People are dying — children of all colors and faiths, Black men and women, Jews. The ideas of truth, honor, life, and liberty are besmirched every day as people cheer for a false god and others stay silent. Our president encourages, praises and embraces white nationalism. Spurred by his deep disregard for the truth, for compassion, for anything that resembles what makes this nation great, he has incited a level of violence and hate that is unprecedented in recent history.
His mantra of “Make America Great Again” is nothing more than a not so subtle dog-whistle for “Make America White Again.”
Donald Trump’s appeal to white Americans was and is to remind them of the days before a Black man became President. The original birther, there should have been no doubt about his agenda. But it was lost to much of the mainstream media as they made a false equivalency between his ugly rhetoric and Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server. They allowed his supporters to come before the American public and lie. Too often those lies were unquestioned.
We watched as the media covered Trump’s rallies as he challenged his believers — some with Confederate flags in their hands — to reject civility, to eschew being “politically correct,” Or what used to be considered having manners. These were not feel-good rallies, they were demonstrations in the power of hate, violence and the underbelly of white America. To be surprised at where we now find ourselves means that you weren’t paying attention. The depth of white America’s fear of the “other” echoes through our branches of government.
We are on a precipice, one where at any moment our democracy may end. For those white Americans who have not fallen under his spell, it is time to question and acknowledge our level of participation that brought us to this point. Expressing our honest outrage is not enough.
To blame Trump for his very real part in inciting this violence and hate is not enough.
We have stood by as Black people have endured a society that doesn’t value their lives. We vote on what will be best for us and not best for all Americans. We stay silent when friends and family spew their racist and anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim drivel. Holidays and family gatherings are a time when we keep our views to ourselves, to avoid rocking the boat.
Rather than challenge or insist on a reasonable conversation, we pretend.
Making nice has become more important than the collective good and more important than the American experiment, which is more fragile than many acknowledge.
This nation was founded on principles that have stood the test of time: Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are vital and necessary components of a successful and righteous United States of America. They are all under attack and white people have allowed it. We are still the majority. We are in power and our greatest goal has been to maintain our privilege. Even liberals, who would like to think differently, find themselves culpable when they revolt against what has been labeled “identity politics” (when the right’s game is white identity politics) or worse, remain silent.
We have orchestrated an environment where too many don’t feel safe. Despite the daily impact of white privilege on people of color, it is now worse. White nationalists have become emboldened. Those of the Jewish faith are experiencing attacks in unheard-of numbers in this country and around the world. It will not get better in the near future. Even if Democrats take the House and Senate, this evil genie is out of the bottle.
Donald Trump has unleashed a primal anger as he has convinced white America of their peril. He has counted on their ignorance and the power of propaganda.
The first step is to vote. The second is for white people to start to do the hard work of looking inward and listening to the voices of the oppressed. It doesn’t matter if you voted for Hillary Clinton, or marched during the civil rights movement. It does matter if you have stayed silent in the face of racism. It matters if you have chosen to ignore the peril of not voting or voting for someone who has no chance of winning as you knowingly throw the marginalized to the wolves.
All of it makes us complicit, and it has to change for all Americans to have a future.
Photo by Marcela McGreal