We can stop examining the exit polls and crunching the numbers. Sure, the white working-class had anxieties about the economy but so did poor people of color, who did not vote for Trump. This was about racism. Donald Trump embraced white supremacy and created a home for racial violence throughout his campaign. Millions of Americans (read white people) saw that, understood none of it impacted them personally and chose to vote for Trump. The harm that may come to Latinos, transgender persons or others threatened by a Trump administration will be a direct result of the indifference shown by 60 million Trump voters. The impending suffering of others did not concern millions of Americans enough to stop it. That is precisely what racism looks like in the real world.
In 2016 my concern is not death by a lynch mob. I do, however, fear the Trump voters. They either loved his racism or at the very least, ignored it because it posed no danger to them. They are accessories to his crimes and thus guilty of them. To be indifferent to the suffering of another group is a manifestation of racism, even if one wishes not to accept the label. Trump voters seem not to understand that racism is a large and complex system that maintains its potency not because individuals do bad things to darker people but because masses of people who are not hurt by structural racism are wholly indifferent to it. Their apathy allows the system to remain strong. The Trump election is a grand illustration of what happens each and every day in America; a nation in which very few are willing to identify as a racist but far too many see the suffering of others and ignore it because it only impacts “those people.”
Most white people seem to think that unless they say, “I hate black people” or physically assault someone because of their color, they are not racist. They fail to differentiate individual and institutional racism. Without question, most whites would condemn individual racism–bombing a black church or saying horrible things about Mexicans because they are Mexican. Institutional racism, however, is where it falls apart. No one has to say the “N-word” for a white high school dropout to be as likely as black college students to land a job and yet it is true. That is institutional racism. While most whites would agree that saying the N-word is bad, not enough are offended by the stat just referenced. To be sure, Trump voters feel no urgency to address this issue. I am confident of this because they were willing to ignore more blatant forms of bigotry that manifested during the Trump campaign.
As a black man this leads me to conclude that I can expect no help from the Trump crowd in addressing inequities in employment, housing or any other consequences stemming from present and historical racism. I and my people are without many true allies and that is a scary thought. Racism doesn’t need nasty individuals to persist as a powerful force in American life. It needs only the indifference and complicity of good white people who just can’t seem conjure outrage at the suffering and disparities they do not personally experience. This is racism 2.0 and it is time to confront it. If you can see potential or active harm to another group and not wholly object, you are complicit in racism and thus guilty. Period. Whether the issue is Trump voters in 2016 or white liberals who have remained indifferent to Clinton-era criminal justice policies which have harmed communities of color, you don’t get a pass. Whether you slap me or empower someone else to do it, I see little difference–you intend harm.