On Tuesday night, as the world watched in shock and horror with the realization that Donald Trump had, in fact, won the presidency, it didn’t take long for a new narrative to take hold. A tweet by Patton Oswalt, in which he stated that the election results affirmed that America is far more sexist than it is racist, quickly went viral.
Numerous (mostly white, though some black) liberals, many of whom are likely still championing the #StillWithHer hashtag—which, as I write this, is trending No. 2 on Twitter—latched onto this declaration. However, this is an argument that black people and all people of color must call b.s. on and push back against.
Although Tuesday night’s election was clearly and unabashedly a demonstration of this country’s unwillingness to accept a woman as president, this resistance, as educator and activist Salamishah Tillet noted on her own (private) Facebook page, was emboldened by the closeness of such a victory to blackness and by Hillary Clinton’s enduring connection with America’s first black president.
When Trump and his minions stood up chanting about “taking America back,” they weren’t talking about taking it back from women, who clearly do not have a political stronghold in this country. When a black church in Greenville, Miss., was burned and vandalized with graffiti reading, “Vote Trump,” the vandals were not only challenging the prospect of a Clinton presidency. If that were the intended takeaway, surely it wouldn’t have been mandatory to target a black church to make that statement.
No, clearly these actions were a direct and personal rebuke against President Barack Obama and the racial progress he represents. They were an unapologetically white and racist clarion call to take America back from “the blacks,” “the Mexicans” and “the homosexuals”; from all of us who believe that health care and education should be free and that black lives, along with human rights, clean water, untainted food and air, and equitable economics, matter.
What is perhaps even more telling, but surely to be expected, is that, when presented with this sort of postelection framing, many white Clinton voters will vocally challenge this by attempting to whitesplain to voters of color why this analysis just isn’t true, that it’s offensive to women and reinforces an “oppression Olympics.” I’ve already been hearing this said to me personally.
Were that the case, how did Obama get elected? they ask. To that I can only say that we should never underestimate white America’s propensity to pat itself on the back for supporting the symbolism of a black president, while behind closed doors struggling to reconcile that with still deep-seated feelings about a black president’s capacity to effectively lead the country.
While sexism and misogyny clearly played a major role in this outcome, black and brown people and those who proclaim to be our allies cannot allow this falsely equivalent analysis to live. Let’s be very clear: When they say, “Make America great again,” that will always include white women. People and communities of color, not so much.
Janet A. Dickerson is a conscientious communications specialist and co-founder and principal of the consulting group Human Impact Solutions. Follow her on Twitter.