If there is something that has struck me most since Donald Trump was elected, it’s the sheer amount of people who I have seen claim that racism was not the reason he won. That’s an overly simplistic dismissal of what has been a pretty central theme in this election.
Racism as it is understood by most people, in its least nuanced, cross-burning, swastika-wearing form, is not what cinched this election for Trump. What handed Trump the Oval Office was apathy toward the well-being of people of color.
For years now, I’ve had a common interaction with conservative Americans in which they get defensive and something along the lines of, “You probably think I’m racist/sexist/bigoted because I voted Republican.”
And while that is certainly possible, for the most part I don’t believe that to be the case.
Most Republicans probably did not support Trump’s racist dialogue, they just voted on his economic policies, such as lowering tax rates. Those voters may not hate minorities, but they are so apathetic toward the safety of people of color that they were willing to give legitimacy to outright racism and racial violence in order to maintain a marginal amount of their wealth.
Thus, the Republican voter base and its relation to minority group concerns can best be described as apathetic, tinged with distaste. White conservatives generally aren’t hell-bent on destroying people of color insomuch as they’d prefer it if people of color didn’t really exist at all. The “Make America Great Again” slogan struck such a chord with white voters because they want to be taken back to a time when the concerns of those who didn’t share their complexion, culture or values were simply a non-factor.
This is, in essence, an extreme sense of cultural narcissism.
What Trump’s victory said to me was not that white America is out to get people who look like me, but that they simply couldn’t care less about us. The primary concern of the American right wing is maintaining white cultural norms and comfort. Like a spoiled child, it doesn’t appreciate when the interests of others are held in equal esteem to its own.
White, conservative America was much happier when blacks stayed sectioned off in ghettos, when Islam was distant and faceless and when minorities knew their role as sub-citizens.
Racism won Trump the election. That doesn’t necessitate hatred; it doesn’t necessitate overtly malicious intent. What it means is that white America is willing to hand the fate of minority groups over to an incompetent man-child because it means they get to feel comfortable again. And, in a way, that’s more terrifying than cross-burners wearing white robes.
Andrew Allen is a senior majoring in communications. Upon Further Review runs alternate Thursdays.
Featured image couresty Pixabay user BruceEmmerling.