osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,

There is One Good Thing About Donald Trump's Candidacy

In all seriousness, there is potentially one good thing about Trump's candidacy and its support by so large a percentage of the Republican party.

It's time to admit there is a serious problem here in America with racism.

Because we have a lot of people who just simply didn't want to believe that. We have a lot of folks -- white folks in particular but not exclusively -- who wanted to believe that "real" racism was simply fringe-y stuff around the edges. The provenance of old people who grew up during segregation and cartoon villains living in Aryan compounds in Idaho. All the other stuff going on was just isolated incidents, people being too sensitive, resentment and fear over something else that was being expressed wrong. But we in America doesn't have a racism "problem" the way we did back in the bad old days of desegregation and race riots.

Sure, if you tune in to conservative talk radio or read the comments section of the average YouTube posting featuring a person of color you can find some ugly stuff. But the Internet has over 2 billion people connected. Of course the fringe losers are going to be over-represented in the comments, ignore them. As for talk radio -- who even listens to radio? More fringe losers, ignore them. Besides, it's not like even their listeners take them that seriously. We don't have a racism problem here in the U.S.

And yes, the statistics show that black people, particularly black men, are disproportionately likely to be arrested, to be shot by police, and to receive longer sentences. But that's not racism. That's just poverty, and the militarization of the police, and our stupid war on drugs. We will not think about why it is that people of color -- particularly African-Americans -- are disproportionately likely to be poor or the targets of police raids and what that says about our society because we have lots of white people who are poor, lots of white people who go to jail, and white people do get shot and killed by the police. Statistics don't tell the whole story and all lives matter. Discussion closed and stop playing the "race card" or trying to make me feel guilty or silence me.

We. Don't. Have. A. Racism. Problem. In The U.S. I'm not racist for denying it. You're racist for claiming white people can't treat "minorities" fairly!

And yes, Native Americans are statistically more likely to live in abject poverty and lack access to basic services like electricity or even plain old telephone service. But they have casinos now, so it's cool. Sure, you still have sports franchises that have insulting names and "mascots" that are Native American stereotypes. But hey, sports fans are just all passionate about their teams and traditions and stuff. They don't mean anything by it.


This, of course, is why so many Very Serious People keep saying Trump's candidacy must eventually self-destruct. Because if it doesn't, that would be proof that we have a huge racism problem in the United States. That it's not some fringe group. It's not just legacy stuff. It's not just meaningless stuff that people get excited over for no good reason because everyone is over sensitive these days. It's not just your hyper-conservative Uncle or sister baiting you at Thanksgiving. If Donald Trump were to actually do well in the Republican nomination, never mind *win* the nomination, that would show that we have a serious race problem in America. That would mean millions of people are proud to embrace a policy of explicit racial and religious hate. It means people look back now on the internment of the Japanese in WWII not as a shameful chapter in our nation's history when war panic drove a more racist America into crazy-town, but rather as a reasonable precedent for how to deal with ethnic and religious groups when we can't tell who the good guys are and who the bad guys are -- but we know that most of "them" are probably bad guys.

So, like the climax of some cliche-filled Hallmark movie about alcohol or drug addiction, we now find ourselves with rather incontrovertible evidence that, yes, we really do have a racism problem here in the U.S. That a very sizeable chunk of the population has graduated from rationalization, "code words," and "dog whistles" to just out-and-out racism reminiscent of a time when legal segregation was considered a "reasonable" position worthy of mainstream debate and consideration. Like the alcoholic Dad in the Hallmark movie realizing he just drunk drove into a tree and put his daughter in emergency care, we have here a potentially very disturbing moment of realization that perhaps we are not so right about our lack of problem as we thought we were.

What happens from that moment of realization remains up in the air. But I will make one last appeal not to those who have been in denial, but to those who have been insisting we have a problem.

The great danger here is for bitterness and anger and resentment to shape the response at the moment that you want to make it easiest for people who have been in denial to recognize the problem and step back. When you have suffered so long, it is incredibly hard not to give vent to that well deserved anger and say "Oh, NOW you recognize the problem. Good for you! Glad we had to hit you over the head with it." -- Or some such similar remark. It is so hard to not give up on your friends or relatives who keep saying racist things and rationalizing despite all the evidence to the contrary. And it is so easy to just give up in despair when, after all the work and struggle and protest, a whopping 1/3 of voters surveyed approve of a plan to completely exclude Muslims from the United States and support a man who claims that "Mexicans" are largely rapists and murderers.

But this is the moment to stay strong. This is the moment when more Americans than ever are struggling with the realization that "we're not that bad, are we?" This is the moment to try to coax as many as possible into the unwanted self-reflection that cuts past the denial. The time to say "Yes, it is that bad. But you don't have to be a part of it. You can make a choice. You can look again at the world and acknowledge that we as a society still have some serious racism problems to work out. That doesn't mean all white people are bad, or all white people are guilty. But it does mean actually recognizing a real problem and working to correct it, not ignore it."

That's hard. That's very, very hard, especially when you've been disappointed so many times before, or seen the brief moment of self-reflection fade away and drift back into old habits of rationalization and defensiveness.

But to borrow the language of rehab -- relapse is part of recovery.

It really is a scary moment. It really is a moment when many of us need to ask ourselves "how did things get like this without our even noticing?" But like all such scary moments they bring a unique opportunity to force us, collectively, to take a hard look and chose what kind of people do we want to be. I'm hoping we collectively make the right choice, and I hope to help as many people make te right choice


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