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  • Writer's pictureDearbhla

The White House Supremacist

"No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” - Nelson Mandela

What drives people to hate? In the wake of Trump’s election many pinpointed poverty, fear of the ‘other’ and ignorance due to a lack of exposure to other cultures and religions. Trump played on all three of these factors to ignite his fan base. An angry, white man championing the views of other angry, white men (and regrettably women, despite a litany of anti-women profanities and abuse). It all sounds dangerously familiar.

It seems the moment strides are taken towards civil rights for one group, it creates feelings of displacement and disempowerment within another. Poverty and feelings of helplessness can drive us towards hostility and manifest as a distrust of the ‘other’. A loss of identity rooted across deep cultural, racial and social fault lines is also symptomatic of a larger political rift between the Democrats and the Republicans.

The closure of coal mines, as a result of a welcome global movement towards more sustainable energy sources, have at the same time destroyed entire communities. Furniture factories and sawmills at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains have closed due to the outsourcing of foreign cheap labour (still ongoing under Trump despite grandiose claims to the contrary). An influx of other cultures, races and religions also created feelings of displacement amongst white communities.

The injustice felt by millions of poor, white working-class areas in America was palpable and Trump, merely a vehicle for their anger. Tapping into the polarising nature of American politics, he promised economic security to those who felt downtrodden by the so-called ‘educated liberal elite’. Yet, many wealthy, educated conservative elites also voted for Trump. Electing a plutocrat like Trump to office ensured business interests would come before the social and environmental welfare of the nation, so they weren’t exactly looking out for their brethren either. To date, Trump has made nearly 100 environmental policy rollbacks from revoking the Clean Power Act to loosening toxic emission laws for industrial polluters. The beneficiaries of such cuts? Wealthy corporations. Trump has also cut taxes for these large corporations by reducing social welfare to the most vulnerable. Let us be in no doubt. Trump’s Presidency will have lasting and devastating effects for decades to come for the poorest and most vulnerable members of American society. An ominous outcome considering many of these rollbacks will affect millions of the very people who voted him in.

Make America Hate Again

Economic deprivation transgresses racial lines so the psychological pathology of white working-class America cannot simply be put down to poverty. Although too complex to wholly attribute his appeal to abject racism, he certainly stirred a sleeping right-wing movement that was all too ready to take up arms. An accepted hatred of the other was confounded in Trump’s hate-fuelled rhetoric and his dismissal of news organisations critiquing his presidency as fake news.

The proliferation of hate speech on the internet and rampant covert racism found in google search data reveals a very different society than what the polls tell us. A dark underbelly of hatred that otherwise would have lurked in the shadows is exposed when people use google in the privacy of their own homes. Areas with the highest number of Trump supporters corresponded with the highest number of searches for the word ‘nigger’, which came up as often as searches for ‘migraine’ and ‘economist’. Far from living in a post-racial society, it’s clear that Trump merely emboldened those who had lain dormant for decades. Many now feel empowered by a man who has unapologetically trumpeted violent white nationalism.

In making ‘America Great Again’ (cue eye roll), Trump not only continues to validate those committing violence against people of colour but also propagates this violence. At a rally in 2016, he memorably shouted at a black protester, “You know what they used to do with guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks."

Trump’s referral to these ‘good ol’ days’, where lynching’s and Jim Crow hangings were par for the course, was a dog whistle to the underground white supremacy movement whose roots lie in the American Civil War. After the Fourteenth Amendment granted full citizenship rights to black people, a growing resentment towards former slaves gave rise to violent executions in the form of lynching, where victims could be shot, stabbed, beaten, or hanged. Groups such as the KKK promoted violence and lynching to uphold ‘white supremacy’. A worldview that Trump seems to also share.

Unite the Right

Perversely, Trump’s use of profanity-laden tweets and ‘braggadocios’ conduct more suited to TV-host than President, only serves to enhance his appeal amongst his followers. As JD Vance points out in Hillbilly Effegy, Trump speaks their language. Nonetheless, his rhetoric and inaction, particularly during the aftermath of the ‘Unite the Right Rally’ in Charlottesville was extremely disturbing. Instead of condemning the horrific killing of a young woman brutally mowed down by a car being driven by a member of ‘Unite the Right’, Trump downplayed the white nationalists in a sickening statement:

"What about the 'alt-left' that came charging at, as you say, the 'alt-right,' do they have any semblance of guilt?...You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent…You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides."

I don’t know of any ‘fine’ members in the KKK or the neo-Nazis. Nor do I see any moral incongruity between the two sides in Charlottesville. One is a fascist, neo-Nazi hate group, and the other, a civil-rights defence group.

These very same ‘alt-right’ groups are being emboldened by Trump’s grotesque path to making “America great again”. When looking at these kinds of political extremist groups, like Unite the Right, they are predominantly comprised of angry, white men. Participating in these white power movements validates their masculinity and the camaraderie fills a void in their identity. Trump’s outright refusal to place any blame at the feet of these white supremacists further legitimises their racist agenda. Had the driver been a Muslim, Trump would have undoubtedly labelled them a terrorist in an Islamophobic-laden tweet. Historically, Republicans have always been extremely quick to condemn black or Islamist violence but continuously fail to condemn the violent culture of angry white men, or indeed white male privilege.

Demographic Displacement

In my living history, majority power has predominantly been in the hands of angry, white men. Race issues are deeply entrenched in American society and the increasing demographic shift in American society has triggered feelings of status and identity loss amongst white Americans. Trump is merely a symptom of this huge cultural and social disconnect. The influx of other cultures, religions and races to America has reignited ‘latent’ race relations creating a longing for the ‘Good ol’ days’. Fear and identity loss can lead to resentment where blame is laid on others. Kindness and connection is the antidote to all of this hatred. Americans need to stop erecting cultural borders (both literally and figuratively) and build bridges instead. Until people leave the comfort zone of their liberal and conservative diagnoses to understand other people’s fears and insecurities, they are all responsible.


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