Have White Supremacists Overplayed Their Hand?
|December 21, 2016||Posted by admin under Musings||
Much like vampires, white supremacy doesn’t fare well in the light. For years, it has been operating underground, rallying people behind the notion that they are outsiders. Let them tell it, the liberal elite has discriminated against them. The mainstream media has supposedly silenced their voices. Now, with Donald Trump’s upcoming presidency, white supremacists and sympathizers have gotten what they want. Whiteness is front and center in the national conversation. However, in doing so, white supremacists have overplayed their hand by relinquishing their greatest advantage, anonymity.
For example, while the narrative around Trump’s victory has centered on “Middle America” and jobs, the reality is that the average Trump supporter earned an annual income of $72,000. The fact that so many people on both the left and right were so quick to latch onto this narrative, many even taking it a step further and suggesting moving away from “identity politics,” illustrates what was really at play, white fragility. Racism doesn’t bother these people. Being held accountable does. In their eyes, there is nothing more frightening than being labeled racists.
This even extends to the Ku Klux Klan. According to an AP report, they are actively distancing themselves from terms like “white supremacist” and “racist,” opting instead for the terms “Alt-Right” and “white nationalist.” Just like Blackwater (which first changed its name XE Services and is now known as Academi), the re-branding efforts have been in name-only. On Nov. 29, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported there had been 867 reported hate incidents since election night. These ranged from racist graffiti to kids being taunted in school to people, including police officers and veterans, being physically assaulted or worse.
While the perpetrators have been empowered by Trump, they have done so with the blessing of white America. For every person chanting “Build that wall,” there are even more, both conservative and liberal, who have excuses and/or willfully ignore the presence of xenophobia, homophobia, and racism entirely. Even some who acknowledge these elements, like the Bill Maher’s of the world, say focusing too much on these social issues has alienated white men and that we should put more time into building bridges with them instead of pushing “identity politics.” In other words, stop making white people, straight men especially, feel so bad.
However, shame is one of our greatest weapons. White guilt and fragility are raw nerves. In the absence of empathy, these raw nerves are often the biggest motivators in many white people’s efforts to prove they aren’t racist. As much as I would like to believe people are inherently wired to do the right thing, the election results provided empirical evidence that isn’t true. When self-interest coincided with promises to build a Wall on the Mexican border, ban Muslims, and overturn Roe v. Wade, millions of mostly white Americans had no problem still choosing self interest. It didn’t hurt that they could do it in their own bubbles or even anonymously.
After all, that’s how this current brand of white supremacy built its strength. For example, pundits like Tomi Lahren have been spewing out cartoonish arguments like “Black Lives Matter is the equivalent to the KKK,” and getting flocks of people in their bubble to take it as gospel. However, when she went on the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, all of her platitudes fell flat in the face of simple questions. Instead of building her reputation as the new voice of the right, she exposed herself as little more than the loud, yet empty face of white supremacy. The only difference between her and people like the screaming lady in Michael’s and the Trump supporter banned from Delta Airlines for life was that she was getting paid for her ignorance.
While memes and “hot takes” come and go every day, the clips will ultimately live on. Just as archival footage of Bull Conner and George Wallace makes a lot of white people cringe now (including some who supported them during that time), these clips will also serve as a lasting indictment long after the history books have been written. Yesterday’s assertion that Black brains are smaller than whites’ is today’s inability to understand the words “Black Lives Matter.” Ultimately, slogans like “All Lives Matter” will just go down in history as yet more sad, failed justifications for racism, condemning any and everyone caught on record using them.
While that may have been easy for white supremacists and their sympathizers to obscure during Barack Obama’s presidency, it’s going to be increasingly harder to ignore under Trump. Thanks to his racist, fear-mongering campaign, open support from white supremacists, and the subsequent explosion of racist incidents following his election, Trump has ensured more vigilance among minorities than this country has seen in years. This includes groups with significant political capital such as white women, Jewish people, and the LGBT community.
The fact is, every day that Trump and his supporters don’t right all their wrongs (which could very well be never, even if they tried) is an excuse to remind them that they’re on the wrong side of history. Even on the rare days without incident, there is more than enough ammo to make Republicans’ 8 years of obstructing Obama look like friendly sparring. Remember the posters and billboards of Obama with Hitler mustaches? How about the representative from South Carolina who yelled “You lie!” while Obama was addressing Congress? Surely you didn’t forget when Mitch McConnell said the Republicans’ number one priority was making Obama a one-term President.
If the symbolic gestures aren’t damning enough, consider the actions of some of these Republican politicians that ended up hurting the same “Middle America” who was cheering them on. For example, when the economy tanked under the Bush Administration and Obama’s team created a stimulus package, conservative governors were practically tripping over themselves to publicly refuse the money. Worse, “Middle America” gave them permission to do it. To them, it didn’t matter that much of the money would go to infrastructure projects, and thus, the creation of new jobs. It was all about opposing Obama. Even though all 50 governors eventually took the funds, some still refused to take portions allocated for unemployment insurance.
Not surprisingly, this same contingency also cheered on Republicans’ all out assault on Obamacare. They weren’t even deterred by the Government Shutdown of 2013. The further we get into Trump’s presidency, the more we’re going to see waves of Elmer Fudd stories, featuring people who were so deliriously anti-Obama that they didn’t realize they voted away their privileges until it was too late. Consider Kentucky’s Whitley County, where 82 percent of voters supported Trump, despite the fact that many liked and more importantly, depended on Obamacare. According Vox’s report, the best answer people could give for knowingly voting for someone who promised to take away their health care was that they wanted “change.” Most had trouble articulating what kind of “change” they meant. Others had no shame in saying they agreed with Trump on everything but repealing Obamacare. At best, they come off as fools. At worst, they are sick and in need of clinical help (Can you say irony?). Racism denial is only going to get more difficult as more of these stories come to light. No matter how creative people can be in dismissing racism that affects others, they can only hurt themselves so much before they have to confront reality.
In the end, that will be white supremacy’s downfall. There will always be white supremacists clamoring for the white man to “take back his country.” However, they only get power when enough white “moderates” give them permission. Whether these “moderates” reside in “Middle America” or identify as liberals, they will all go down in history as the same white America. They will be judged by their actions. White fragility, guilt, shame, indifference, and even self-inflicted pain will all be under as large a microscope as they have ever been in this country. For those not used to constantly navigating all these emotions with the rest of the world watching, the next 4 years could feel like torture.
White supremacists are hoping that pressure will continue to galvanize their supporters and grow their movement. I think it will break them.