The U.S. presidential election was an upset of epic proportions. It was also a wake up call for millions of white Americans whose African American friends and neighbors are just shaking their heads, because for people of color, this election was simply business as usual, a Tuesday in America.
As a white woman, I am working hard today to understand the appeal of a President Trump, just as I have been throughout the election. The thing is, no one has really taken me up on that offer to educate me. I’ve been able to identify just a handful of folks in my orbit that will admit casting their ballot for him, fewer did so proudly. Three that I know to be exact.
That left me with seeking other explanations, typically online. Sometimes the Internet is an amazing resource for seeking out information, and sometimes, not so much. I have not been comfortable with the narrative that Donald Trump was elected by uneducated, racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, isolationist, evangelical bigots.
Don’t get me wrong, here. I believe that candidate Trump appealed to all those basest of instincts that still hold America captive in too many ways and in too many places. I have watched enough footage of his rallies to not dismiss the ugly river of hatred that flowed freely. JEW-S-A! JEW-S-A! JEW-S-A! comes to mind, as does seeing Hillary Clinton referred to as a bitch and a cunt more times than I could count, and the image of President Obama with a noose around his neck is forever imprinted on me, as will be the call to kill and imprison journalists for simply doing their job.
So if Donald Trump’s voting base extended beyond the ill informed stereotype of the gun toting redneck living in the trailer at the river’s edge, who did vote for him? The breakdown might surprise you, though, again, my friends of color will shake their head, unruffled with what the stats show.
- 63% of white male voters
- 54% of white female voters
- 13% of black male voters
- 4% of black female voters
- 33% of Latino male voters
- 26% of Latino female voters
That’s the racial breakdown, but it only tells us part of the story. Here are some additional important stats:
- Hillary won the youth vote, but with significantly smaller margins than President Obama’s victories
- 81% of Evangelical Christian voters cast a ballot for Trump
- Trump outperformed Clinton with college educated white voters by four points (49% to Hillary’s 45%)
- 67% of non-college educated white voters backed Trump
These stats help bust the myth of just who it is that cast a ballot for Trump, and that is important information to have. I am hoping that some of you who voted for him are reading these words, because I have a challenge for you in the days ahead.
White Americans don’t like the idea or characterization of being racist or bigoted. It is distasteful and ugly and pretty damn easy to think that the word doesn’t apply to you. There is a sense, I think, that being a racist involves the addition of behavior — engaging in some kind of hateful activity like we saw was commonplace at Trump rallies, rather than the subtraction of behavior — remaining silent or complacent in the presence of racism or bigotry.
It is very easy to be a racist or bigot in America even never having uttered the N word or other perjorative terms for Latinos or gays or Jews or Muslims or the poor or uneducated or rich and educated — anyone else that evidences difference. Something that comes to mind is the idea of white people who claim they are colorblind, “I don’t see color, I just see people.” Hog-freaking-wash. If you don’t see color, you deny people of color their experience of being treated differently because of their color.
And just so you don’t feel so alone here, or put on the spot, let me be the first to say that I think of myself as a racist. I am not asking the white folks reading these words to admit to anything I do not admit to myself. Growing up white in America in the 1970s and 1980s on the south side of Chicago, it was pretty much a given that I grew up in a racist environment. That culture is part of my fabric and I intend to write about it at some point.
Because I think of myself as a racist, coming from a racist history and environment, I work hard, very damn hard every day, to challenge that part of myself. To see it and identify it and sit with it and understand it for what it is. How racist or bigoted notions and ideas and prejudices are something to be acknowledged so they are not acted upon or do not influence behaviors.
And this leads me to the real point of this blog post, my challenge to those of you who are white and voted for Donald Trump. He is a man who has been endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. He is a man who picked a running mate that endorses conversion therapy for gay and lesbian people. He is a man who clearly values women based on their level of attractiveness, through his own admissions. These are factual statements. I will not include his comments or actions that can easily be interpreted to demonstrate his racism or bigotry towards African Americans or Latinos or Muslims, because I have seen, repeatedly, how they have been rationalized or justified too often.
If you cast a ballot for Donald Trump because you are frustrated with the American economy, or our health care system, or the rampant corruption within our political system, or are a one issue voter championing the Second Amendment or the right to life movement, if you cast a ballot for Donald Trump despite his rhetoric rather than because of his rhetoric towards people of different colors or religions, what have you done to condemn those things and not excuse them?
You voted for a man that is endorsed by the KKK. Is this okay with you? Or should I ask, is this O-KKK with you? If not, please speak up. Silence is complicit. Silence is acceptance. Silence is tolerance. Disavow the association, because from where I stand and from what I see, too many people who cast a ballot for Trump do accept and tolerate the hate that is so closely associated with him.
Whether you like it or not, whether you accept it or not, whether you want it or not, the idea of what America is is changing, moving forward, expanding, and accommodating that melting pot that was such a proud symbol of who we were as a country. Do not pay lip service to loving America and being a patriot if you do not respect all Americans. The American melting pot contains more than Northern European immigrants from several generations ago.
You have an opportunity to make America great again by disavowing that part of Donald Trump that tolerates and promotes and champions hate and bigotry. Are you up to that challenge?