Donald Trump continues his march to the Republican presidential nomination, spurred on by tapping into the racist paranoia of white conservatives all across the country who have found in him a leader who gives voice to their base nature.
As the inevitable drum beats, many white liberals have basked in their own sanctimonious outrage that this kind of stark violence, racism and xenophobia has gained momentum in the United States of America. Some have even expressed utter disbelief that it even exists.
They have pontificated on the dangers of a Trump presidency—the embarrassment it would bring upon the nation, the perilous position in which it would place our international relationships. They have wrung their hands and lamented the impending doom that awaits us if Trump wins and plunges the United States into a dark well of chaos, destruction and hatred that they claim ran dry long ago.
They have buried their heads in the sand and pretended that Trump is an anomaly, a fluke that is not representative of what this country stands for—and in that, they could not be more wrong.
Racism is a system, not just a word or a feeling, or even a Confederate flag. It is not just a white man assaulting a black woman at a Trump rally. It is not just a white man assaulting a black man at a Trump rally.
I have written previously that Donald Trump is as American as the Ku Klux Klan, and though true, that is much too obvious.
Trump is as American as the friendly white woman who told me that the racism her preferred candidate has displayed really bothers her, but she’s casting her vote for her anyway because it’s really time for a woman to be president.
He is as American as the nice white man who told me that he fully understands why some black people are frustrated that no politicians speak to the special and urgent concerns of many black people in America, but that we all have our priorities, and dismantling white supremacy just isn’t high on his list.
He is as American as the mainstream media, which has trafficked in false equivalency and protest porn for ratings, speaking of the morally bankrupt actions of Trump supporters in the same breath as they speak of black people fighting for freedom, as if they were flip sides of the same coin.
He is as American as the concerned white people who applaud Chicago activists putting their lives on the line to shut down a Trump rally but who take no risks of their own.
He is as American as a Wall Street-loving, Democratic mayor who closes public schools and covers up a police officer’s execution of a black man on a public street.
He is as American as black people who traffic in respectability politics, drawing distinctions between themselves and black people in poverty who are constantly targeted by police and unable to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”
He is as American as the nation’s first black president disingenuously mislabeling Trump’s hate speech as free speech, and the actions of protesters as “misguided.”
This nation’s judicial system is Donald Trump’s America. Stop and frisk is Donald Trump’s America. Lukewarm support of livable wages and a refusal to push toward universal health care is Donald Trump’s America. Ignoring the necessity of reparations to focus on “making America whole again” is Donald Trump’s America.
Donald Trump’s America is the romanticization of plantation culture; the lynchings of James Byrd Jr. and James Craig Anderson, the state-sanctioned killings of Aiyana Stanley-Jones and Tamir Rice; the rapes of 12 black women and one black girl by now-former Police Officer Daniel Holtzclaw; the manhandling of black children at swimming pools; the assault of black children at school; the “gentler” war on drugs for white Americans; the burning of black churches; the night raids and deportations; the poison water in Flint, Mich., in Selma, Ala., in Jackson, Miss., and in Newark, N.J.; and the lead paint in Baltimore.
This is why the gleeful urgency to take down Trump because he’s the “real racist” rings hollow. The violence he encourages, the hateful rhetoric he spews, the institutional oppression he champions, is experienced by black and brown people every single day across this country while too many so-called liberals, secure in their manufactured obliviousness, turn the other way when it’s convenient and express outrage when it’s trending.
The question is not “Where did Donald Trump come from?” It’s “Where have our so-called allies been?” It is not “Why is he resonating with so many people?” Rather, it’s “How could he not?”
But we already know the answer to that.
To paraphrase Audre Lorde, there are white people so wrapped up in their own self-described progressiveness that they cannot see their heel prints on the faces of the people of color around them. These are the people who cloak themselves in self-serving guilt to avoid the “cold winds of self-scrutiny,” who cling to a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on racism until a Donald Trump comes along to absolve them of responsibility.
There is a river of blood between being nonracist and being anti-racist. And while the screams of black Americans and other marginalized and oppressed groups in this country have been drowned out by a cacophony of complicity and complacency, we are expected either to not grasp that fact or to ignore the pervasiveness of its existence.
This is the state of our twisted union.