What are black people to do when the dog-whistling becomes a siren song?
As his campaign shows signs of sinking beneath the tide of sexual assault accusations, his own vile words, inconsistent and nonexistent political and social policies, and an inability to follow the suggestions of his advisers or to stay on script during public appearances for longer than 45 seconds, Donald Trump has tripled down on playing to the paranoia, cynicism, contempt and militant stupidity of his base.
Earlier this summer, a national poll indicated that concern about immigration was driven by racism and fear, not by economic unrest. Now, their fears stoked and their animus validated by their candidate of choice, Trump supporters are pledging to match racist, xenophobic and violent words with actions.
Black people ought to be plenty nervous. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has revealed himself to be a despotic subhuman during this election cycle, blew the loudest dog whistle of all: "[Republicans] don't control the inner cities the way Democrats do. Maybe if Republicans controlled the inner cities, they'd do as much cheating as Democrats." History has proved the scapegoating of blacks to be as effective a political strategy as any; history is also littered with the bodies of blacks who fell as a sacrifice to the irrational hatred and mob violence of white nationalists.
In Another Day in the Death of America, Gary Younge references an essay by James Welch about the ethos of gun culture in our country: “In order to justify the necessity for firearms, the gun-rights narrative must continually reaffirm the frontier spirit, which makes self-defense essential and militia duty compulsory.”
Trump and his cohorts have taken that reaffirmation to the extreme, marking the political and social landscape as a Wild West in which even the government is aggressively seeking to disenfranchise them. Would-be-Vice President Mike Pence said that he would "absolutely accept the result of the election," but that’s just part and parcel of the good-cop, bad-cop routine that Trump and Pence have been running since day one, a mere wink and nod at their base. Republican Party leaders have spoken against Trump’s attack on the sanctity of our democracy, but it’s too late—they’re speaking well after voters have tuned them out. They are the enemy, too. Trump has cultivated within his supporters the spirit of a wounded animal that sees danger from all corners and is ready to attack.
Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke is openly encouraging tyrannical revolt. In our new fact-free society, where reality is increasingly inverted, it is perhaps most appropriate that those elected to serve and protect the populace are urging treasonous violence. This should come as no surprise, really—the nation’s largest police union endorsed Trump with support from over two-thirds of its board. Their rationale had little to do with Trump’s respect for the actual law of the land, but everything to do with his “commitment to law enforcement.” These are two things increasingly at odds with each other.
More than a dozen San Antonio police officers violated department policy and wore pro-Trump regalia while in uniform, gleefully posing for pictures with him on the tarmac of the San Antonio International Airport. The candidate of sexual assault, of racism and xenophobia, who seeks to undermine the public’s faith in democracy, is the choice of those in whom we invest our faith and taxes to keep us safe.
Barack Obama’s two terms as president brought latent racism in America to the surface and made open racism something so potent, it defies description. The optimistic view is that this is the last howl of white male supremacy before it is squelched underfoot by a shift in demographics that will make America a majority-nonwhite nation in the next two to three decades. The pessimistic view is that a significant portion of our population is unhinged, armed to the teeth and eager to “protect” against what it sees as its dispossession. This group includes our police.
It should chill us to the bone when the son of one of the most prominent white nationalist leaders in America can disavow his father’s beliefs even as the Republican candidate for the highest office in the land refuses to do so. Mother Jones conducted a three-month investigation into the white nationalist movement’s support of Trump’s candidacy and deduced that Trump is the white supremacist candidate. He retweets the alt-right’s memes and statistics, steadfastly refuses to denounce their ideas and endorsements, and incorporates their representatives into his campaign.
This is not the impotent threat of a meager crowd of goofy white men in antiquated sheets and hoods marching on the Capitol in a small American town against a backdrop of protesters. Trump has legitimized ethno-nationalism and has fostered in his supporters the idea that their most reprehensible ideas and urges are, in fact, noble and patriotic. This white American fundamentalism is already yielding terrifying results: Just within the past week, the FBI announced its foiling of a plot by white “crusaders” to detonate bombs in a Somali Muslim housing complex.
We have to showcase a heightened awareness on Nov. 8 and for the foreseeable future. We have to be determined, unified and dogged in demanding governmental accountability regarding our protection against domestic terrorists. We have to be honest about what our culture of permanent war has wrought within our own population. We are at war with ourselves.
Who will protect us?
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T.D. Williams was born and raised in New York City, where he spent his youth in a welfare hotel for the homeless in Times Square. He has been a soda salesperson, camp counselor, a parking lot attendant, a waiter, a bartender, a civil rights activist, a dean of college admissions and an adjunct professor. He is currently finishing his first novel, and his writing on sports and societal issues has appeared in various publications, including Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter.