The Spray-Tanned Scapegoat
I understand the knee-jerk reaction to wanting to distance ourselves from a character like Trump. With every new statement that blasts out of his mouth I, a white person, want to scream THIS IS WRONG/ THIS IS NOT ME. I do not want to build a hundred-foot wall. I do not blame all followers of a religion for the actions of some. My hairstyle does not baffle the masses and, were I to have one, I would not be open to dating my daughter. His bigotry, sexism and classism make him the perfect reassurance of all that we claim to shun in our personal belief systems; he’s the Mr. Scrooge that makes us all feel comforted to know that, compared to him, we still have Christmas in our hearts. But once we’ve stopped patting ourselves on the back for how far we’ve come as a country, we’ve got to face an ugly truth: Donald Trump is not the cause of our problems, he is the result.
With each new shocking video clip that surfaces, I see the nation within my Facebook feed being divided by the language used to introduce it. Those in the “bad white people” camp applaud his honesty and frankness. The “good white people” are outraged by Trump’s statements: How can he even be allowed the airtime to spread such overt racism? The verbalization of his thoughts is jarring, but the sentiments are the same that are ingrained in each of us through lifetimes of white supremacy dictating what’s in our text books, our tv shows and our justice system. No matter how vehemently we may oppose what’s being said, we can’t be fooled to think that racism would be on its way out, if only these larger-than-life caricatures of backwards thinking would keep their thoughts to themselves. There’s a long history of white people benefiting, and everyone else suffering, from a system that upholds all of the values we claim to abhor in Trump. A candidate like him has been a long time in the making, and the shock over his popularity illuminates just how blind we are to the state of things.
The question that begs to be asked, then, is where do we stand once Donald Trump fades away leaving nothing but a glimmer of orange in his wake? Will we instantly be made a less racist society in the same way that electing a black president launched us into a “post-racial” future? Making the personal claim of being #whitesgainsttrump doesn’t do anything to change the structural racism that shapes the world around us. The reason we need to “get our boy” is that he is not only an embarrassment to our race; he is a wakeup call. If white people don’t start taking personal inventory of where we stand and how we benefit from living in a racist society, the Trumps will just keep coming, with nothing but a hilarious hairline to soften the blow.