Welcome to the Trump Era: Time To Rethink the Word "Allies" (Yes, White Women, We Are Looking At You)Cherise Charleswell I Women's Issues I Analysis I January 12th, 2017
The Orange Empire Strikes
On January 20, 2017 we will be entering what some have begun to call the Trump Era, an era that will be post-facts, considering the disdain that Donald Trump seems to have for facts and truth . It will also likely be marked with attacks on civil liberties, civil rights, women's rights, and LGBTQ rights, along with cuts to social services and funding of government agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Health & Human Services, and Department of Education. When a President is elected on a platform of climate change denial and promises to end the Affordable Care Act, all of this should be expected. However, this clearly is just the beginning of attempts to erode democracy and the right to dissent. In fact, any form of dissent or disagreement has been viewed as an unforgivable slight that cannot be ignored by President-Elect Donald Trump, a man who is unable to control his emotions and "Twitter fingers," often rushing to provide 140-character responses with startling regularity. Then there is the scandal at the Department of Energy , where the Trump transition team sent a 74-point questionnaire to workers, requesting an inventory of all agency employees or contractors who attended meetings or conferences on climate change, and asking for a current list of professional society memberships of any lab staff. All this has raised fears among civil rights lawyers specializing in federal worker whistleblower protections, who say the incoming administration is at a minimum trying to influence or limit the research at the Department. And at worst, attempting to target employees with views that run counter to the president-elect. The incoming administration's and Republican party's anti-science stand has actually led to Scientists frantically copying U.S. climate data because of fears that it may vanish under the new administration.
Then there is the recent failed attempt of the Republican-majority House of Representatives to end the House of Ethics Office , which was swiftly and rightfully met with backlash.
There are arguably Dark and Dangerous days ahead, particularly for women and other minority groups (Latino- particularly Mexican-Americans, African Americans, Asians, Muslims, LGTBQ) in the United States, all of whom were individually attacked during Trump's campaign. Since the Presidential election there has been a reported rise in hate crimes and speech, where many of the offenders are actually referring to Donald Trump and "Making America Great Again" amidst their acts of hate. See here , and here - regarding attacks against Jews, despite the GOP's peculiar love affair with Israel. Proving once and for all that they view they view this "Greatness" as a throwback to the time when White Protestant Heterosexual men (and women) were the majority, and discrimination and segregation were the status quo.
His Administration, and the Republicans that are seizing this opportunity, with control of the Legislative and Executive branch of government, have already announced their priorities to defund, repeal, and cut programs that helped to ensure access to health for women and others, including what some may refer to as an all-out war on women's bodies:
· Supposed Man of Faith, Vice President Michael Pence's statement to the press explaining that the Administration promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and that it will be THE priority of the Trump administration. Now they have been saying this and attempting to do so for 8 years now, but still have yet to come up with a replacement. And on January 5, 2017, before Trump takes office and President Obama's final address the Senate voted 51 to 48 to repeal the Affordable Care Act .
· Promises to defund Planned Parenthood. To see what's at stake there, revisit my Ensuring the Right To Reproductive Health: The American Public Health Association Takes A Stand With Planned Parenthood .
· Mike Pence has actually positioned himself as an opponent of Planned Parenthood and has openly acted to dismantle the organization. In October 2016, during a speech at Liberty University, he promised that "a Trump-Pence administration will defund Planned Parenthood and redirect those dollars to women's health care that doesn't provide abortion services." In addition, in 2011, the House of Representatives passed a bill co-sponsored by Pence to defund the group.
· Making the Hyde Amendment permanent law to protect taxpayers from having to pay for abortions. Despite asking then mistress-Marla Maples to have an abortion , in 2016, Donald Trump stated that abortions are "not acceptable," and that women who try to obtain them should be subject " to some form of punishment ." Following a public outcry, Trump backtracked on his remarks , saying it's not women who should be punished for having an abortion, but the doctors who perform the procedure.
· Making open promises not to cut social security, while stacking his cabinet with millionaires and lobbyist who are Pro-Privatization . A lesson in believing what people "show you", not what they "tell you".
· Continuing to deny what scientist, public health specialists, human rights activists worldwide, and others agree is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. Climate change and environmental degradation. The Trump administration is unfortunately a triumph for climate change deniers .
