear them say it pretty plain.

      • mr. steal your costco samples

        I don’t need to hear it plain to hear it. I’m not in the business of helping 2520s self-actualize. I’ll keep it moving past you and 1,000 probiotic drinkers that look just like you

        • KNeale

          “probiotic drinkers” lol!!

          • Sylviaghindman

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            On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $8752 this last four weeks.. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve had.. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
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        • Beauty In Truth

          “With every head bowed, and every eyed closed..”

          Best comments ever.

      • United_Dreamer

        Make sure you bring a witness.

    • OSHH

      Malcolm specifically spoke on this.

    • Yahmo Bethere

      I called out [some/many] Berniebros as being left-wing white supremacists. They weren’t trying to hear that.

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