I am a graduate of The Ohio State University and I watched in horror when our campus was attacked Monday morning. I walked those grounds for years; sometimes going to class, at others to a lady’s dorm room hoping for a kiss. This was personal. I just knew the attacker would be a white male and yet it was a Somali immigrant, a Muslim. That discovery made this piece harder to write. The Trump crowd will welcome this as a validation for their xenophobia and anti-Muslim crusade; that makes me uncomfortable. The reality is Islamic terrorists do pose some threat to us. It is also true that America has done quite a bit to create terror by its actions and at times, inaction. The OSU attacker expressed some of those grievances and the question we face in this age of Trump is whether we can be empathetic to a Muslim and hear him out.
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.
Donald Trump brought old school back. Explicit bigotry and racial violence are now back on the table, thanks to the Donald. Solange is demanding a seat at that same table, however. Her new album, “A Seat at the Table,” matches the open hostility of Trump’s movement with an equally unapologetic affirmation of blackness and self-determination. Solange is trying to tell us something. She gave us the freedom to feel pain and articulate that but more importantly, lessons to overcome it from an unlikely role model: Master P. This is the light we will follow in the age of “President Donald Trump.”
If I sold guns, my livelihood would depend on whether a candidate preferred war or peace. I can see why defense contractors are so invested in elections. Only about 53% of Americans voted in the 2012 presidential election; clearly half of the country didn’t feel that their livelihood depended on that election. Coincidentally, roughly half of the country earns less than $50,000 annually, according to American Community Survey data. Ask any of those under $50,000 earners how their most pressing day-to-day issue is being directly confronted in this election and they couldn’t tell you. But they aren’t stupid. Research by Dr. Thomas Hayes shows the voting record of Senators–of both parties–consistently align with the opinions of their wealthy constituents while the opinions of lower-class constituents never appear to influence their voting behavior.
My ancestors died for voting rights. My vote was purchased in blood and thus it is valuable. But it won’t really count next Tuesday. My vote only matters if I have identified the issues important to my community, pressed candidates to take a stance on those issues and feel confident that someone on the ballot will fight for them. None of those conditions will exist next Tuesday. No, the prospect of a third Clinton term is not at all equal to the lunacy of a Donald Trump presidency but let’s not be delusional and think that the concerns of black communities will be front and center. Sadly, we as black people must shoulder some of that blame.
Hillary Clinton visited a Black church in Charlotte Sunday, a city still wrestling with the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott at the hands of police. In her address Clinton said, “I am a grandmother and like every grandmother, I worry about the safety and security of my grandchildren. But my worries are not the same as black grandmothers, who have different and deeper fears about the world that their grandchildren face.” Hillary Clinton only had to say that Blacks are more likely to be shot in the streets by the police–whom our tax dollars fund–in order to differentiate herself from the other guy.
On Saturday Donald Trump visited a black church in Detroit. Trump’s visit made this much clear: the black church is a weak shell of itself. In an age where churches struggle for relevancy and politicians only stop by for votes, black pastors are willing to give Donald Trump (or Hillary Clinton) the floor for camera time and the illusion of access to circles of power. Rather than an institution that terrorizes the powerful with its message of truth and justice, the black church has been reduced to chasing the spotlight of “whosever will” come through the doors. Dr. King would roll in his grave.
Yes, Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for President. Yes, he is the same man who says utterly ridiculous, xenophobic and misogynistic things on the hour. No, he has never pretended to offer any substantive policy proposals to fix anything and yet here we are. Amazingly, Trump did not get here by force nor through some extortionist scheme. Millions of people actually went out to primaries and willingly voted for him. We keep pretending that isn’t true and ignoring this inconvenient fact will be our downfall. We are a nation stupid enough, ignorant enough and hateful enough to vote for this man. Defeating him this fall won’t fix that problem.
Britons narrowly voted to leave the European Union and since then I’ve heard that racism and xenophobia are to blame. Concerns over the free flow of labor (non-British people) into the UK was certainly a driving force and to ignore the Trump-ish theme of anti-immigration would be irresponsible. But simply labeling the Brits racists–as many liberals in the U.S. have done–lets liberals (I’m one of them) off the hook too easy and thats precisely what they’d like. Whether the topic is Brexit, gay marriage or immigration reform, liberals in the U.S. excel at emphasizing social issues to avoid admitting we lack answers to the economic crises families are facing. Racism very well may have ultimately driven Brexit but it wouldn’t have been possible if not for unaddressed economic strains on families. It’s just easier to point to racism than admit you can’t fix the latter.
George Zimmerman’s gun auction should make clear what value America places on black life. It isn’t just that we don’t value it but that we place monetary value on ending it. This has been true for a long time. It was true in 1955 when Emmitt Till’s killers were paid $4,000 for telling their tale of cold-blooded murder to Look magazine just four months after their acquittal. That acquittal by an all-white jury took only 67 minutes; one juror even said, “If we hadn’t stopped to drink pop, it wouldn’t have taken that long.” George Zimmerman’s trial at least had the appearance of legitimacy but the aftermath is eerily similar and every bit as painful as the Emmitt Till ordeal. Zimmerman is set to make hundreds of thousands from the sell of the gun he used to kill Martin, much like Till’s killers were paid for their story. Different decades, similar results– that should terrify us enough to act.