The Blame Game
Now that we are in this era we cannot make the same mistake as previous generations, and that is to dismiss history and not take the time to truly reflect on how we got here. This process of reflection should not solely be about placing blame, but accountability has to be done. In a previous article Bamboozled: On African Americans and Feminists Casting Their Votes for Hillary Clinton , I discussed many of the blaring problems with Hillary Clinton's candidacy, much of which has also been pointed out by many others, such as Michelle Alexander, author of the New Jim Crow. Yet, the DNC is still taking it upon themselves to deflect and blame Russia for hacking emails -while ignoring the fact that even if hacked, the Russians did not create the content of those emails. The Russians did not set out to sabotage Bernie Sanders' campaign and disenfranchise many Democratic voters. The DNC did that, and needs to take full responsibility for it and the fall out that it created, which includes the millions of dismayed voters who chose to sit out the 2016 elections all together. Seriously, constantly blaming and being upset with Russia for their deceit is the equivalent of being upset with a Woman who chooses to let her friend know that her husband is cheating on her. Maybe she decides to share a Tinder profile as "evidence" with her friend. Perhaps she got the information because the husband left his phone unlocked. None of this changes the fact that the husband - like the DNC-did the cheating.
But the DNC's blame does not stop there. It includes lashing out at those who voted for third-party candidates (again a foolish strategy that will only help to further distance and infuriate these voters), and then the DNC actually had the audacity to lash out against minority voters who did not show up at the polls. Those who have been left off the hook, who have seemed to be forgiven because they are part of this often-mentioned group, are "white working class" voters - the people who seem to be the only group that has a right to be angry and heard. The group who is just now feeling the effects of unchecked capitalism, high rates of unemployment, and poverty. And this is why a historical lens is always needed. Other historically disenfranchised groups could literally just leave the " Welcome" mat out for them. A welcome to their reality. Malcolm X once made the remark that when "America catches a cold, Black people catch pneumonia," and this speaks to the historical social disparities that continue to exist. For instance, one can consider the national unemployment rate (4.9), and that of Native Americans (11.3%), African Americans (8.8%), and Latinos (5.6%). For a further explanation of why this focus on the White working class voter in a country that has changed greatly in terms of demographics and attitudes is problematic, see here .
Still, the greatest problem with the DNC's misdirected blame game is that it goes back to asking groups of people whose issues are not acknowledged or addressed until it comes to election time - to mobilize and do the heavy lifting, and this is especially true of Black women, who were the largest voting block for Hillary Clinton. Malcolm X once described this problem in his speech Ballot or the Bullet . This is an issue that has been discussed in great detail by Black- and intersectional feminists.
Intersectionality: Seeing Beyond Privilege
But let's focus on this term intersectionality, coined by Kimberlee Crenshaw, Civil rights advocate, educator, and leading scholar. While Black feminists and other feminists of color have pointed out the relevance of an intersectional framework in politics and legislation, establishment feminism - including Hillary Clinton, her pants-suit nation, and the strategist at the DNC - focused on what seemed to be a revisionist history of Suffragists and Second-Wave Feminists., conveniently ignoring the racism and classism present in both movements. Yes, the part of history that most white feminists would like to forget, or have not even been taught about (conveniently not discussed and swept under the rug), includes historical facts such as - once it became apparent that the right to vote would either come first to Black men or White women, the White suffragettes quickly betrayed Black women who had worked beside them. Just reference the history of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and their treatment of Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, many white feminists extended this indifference toward intersectional issues throughout the 2016 Primaries and National election - up until it was too late. Sure, they conveniently put on a "dog-and-puppy show" inviting the mothers of victims of state-sanctioned violence out to attend the 2016 Democratic National Convention, referring to them as " Mothers of the Movement" after previously refusing to provide a space for Black Lives Matter protestors or even have an open and honest conversation about the Clinton legacy and Hillary's use of the term "super predators" to describe African American children. Still, there was the concerns with Hillary's dishonesty, lack of sincerity, pandering, and bolstering of imperialist foreign policy that primarily negatively impacted women and children, people of color, and the poor through war, political de-stabilization and disenfranchisement, environmental degradation, and unchecked capitalism.
Again, there should be no surprise that we are in a Trump Era, given the DNC's support of a candidate as flawed and out-of-touch as Hillary Clinton, despite the electorate's demands for Change and a much needed rift between multinational corporations and those in government. I am not one to readily believe in psychic powers, and I do not believe they were needed to predict this win. It is something that I pointed out in my interview for the Hampton Institute's podcast, A Different Lens, entitled, False Feminists & Hillary Clinton.
