Maybe if the Black Left Were Trump Supporters, Democrats Would Put Some Respect on Their Names

We are in a political moment where the “concerns” of racist, sexist, xenophobic white people are largely being engaged with more empathy than those of people of color on the outermost margins with real critiques.

Mica Grimm (center, carrying microphone), a Black Lives Matter activist, leads a march from a makeshift memorial for Jamar Clark on Nov. 20, 2015, in North Minneapolis. Clark was shot and killed by a Minneapolis police officer Nov. 20, 2015. Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Over the course of this farce of a presidential campaign, we have seen mainstream media outlets and politicians seek to analyze and understand white people who support Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

What drives them? What incites them? What brings them to the polls and why? We’re all expected to be so fascinated, as if black people who have been crushed under the Chinese steel-toe boots of white supremacy don’t already know.

Society at large has been encouraged not to ignore the rising tide of white frustration and angst because if we do, pundits have warned, we can never progress and heal as a nation. In an election largely propelled by racism, sexism, xenophobia and hypercapitalism, white fragility has been positioned right alongside white supremacy.

Earlier in the election cycle, former President Bill Clinton, who will be “in charge of revitalizing the economy” in a Hillary Clinton administration, told Stephen Colbert that he understands Trump’s “macho” appeal.

“I run things and I build things and you need somebody that will go in there and fix it. And if they don’t let me fix it, I’ll just get them out of the way,” Bill Clinton said of Trump’s effectiveness with a rabidly racist right-wing base. “There is a macho appeal to saying, ‘I’m just sick of nothing happening. I’m going to make things happen. Vote for me.’”

While campaigning for Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama came to the rescue of a disruptive Trump supporter. To protect him—and, hopefully, get the votes of others like him—Obama demanded that HRC supporters show the Angry White Man™ some respect.

“Everybody sit down and be quiet for a second. I’m serious, listen up,” Obama said. “First of all, we live in a country that respects free speech. Second of all, it looks like maybe he might have served in our military and we’ve got to respect that. Third of all, he was elderly and we’ve got to respect our elders. And fourth of all, don’t boo, vote.”

CNN contributor Van Jones, who once teased support for the Green Party but has come out strongly in support of the Democratic presidential nominee in recent months, has launched a series aimed at bridging the gap between Clinton and Trump supporters. In the first installment of The Messy Truth, Jones visited a Trump-supporting family to better understand where they are coming from.

Jones, for whom I have great respect, then defended “this extraordinary family” when they were criticized in the comment section, writing of one of the participants, Kimberly Fean Corradetti:

This woman has tremendous passion—and compassion, too. She is one of the smartest, high-integrity people I have met all year. And she has guts. We were learning from each other, going back and forth. I appreciate and admire her. … So please give her credit for taking a stand and making herself vulnerable.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) recently posted a series of #NotAllTrumpSupporters tweets:

We have been inundated with article after article after article after article legitimizing the feelings—so many feelings—of Trump supporters who just want to “make America great again.” As Corradetti cried in her interview with Jones, “The word ‘racist’ is thrown around so much, it’s losing its meaning. That is so sad. You’re a racist if you dress up in a Halloween costume as an Indian. [Is the country] so sissified now?”

I’ll give you a few moments to unpack those layers.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Trump supporters set fire to Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville, Miss. This, of course, is in keeping with the racist violence that has permeated the Trump campaign. In March of this year, a black woman was assaulted by Trump supporters at a rally in Kentucky; also in March, a black man was punched by a Trump supporter at a rally in North Carolina.

Trump supporters are either frenzied with rage and bigotry or rationalizing rage and bigotry; there is no in-between. Yet there are still some Democrats asking, “How can we bring Trump supporters under the tent?” as if we should actually care about their future. As if white supremacist capitalist patriarchy ever works against its own best interests.