We are in Bizarro world now, where unless someone hands you a pamphlet entitled “I’m a White Nationalist: Ask Me How” you cannot suggest that they have troubling ties to white nationalism. I know that many people are enjoying this new climate, where all evidence is dismissed as leftist fear mongering, but some of us have to live in the real world where people that we love – I mean, not just people that you see on TV or that one guy in the IT department whose name you can’t remember – but people who are actually precious to us, are threatened by the climate that Trump helped to create.
No, I’m not a dummy: Trump didn’t create racism, sexism, or xenophobia. Our country was born in a paradox – a revolutionary declaration of the equality of all human beings offered up by a country that rejected that equality in practice. Our entire history has been a series of forward motions and switchbacks when it comes to treating each other as equal before God, before the law, in community with each other. And Trump’s campaign wasn’t just a switchback. It has the potential to be a complete reversal of direction. He chose his rhetoric and his surrogates. He knew what he was doing. I don’t actually think he did it because he, himself, is a vehement ideologue. I think it was political pragmatism. If there is one thing that Trump’s entire life shows, it’s that he uses people to gain what he wants. It’s not about principle. It’s about him.
But now real people – white nationalists, anti-semites, MRAs and more – have been emboldened by Trump and his victory. They believe this is their country now. I know, because they’ve spent the last week telling us. And real people – racial, ethnic, religious and sexual minorities and more – are in greater danger, are feeling disheartened, displaced, afraid.
And many of you, Trump voters, say out of one side of your mouth that you are not racist, not sexist, not interested in harming immigrants, or oppressing Muslims. You voted for Trump because (fill in the blank with SCOTUS, trade agreements, Clinton’s corruption, etc.). But out of the other side of your mouth you refuse to acknowledge that Breitbart News has been a platform for the Alt Right – even though Steve Bannon himself SAID it’s a platform for the Alt Right. You refuse to believe the Alt Right even exists (“What even is this thing you liberals keep whining about?”) When major news outlets report spikes in racist incidents, you blame it on media lies, or wonder if anti-Trump forces are doing these things for attention. When you hear about specific episodes involving people or places you know, you say, “But those are just isolated incidents.” Then you accuse us of being divisive, negative, not “accepting” the results of the election.
I accept the outcome. We voted. I know how the electoral college works. Donald Trump is going to be my president, and I hope and pray that he becomes a better person as president than we’ve seen up to this point. I believe that’s possible.
But when he appoints his children to head his “blind trust” and also to positions within his administration, I have reason to worry about corruption. When he appoints Kris Kobach to be his immigration strategist, I have reason to worry about millions of my fellows residents who weren’t born in this country, and the millions of refugees who even now are seeking safe haven around the world. When he appoints Steve Bannon as his “Chief Strategist”, on equal footing with his Chief of Staff, I have reason to remind you that Steve Bannon has troubling connections to white nationalism, anti-Muslim, anti-woman and anti-LGBT rhetoric. How can Trump be a unifying president for all Americans while having THAT guy whispering in his ear? White supremacist groups get it: they’re celebrating this election and these appointments. If they can see it, why can’t you?
I might also point out that this white nationalism (or ethno-nationalism) is part of a backlash sweeping across Western Europe. This was never happening in isolation. This was never just about abortion or email scandals.
You can absolutely be a Trump supporter and not be a bigot. But you can’t be a Trump supporter and not a bigot while also turning a blind idea to bigotry in the inner circle at the White House. You can’t be a Trump supporter and not a bigot while pretending you’re not smart enough to connect the dots. And you can’t be a Trump supporter and not a bigot while telling people like me to sit down, be still, be quiet, be positive.
This has been one of the worst weeks of my life as I’ve tried to come to terms with what half of this country just said to my family and to other people I love. I am angry. I am afraid. I am wounded. I am estranged from white Evangelicalism. But I’m not going to be quiet. When Trump acts in a way that honors all of us (as he did when he told people to stop harassing Muslims and Hispanics) I will acknowledge it, and thank him. When he threatens my “family” (and I mean that in a much broader sense than just my children), I will speak up. If you are a decent person, I expect you to do the same.