Intersectionality has always been understood by Black feminists and other feminists of color, as well as women of color in general who do not identify as feminists or may not be familiar with the term. They literally LIVE the reality of intersectionality, leading lives where they do not have the privilege to ignore the impact of racism, sexism/misogyny, and classism on their lives; and it is this perspective and understanding which really sets them apart from white feminists (often referred to as allies) and certainly white women voters. In the 2016 election white women voted 53% for Donald Trump (compared to only 43% who voted for Clinton ), making it clear that they certainly do not view the world through an intersectional lens, and that white privilege for the most part " trumps" solidarity or womanhood/sisterhood.
A Closer Look at the 2016 Exit Polls:
There was a distinct racial gap between voters, which opened wider when age and religion came into play.
· 58% of White women voters ages 45-64 voted for Trump (perhaps they remember the days of blatant White supremacy - and thought that a Trump presidency would harken back to that and "Make America Great Again".
· And again, it was not just White working class women who supported Trump - 45% of White college educated women supported Trump.
· 64% of White Protestant women also voted for Trump.
· While 88% of Black voters supported Clinton.
· And 65% of Latino voters supported Clinton
Further, as much as the media likes to focus on the uninformed, uneducated, poor, working-class white voters, the fact of the matter is that the educated and more affluent voters came out in support of Trump. The median income of Trump voters was reported to be $72,000--- $16,000 more than the national average. Perhaps one can make the argument that when it comes to a platform characterized by racism and ran by a millionaire who will look out for corporate interest and that of the upper middle class - these people really may have believed that they were "voting for their own interests, and not against it."
The reality of who Showed Up to vote for Donald Trump sent Comedian, writer, producer, political commentator, actress, media critic, and television host, Samantha Bee, to unleash a tirade that bemoan the country's decision, calling out the group responsible for his election: " The Caucasian nation showed up in droves to vote for Trump, so I don't want to hear a goddamn word about Black voter turnout…… How many times do we expect Black people to build our country for us? ........Continuing with " If all 3.3 million Muslims in America apparently have to be held accountable for every radical terrorist, then white people better be ready to take their responsibility for their peers, too. "
Then there is the fact that Trump's candidacy did not come into question, or begin to lose endorsements, until the "Grab Them By The Pussy" moment; because his crass remarks were specifically about White women, sending many to clutch their pearls and wag their tongues in disgust. Apparently, he had taken things too far! And this despicable reality was appropriately addressed by Sarah Ruiz-Grossman, in her article " Dear Fellow White Women: We Fucked This Up:
"After all the supposed progress we've made, painstakingly trying to change a white feminist movement into an intersectional one (and for that we have only the hard work of women of color to thank ), white women didn't show up to fight back against a man whose rhetoric and policies directly attack women of color , immigrant women , Muslim women , LGBTQ women and more ."
She goes on to add:
"So I am ashamed. I am ashamed of my country. I am ashamed of white people. But more than anyone else, I am ashamed of white women. Is this who we really are? Clearly ― and it is who we have always been ."
So, who really are these "White middle class, educated, women" supporters of Trump, who helped to usher in this era of despair?
I think that the following excerpt from the Buzzfeed article " Meet the Ivanka Trump Voter " provides a great description:
There's a Trump supporter you rarely see at rallies, but whose existence has been affirmed, again and again, through polling. Call her the Ivanka Voter. She lives in the suburbs. She has great highlights, most certainly not out of the box. She might be middle-aged, with kids in high school or college, or a stay-at-home mom; she might be an up-and-coming professional, not yet married. She lives in the well-to-do suburbs - places like Rochester, Michigan; Indian Hill, Ohio; Eden Prairie, Minnesota; and Haverford, Pennsylvania. She had to drive to get to the rally, because not enough people would come if he held one where she actually lived. She wears expensive jeans tucked into her cute boots. She doesn't wear a Trump shirt - but she might wear a button on her fashionable sweater. She shops at Nordstrom, and Macy's, and Marshall's.
This voter is almost entirely absent from the images that proliferate around Trump and his events, which are overwhelmed with obvious signifiers of class: the men and women depicted might be overweight, have bad haircuts, or wear crass T-shirts. They might have bad teeth. They might be worked up, red-faced, quoted spouting a racial epithet. They're the heavily mythologized "white working class": men and women who've been left behind by globalization, ignored by both parties, and magnetized by Trump
More about this group:
· They most likely do not consider themselves racist - and much of that is because they truly do not know what racism is. However, even if they do not see themselves as racist - they have no problem supporting a racist.
