I’ve been reading about them for months now.
Trump supporters. Trump voters. Most of them in rural areas, lots of them poor.
All of them white.
I’ve been reading lots of stories about why they voted for Trump. Sympathetic stories.
I never heard anybody blame Hispanics for local crime, or make racist remarks about them; it was much more common to encounter Islamophobia, although the nearest mosque is about four hours away.
All the stories say the same thing. “Trump’s voters didn’t mention race.”
They did, though.
They are talking about race.
They don’t use the word “black” or “Hispanic.” They don’t use the epithets. They don’t say that, so we say they’re not talking about race.
When they talk about people taking from the system, though?
They’re talking about race.
When they talk about undocumented immigrants swarming over the borders taking American jobs?
They’re talking about race.
When they talk about crime, they’re talking about race. When they talk about schools, they’re talking about race. When they talk about culture, about parenting, about music, they’re talking about race.
You can almost see it, the black or brown person they imagine in their heads, the pre-arranged exception to the sweetly stated rule that of course all of us are equals before our God. You can hear it in their voices when the picture shifts and if you say you can’t you’re a liar.
White people like me go to church with white people like them. We have dinner with white people like them. We work with white people like them and you can hear it, the nastiness underlying their assumptions when they’re among people who look like them.
Every single one of them is talking about race, and every single one of them who hates Obama (not talking about disliking or criticizing Obama, talking about hating) is talking about race and we have to stop letting them off the hook, like this is some kind of big mystery.
Where did it come from? We wonder.
We have to stop acting like there are only two sides, good upstanding citizens who’d never in a million years ride in a rally like the one in Charlottesville, and the motherfucking grand wizards. We have to stop acting like this is the dichotomy:
Sometimes I worry that I am going to end up working on a plantation, or behind a wall or in a camp, the way things are going. I have to ask about race. “People try to make us out as crazy rednecks or hood-wearing Klansmen,” a man from rural Ohio told me.
Because if that’s the dichotomy, of course the light is winning, and Hillary Clinton (or shit, even Ben Carson) is president, and when this bullshit went down yesterday the president came out and said, “Fuck this shit, wave a Confederate flag and get hanged for treason, you garbage slobs.” If the bar we’re holding people to is “not a torch-bearing Nazi,” well, lots of us pass that test.
Passing that test shouldn’t be enough to get you into heaven. It shouldn’t be enough to buy you sympathetic profiles in every publication imaginable. It shouldn’t get you excused from racism. Racism doesn’t have two faces. It has a thousand, including the ones in Charlottesville, but also including all those nice people who just voted for Trump because they were mad at the world, and all those nice people who just think political correctness is out of control, and all those nice people who just moved here for the schools.
Racism has a thousand sides (including the one in the mirror, let’s not kid ourselves, crackers). You’re not lighting up a tiki torch? Good for you, I guess, but don’t come over here looking for a medal when you pulled a GOP lever because Obama gave too many people extra welfare.
You didn’t have to say the n-word to talk about race. Those people in Charlottesville heard you loud and clear.