I have had a very hard time wrapping my head around the Trump election. I couldn’t understand what a rambling, impulsive, blowhard without any real convictions or policy offered a shrinking middle class who have been historically hammered by Republican policy. But it had become very apparent by about mid-July that Trump had tapped into something powerful and raw in the American electorate psyche. I just couldn’t put my finger on what the hell it was. But in an oddly similar fashion to the ascension of Obama in 2008, a large portion of the American voter base had been energized, impassioned, and mobilized.
Then this weekend I had a flashback to a college course I took in preparation to becoming a teacher. One lecture in particular had lodged itself into the back of my mind like a cattle brand. The topic was inherent/ implicit bias. (here is a harvard test for those comfortable challenging their own perceptions. Be warned it can be jarring.) It was jarring for me to say the least. We had an open dialogue about our own biases. Eventually and most naturally the topic of race came up. This was the first time that I had ever had racism quantified for me in a way that challenged my own perceptions of the forms racism could take. I knew I wasn’t racist and that was enough for me. Or so I thought.
However, my brain exploded when the professor began to talk about Racism vs. Supremacy. It was a long discussion but the crux of it was as follows. A person does not have to explicitly or overtly hate another race to still hold the belief that their race is inferior. I was mind blown. This was the form that racism had taken my entire life in the small town I grew up in. I was just never able to mentally frame it.
We as a society have become very astute and combative toward publically displayed racism. I grew up in a predominately white small town in a conservative area; yet, I did not experience open racism. People were not called names. There was no anger. No condemnation. But there was a ton of supremacy. Little quips about the superiority of one’s race, creed and religion. A pervasive mentality of “I have nothing against these people. I am just superior to them and their ways.” That was EVERYWHERE around me.
Somehow over the last 15 years this powerful lecture had dimmed in my brain. I moved to a more diverse area. I worked in a diverse setting. We had a president that spoke in complete sentences. Then this weekend Trump went after the NFL players, a group of predominately black Americans protesting systemic mistreatment by the power structures of America. A group that should just “shut up and take the money.” A sort or ransom for acceptance in the world of white privilege that the money and notoriety of professional athleticism provides. And it hit me. Trump ran on a platform of unrepentant white supremacy. He has attacked Muslims, immigrants, and minorities with startling consistency. He brought in Alt- Right golden boy Steve Bannon and unrepentant nationalist Sebastian Gorka. He continually proliferates an us vs them narrative.
This is because Trump is a White Supremacist. His entire platform is based upon elevating the status of White Christianity at the expense of the “others,” the ones who don’t belong in his mind. Trump is not a racist. And he is not trying to divide the country. He is a white supremacist who is systematically trying to keep his base excited over their superiority. And it is working with the ones who feel the same way: the large percentage of white Americans who would never call a person the n-word or publicly admonish a muslim, but will fervently atoll the inferiority of black culture or a “weird” religion.
Trump is not a disease. He is a symptom of a larger and more dangerous cancer: a nation of racist people who simply don’t know they are racist. These are not evil people. They are mostly hard working, honest, family oriented people. But Trump has capitalized on the fears and inherent biases of White America. He might “make America great again” but it will be at the expensive of everyone who doesn’t look, talk or think like him. Personally I cannot think of anything less American.