Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Trump Election: When Black and White Bleed Red (Part I)

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[By: C. Liegh McInnis]

I vote for two simple reasons.  One, like many Afro-Mississippians, my father was arrested in the 1960s for registering to vote. When there was no more room in the jails, they were held at the state fairgrounds. Two, moments like Trump's election give me more ammunition to force us to reconsider Black Nationalism. 

Let me say at the outset what I believe we learned from and what was affirmed by the election.  Based on the white response to Donald Trump’s call to White Nationalism, the votes of white women and minorities, and the ongoing debate over whether an African-American community exists, the 2016 Presidential election indicates that everyone has a collective plan for self-preservation except African Americans.  As such, the issues that plague African Americans, including poorly funded education, poverty, and self-inflicted and state-sanctioned violence, will only be exacerbated by a Presidency, Senate, and House that are all painted in flaming, if not Confederate, red.

It seems acceptable for whites to promote White Nationalism while African Americans are demonized for promoting Black Nationalism.  “Make America Great Again” is really a clarion call for what we now refer to as the "alt right," especially those who identify as Christian, who seek to reclaim a country that’s been taken from them by the . . . should we say. . . colored folks and gays.  They are the 70%, those whites without a college education who voted for Trump. 

Unfortunately for Hillary Clinton, at the heart of this "white-lash," as Van Jones called it, was the failure of NAFTA, which enabled greedy business owners to move their companies from America to Mexico, taking thousands of jobs with them.  NAFTA didn’t make any sense to me in 1994, and it still doesn’t.  Of course, then President Bill Clinton’s reasoning was that eliminating the tariffs between Mexico and Canada would create lower prices in American stores.  It is inconceivable to me that no one in the room raised the question, “Yes, but, if all the jobs leave, how will anyone be able to afford to pay the lower prices?” 

An America where a majority of the citizens could earn a living wage without having to attend college is no more.   Forty years ago, people—mostly white but some blacks—could cross a high school graduation stage and secure a factory job that paid them enough to support their families.  To be sure, a vast majority of whites without college degrees suffered at the hands of NAFTA as did a good number of African Americans.  But African Americans, for the most part, seem to realize that it was people like Trump who took advantage of NAFTA. Would it have made sense then to reward Trump with the U. S. Presidency since he lead the parade of jobs leaving the country?  Anyone wondering why so many people supported Bernie Sanders would want to look to NAFTA as a prime reason.  Though I did not vote for Sanders, I believe he was right that neither Trump nor Clinton would/could do much about the loss of jobs in America: both candidates are tied to Wall Street/the corporate regime.  It is almost impossible for one to destroy the thing to which one is tied without destroying oneself. 

At the core of this white-lash were working class whites in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.  Also called the “Reagan Democrats,” this white majority, angered by the dramatic societal  shifts they believe have disadvantaged them, vote as a solid bloc in an effort to reclaim the country they believe they have lost.  Thus, White Nationalism is literally the trump card to be played, though most Blacks cower at the thought of Black Nationalism.  Maybe more of us should read—not just listen to—The Last Poet’s “Niggers Are Scared of Revolution.” The white majority sees no fear. Didn’t someone say, “Give me liberty or give me death?”  Must white liberty always be earned on the back of black death? 

With the election of Trump, stop-and-frisk policing and massive cuts to public education loom large on the horizon. These are but two current practices that limit African-American access and opportunity, ultimately ensuring second-class citizenship for the black majority. This should come as no surprise. Two other factors in the Trump election, however, do come as a surprise. Trump received more votes from people of color than Romney did in 2012. Yet, Trump’s percentage of those votes was only slightly better than Romney.  For instance, when we compare the percentage of African American, Hispanic, Asian and those who identify as "other," the increase in Trump's number of votes is no more than three percent in either category. For example, Romney received 26% of the Asian vote whereas Trump received 29%. [1]

In contrast, Clinton received a much lower percentage of votes from people of color than Obama had in previous elections.  The first assumption is simply that minority voters were not as enthusiastic about Clinton as they were about Obama.  But if we compare another demographic, white women, something else emerges:  53% percent of white women voted for Trump. [2] 62% white women without college degrees voted for Trump, following the GOP trend, while 51% of white women with college degrees voted for Clinton.  45% of white women with college degrees voted for Trump. The numbers suggest that most college campuses, especially historically white institutions, are not nearly as liberal as most seem to believe.

Combining the number of white women with the number of minorities who voted for Trump presents an interesting narrative.  For a good number of white women and a growing number of minorities, religious conviction is more important than the persistence of racism and sexism.  These groups have more issues with the Democrats' social agenda—marriage equality and pro-choice—than they do with the racism and sexism of the Republicans. 

Let’s be clear.  Many minorities exhibit socially conservative attitudes, for example, embracing religions that are patriarchal with fixed gender roles and belief systems. Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and even Buddhism are all male-centered philosophies that promote an absolute truth that is inflexible with an emphasis upon correctness. Thus, many white women and minorities who identify as Christian are very concerned about how far left the left has moved, especially in regard to abortion and gay rights. 

The truth is that for many white women and minorities, racism and sexism are no longer viewed as insurmountable obstacles, making movement closer to the right very likely. A few of my African American friends who identify as Christian have told me that President Obama’s position on abortion and gay marriage has decreased their pride in him as the first African American President.  Further confirmation came in the angry emails I received from several churches when I wrote an article criticizing Afro-Mississippian pastors and congregations who expressed public opposition to President Obama's position on gay marriage.  We can only assume that some of those members heard their pastors and voted with the religious right or decided not to vote at all. Voting one's religious conviction is not the issue. Rather, it is not voting at all. It is then that black and white can indeed bleed red.

Re-printed here by permission of the author.

C. Liegh McInnis is an instructor of English at Jackson State University, the former publisher and editor of Black Magnolias Literary Journal, the author of eight books, including four collections of poetry, one collection of short fiction (Scripts: Sketches and Tales of Urban Mississippi), one work of literary criticism (The Lyrics of Prince: A Literary Look at a Creative, Musical Poet, Philosopher, and Storyteller), one co-authored work, Brother Hollis: The Sankofa of a Movement Man, which discusses the life of legendary Mississippi Civil Rights icon Hollis Watkins, and the former First Runner-Up of the Amiri Baraka/Sonia Sanchez Poetry Award sponsored by North Carolina State A&T.

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