TRUMP’S IDEOLOGY IS WHITE SUPREMACY…

September 14th, 2017

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So, if I had read this story yesterday, I might have read a paragraph or two and moved on. Today, however, I’ve read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ latest (see below) and I have to view the story through a different lens. I’ve said before, and I still believe my thoughts to be true and honest, that the election of President Donald John Trump may be a blessing in disguise for our nation because Trump has ripped off the festering bandages of our deepest wounds. We must think differently. We must entertain the possibility that we have all been fooling ourselves for generations and that we have vital choices to make.

Coates has a new book—We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy—scheduled for release October 3rd. I’ve already ordered my copy and look forward to reading the entirety of his work, but The Atlantic has published this 8,000-plus word excerpt as a stand-alone essay. White folk are not pleased.

Coates, in Donald Trump Is the First White President, writes:

It is insufficient to state the obvious of Donald Trump: that he is a white man who would not be president were it not for this fact. With one immediate exception, Trump’s predecessors made their way to high office through the passive power of whiteness—that bloody heirloom which cannot ensure mastery of all events but can conjure a tailwind for most of them. Land theft and human plunder cleared the grounds for Trump’s forefathers and barred others from it. Once upon the field, these men became soldiers, statesmen, and scholars; held court in Paris; presided at Princeton; advanced into the Wilderness and then into the White House. Their individual triumphs made this exclusive party seem above America’s founding sins, and it was forgotten that the former was in fact bound to the latter, that all their victories had transpired on cleared grounds. No such elegant detachment can be attributed to Donald Trump—a president who, more than any other, has made the awful inheritance explicit.

That is how Coates begins. I always have difficulty excepting his writing because he packs so much into each word. I wanted to highlight this next paragraph because Coates uses the quote from historian Nell Irvin Painter to make a point that I repeatedly try to emphasize in conversations surrounding bigotry, prejudice and xenophobia. This is why I do my best to not talk in terms of the artificial constructs we label race and racism, but rather about White Supremacy and what that means in our society today. Coates continues:

“Race is an idea, not a fact,” the historian Nell Irvin Painter has written, and essential to the construct of a “white race” is the idea of not being a nigger. Before Barack Obama, niggers could be manufactured out of Sister Souljahs, Willie Hortons, and Dusky Sallys. But Donald Trump arrived in the wake of something more potent—an entire nigger presidency with nigger health care, nigger climate accords, and nigger justice reform, all of which could be targeted for destruction or redemption, thus reifying the idea of being white. Trump truly is something new—the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president.

Here Coates yanks off our real and metaphorical hoods:

Indeed, there is a kind of theater at work in which Trump’s presidency is pawned off as a product of the white working class as opposed to a product of an entire whiteness that includes the very authors doing the pawning. The motive is clear: escapism. To accept that the bloody heirloom remains potent even now, some five decades after Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down on a Memphis balcony—even after a black president; indeed, strengthened by the fact of that black president—is to accept that racism remains, as it has since 1776, at the heart of this country’s political life. The idea of acceptance frustrates the left. The left would much rather have a discussion about class struggles, which might entice the white working masses, instead of about the racist struggles that those same masses have historically been the agents and beneficiaries of. [Emphasis mine. JH.]

I have been guilty of this in the past, but my education—aided by Coates and my brother Cavana Faithwalker–progresses.

Trump, more than any other politician, understood the valence of the bloody heirloom and the great power in not being a nigger.

Coates concludes:

Before the election, Obama found no takers among Republicans for a bipartisan response, and Obama himself, underestimating Trump and thus underestimating the power of whiteness, believed the Republican nominee too objectionable to actually win. In this Obama was, tragically, wrong. And so the most powerful country in the world has handed over all its affairs—the prosperity of its entire economy; the security of its 300 million citizens; the purity of its water, the viability of its air, the safety of its food; the future of its vast system of education; the soundness of its national highways, airways, and railways; the apocalyptic potential of its nuclear arsenal—to a carnival barker who introduced the phrase grab ’em by the pussy into the national lexicon. It is as if the white tribe united in demonstration to say, “If a black man can be president, then any white man—no matter how fallen—can be president.” And in that perverse way, the democratic dreams of Jefferson and Jackson were fulfilled.

The American tragedy now being wrought is larger than most imagine and will not end with Trump. In recent times, whiteness as an overt political tactic has been restrained by a kind of cordiality that held that its overt invocation would scare off “moderate” whites. This has proved to be only half true at best. Trump’s legacy will be exposing the patina of decency for what it is and revealing just how much a demagogue can get away with. It does not take much to imagine another politician, wiser in the ways of Washington and better schooled in the methodology of governance—and now liberated from the pretense of antiracist civility—doing a much more effective job than Trump.

It has long been an axiom among certain black writers and thinkers that while whiteness endangers the bodies of black people in the immediate sense, the larger threat is to white people themselves, the shared country, and even the whole world. There is an impulse to blanch at this sort of grandiosity. When W. E. B. Du Bois claims that slavery was “singularly disastrous for modern civilization” or James Baldwin claims that whites “have brought humanity to the edge of oblivion: because they think they are white,” the instinct is to cry exaggeration. But there really is no other way to read the presidency of Donald Trump. The first white president in American history is also the most dangerous president—and he is made more dangerous still by the fact that those charged with analyzing him cannot name his essential nature, because they too are implicated in it.

What do I do with this? Cav and I are breaking bread next week. We have much to talk about.

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