Legacy of Trump – racism & do I even want to understand?

You are wrong Michael Moore. Trump’s campaign was entirely run on racism. (No voters are not racist just like Ms. Elliot’s kids were not racist – see more on that below in paragraph 4). True that many of these same people who voted for Donald Trump had also voted for Barack Obama with the middle name Hussein.  However, Barack Hussein Obama did not simply run his campaign on the rhetoric of divisiveness; in fact, unification was a strong theme in his campaign.  Whereas Trump sought to divide.  He pitted groups against groups; #BlackLivesMatter against #BlueLivesMatter, Latinos against Whites with supremacist bents and so on. But then he went on to divide people from the group they belonged to, identified with, and took pride in. He sowed seeds of division within communities and families, where bi-racial families who had unity are now fighting based on people’s voting preference and invoking racism. Affluent and middle class blacks were pitted against blacks living in “imagined” ghetto communities.  Immigrants who find cultural similarity and likability with each other were pitted against each other based on legal versus illegal status. Whites were pitted against one another on gender lines. Even I read an articulate essay about a muslim woman who voted for Trump for a number of reasons but her emphasis seemed to be on his labeling of Islamic terrorists as opposed to Obama who had not labeled acts of terror as Islamic acts of terror.  Goldstar families who stand together no matter what, united by heart soaking grief of sacrifice that is linked to their love of the nation, felt divided and compelled to take sides, as Trump engaged in an ongoing war of words with the Khan family. Heck, I even know an undocumented immigrant who goes around badmouthing Hillary and talking up Trump (not quite sure why but I’m sure he wants to disassociate part of his identity that has been made to feel like “rapist and murderer”. (Honest to God this is a true story).

Image result for divisivenessPeople hate politicians, because ALL politicians create divisions. Political campaigns are run based on divisiveness not just in the US but in every democratic country.  Yes, #BarackObama, #RichardNixon #HillaryClinton #GoergeBush everyone did that and pretty much all politicians do that. That is how they differentiate themselves from their opponents and energize their base.  But normally, they are ALSO held accountable and are compelled to study issues and TIE THEIR RHETORIC WITH POLICY CONSIDERATIONS, and have to downplay their rhetoric of divisiveness. Understandably, people abhor this two-facedness of politicians. It was Donald Trump’s cunning to wage a war against “political correctness” because then he could speak without restraint and people just slurped up his rhetoric of racial hatered and bigotry, because they liked his honesty. He engaged in name calling of his opponents and the names stuck. Despite him not revealing his taxes, his ties with Russia, his concerns regarding health records, he called Hillary “crooked” and it stuck because labels stick without much effort; whereas going to Hillary’s website and understanding issues takes study and effort.

Trump’s supporters are NOT inherently racist people, certainly not a vast majority of them. Perhaps many of those who bought the birther lie and have stuck with him since, may be inherently racist. But many other Americans were invited to participate in the race based and other divisions. And everyone of us is racist at some times or another and depending on circumstances, we are likely to buy into it.  People are always looking to make meaning out of their circumstances, life’s twists and turns and calamities. People look for answers and explanation and Trump provided a powerful, emotion laden context. He tapped into the vulnerabilities of people and stuck the deepest chord based on his divisive rhetoric and coupled it with eliminating the need to share policy details, with simple slogans like “what have you got to lose”?. Yes, people are jobless and in pain, yes people are dying of opioid addiction more than ever before, and yes, we have crime in the US. But none of those issues alone could have driven people to vote for Trump in large numbers, because he gave no details to deal with any of the problems facing the country. What drove people was that he played to and invoked the hate towards others and he talked to them over and over, relentlessly. He fought his campaign alone, and like a Messiah his voice invoking the hate kept reverberating in people’s minds until they walked into the voting booth.

