November 12, 2016

Yes, I realize you are not Archie Bunker. You're still racist.

People who voted for Trump are screaming "I'm not a racist" all over the Internet. Liberal whites are saying, "Trump voters aren't racist, but Trump says racist things."

I'm saying that yes, you are racist, Trump voter.

Our popular understanding of racism is a white hood and a burning cross lighting up a dark lawn. Or a white guy with a buzz-cut shouting spittle and venom at young black students getting off a school bus. Or a white kid fire-bombing a black church.

Our popular understanding of racism is Archie Bunker, a caricature spewing derogatory epithets so profoundly ridiculous that it becomes comedy.

Trump is Archie Bunker. Trump voters are not.

But Archie Bunker racism is not the racism I'm talking about. Racism is insidious and subtle. It is the undertow that drags us out to sea with a silent stealth until we can't make it back to shore no matter how hard we swim. It's the soft-foam mattress that feels so comfortable but is slowly killing us with cancerous chemicals. Racism is inside, and it's impossible for the racist to see or sense.

Trump supporters, I've noticed, use phrases like "I love people of all races."

I want them to stop saying that. I want them to say instead, "People of all races are equal to me. Children of all races are equal to my children."

Because racism isn't about your failure to love. Racism is about your failure to accept someone as an equal.

White Americans, especially Trump Americans, do not understand that they are members of a white culture. They consider themselves simply "Americans" or just normal people. Black people have culture. Native Americans have culture. Hispanics have culture. Asians have culture. But not me; I'm just a normal person, a normal American. I have American culture.

They think of America like they think of Disney World--there's Disney World, and within there's Epcot where all the other cultures can be viewed, interacted with, enjoyed, and learned from. They are neatly contained, well presented, and well behaved. But they're kept in their place. No need for them to be integrated into the rest of the park, which has always been perfectly fine.

This is how racism manifests in America. As long as other cultures are securely contained, well behaved, and not interfering with "my way of life," then we white people love them. We love all of them.

But that's not equality. That's exclusion. We allow other races into white culture if they act, sound, and dress white. And that's what Trump voters are really saying. "We exclude you unless you act, sound, and look like us. Because we are America, and you are something less." This is racism. Classism. Sexism. Religious discrimination. At its core it is exclusionary.

2 comments:

Peter Dudley said...

I should have included that friends remind me periodically of racist, sexist, and classist things I am guilty of, despite my best efforts to avoid being those things. We cannot help it, us humans. Overcoming it is a constant effort, and it is damn near impossible.

In fact, in the past week I have been given a rapid-fire education on many reasons that people voted for Trump, and along the way I have been shown that I'm guilty of an elitism and prejudice against those rural Americans who feel economically left behind. I have some work to do in that area. But you can't extract that feeling of being economically left behind from the "losing our way of life" language that I see so often in those descriptions and which I believe is unconscious code for white people to excuse their own racism.

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