As a diversity and inclusion trainer, one of the most fascinating thing I learned very early in my professional life as a trainer was how easy it is to divide people based on groupism, even artificially introduced groupism.  In 1968, in a highly publicized exercise, a third grade teacher Jane Elliott tried to teach her class about race and discrimination through a two day “blue eyes/ brown eyes” exercise. (something that would not be allowed today).  Students with blue eyes were given preferential treatment on the first day; they received positive reinforcement, were made to feel superior, and this process was reversed the next day. The results were profound and when she repeated exercise in subsequent years, during one year, PBS went in and filmed the actual impact, in a well known documentary, “A Class Divided”. In just two days Elliot managed to sow deep seeds of hate based on completely artificially introduced divide. The group that was favored performed better in class, were quick to answer questions and the kids in the other group were hesitant and doubtful of their answers and performed poorly. What was also striking was that many of these kids who were friends for their entire young lives, started hating each other, were mean to the other group and the kids from discriminated group walked through the day with downcast eyes, feeling like s&^%*, feeling as if they had nothing more to lose. Ms. Elliot’s tearing down the divide and bringing the class together was just as impressive.

The lesson is that if seeds of hate and divide can be sown in a span of mere two days then consider how deep the hate is that was sown over a year ago and nurtured through Trump’s divisive campaign? And we don’t have Ms. Elliott to bring the country together. The only lesson is that if race based divisiveness gets to rear its ugly head and seems like a mild threat, it must still be quoshed immediately. It is hard to push this beanie down when massive groups of people are called to buy into it, as we know from history. Bernie could not have contained this monster. What is fueled by hate cannot be contained by logic and no policy discussions or understanding coal miners or ads focusing on jobs could have contained divisiveness fueled by hate and emotion.

So Mr. Moore you are wrong to say that it was not racism and hate that more significantly than any other characteristic or consideration played a role in outcome of #Election2016.  It is also hate and racism that people are rallying against in post election protests. It is not the win of the Republican party, the undoing of progressive agenda that may happen, nor the anger against hard to accept Electoral College imposition in an era where each citizen has access to information and must have equal weightage; instead it is against Donald Trump’s rhetoric of hate and division that brought the country to this stage, his basket of deplorable behaviors that now becomes our baggage for next several years, that is fueling the frustration.

Image result for safety pinAnd it is deep frustration. Part of me feels, now what do I care? I should just sit back and relax and enjoy the lower taxes; it’s not my problem any more. And part of me feels like I should walk about wearing those ridiculous safety pins. But for who am I an ally? For that Latino who is undocumented and went around talking up Trump and badmouthing Hillary; or that Hindu who voted for Trump because she hates Pakistan (strange where people connect the dots when hate enters the picture); or that Muslim who voted for Trump and may be attacked by a white supremacist; or for that white man who mostly enjoys many of society’s privileges (without knowing or intending to take an unfair advantage) and on this night is attacked simply for being gay? Why does it now fall on me? Is my safety pin even strong enough to withstand the power of chainsaw that literally cut our ties with each other and broke the humanity that bound us? Perhaps we felt anger towards one group or another at different times in the past, but we did not voice it; we thought before we spoke, and our political correctness allowed us to have polite discussions to understand one another. How do we understand one another now, and do I even want to understand what hate towards whom compelled you to vote for Trump?

In our dark moments, let us remember that more than 50% of voters did not vote for Trump. Remember that all #TrumpVoters are NOT inherently racist people; that Trump may also not be as racist as he is an opportunist. (In my language there’s a saying “a wise enemy is better than a foolish or evil friend” and he is narcissistic evil opportunist but too late for that wisdom now).. He played the most insidious racist/sexist campaign to his advantage, but his policies may not reflect that; he will likely look for personal gains and we must watch closely. #TrumpVoters with inclusive bent joined by #RegretVotingTrump and #RegretNotVoting groups have awakened and want to fight racism and be there for each other; are trying to don safety pins, take the anti-racism message to the streets, and trying to keep the voice of humanity alive. Please get on twitter, a low cost medium to spread awareness AND only tweet true & fact checked news. Retweet important news from @RealDonaldTrump so we’re never taken unawares; so we create a vast network focused on keeping issues and inclusion in forefront so that history will never be repeated.  I love this beautiful, diverse and welcoming country where (paraphrasing Churchill) we always strove for goodness, sometimes only after and perhaps because we exhausted the alternatives. But even so, after veering away, we know how to find our way back to goodness.


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