· They have the privilege of voting for Donald, even when they do not "agree with EVERYTHING" he's said. And as people of color and others are being openly attacked, based on his inflammatory remarks, that has emboldened bigots and racists --- they also have the privilege of knowing that they will not be attacked by these groups of people.
· They are certainly not all conservative, and may view themselves as socially moderate. It should not be hard to believe that white women also have abortions. The fact that there decision to vote for Trump jeopardizes this freedom-is one clear example of where they did vote against their own interest; regardless of socioeconomic status.
· They do not realize that the way that you vote, much like budgets are a reflection of morals. It is about what you prioritize and what you deem acceptable.
· They are dangerous - moving in silence, while secretly upholding white supremacy. Essentially the vote for Trump is just another example of the use of macroaggression against minorities. More about that here , here, and here.
· They are willing to look past blatant nepotism and cronyism when it comes to Ivanka Trump, and they actually believe that she is qualified to serve in her father's cabinet and hold a position of prestige and power. Why?? Because they like her, find her relatable, and think that she has phenomenal people skills. And we should note that this reflects the same mentality of the "Ol' boys club" that ensured that only those who one lives amongst and interacts with (other white people) would be those who were (are still) able to get the most prestigious positions, or employment period. But hey, why should we demand that Ivanka be qualified, when her father is grossly unqualified for the position that he was elected to serve?
Moving In Silence. Silence in the Face of Fascism
Let's go back to the issue of silence, and how these "Ivanka Voters" may not have openly taken part in the rallies, shied away from the cameras, and chose to not openly discuss their support from Trump. They told exit pollers one thing, and their actions reflected the exact opposite.
This tradition of doing things in "Secret" to uphold white supremacy is certainly nothing new. Just consider the KKK and their love of white sheets that serve as their cloak of anonymity. This practice of Secrecy helped to spawn the use of Dog Whistle politics, covert in nature, allowing for one to readily go back and deny charges of racism.
When looking closely at their actions, and the need to hide their true intentions, one can only assume that they went through all of these shenanigans because they knew Who and What they were supporting, a racist and bigot, and they did not want to admit it to themselves and colleagues. They didn't want to face judgment. They did not want to explain why they were casting their vote for a candidate who was openly endorsed by the KKK, and for whom the KKK held parades in celebration following his election. Leaving them with no way to pretend that they didn't notice that he was not a racist. Ultimately, what they have shown us all is that they are not to be trusted, that being women does not automatically make them an ally, and further that we must come to the realization that not all women should be viewed as minorities or "marginalized majorities." The Ivanka voter was not fighting to dismantle systems of oppression, racism, and discrimination; they were fighting to uphold them, because they believe they are part of and benefit from that power structure. In the words of the late Poet, memoirist, actress, dancer, and civil rights activist, Dr. Maya Angelou, "When people show you who they are, believe them."
What is clear is that there was a convenient narrative to Blame a certain subset of voters, particularly white, uneducated, "low informed" and working-class women; and that was done because it is more difficult to deal with the fact that even the more educated and affluent white women, those who benefitted the most from Affirmative action, the women's rights movements, and may (or may have identified) as Second Wave feminists, quietly and secretly casted their votes for Donald Trump. And they did so because they have the privilege -- white, affluent-- to look past his racist views, even his misogyny.
In terms of Pants Suit nation and the white feminists who could not understand why many women of color and others had such a visceral reaction and disdain for Hillary Clinton as a candidate-this image from Glamour magazine provides the best visualization of the problem . In describing this issue, which involved no use of Photoshop , Editor-in-chief Cindi Leive stated that "Gender equality is on all of our minds. It's really important to me that Glamour not just talk the talk about female empowerment, but that we also walk the walk …… So we've decided to support women in the most meaningful way we can: by hiring them. From first page to our last, every photo we commissioned for the February issue was created by women: photographers, stylists, hair, makeup, everything." However, in looking at the cover, it is quite clear that this is White Feminism, a wall of white women, who believe that their representation and presence reflects or represents ALL women.
The Trump ERa is in part brought to us by the toxic mix of Pants Suit nation and establishment feminism, and their quest for the first Female US President, which left them blind to her many flaws. From suburban soccer moms (60-70% of who stated that they viewed Trump negatively but found a reason to vote for him regardless), professionals who have successfully "lean forward" and push against the glass ceiling , and working class "angry" WHITE women - it is truly time to reevaluate whom are considered and called allies. It is time to redistribute the work being done, to counter oppression and yes, get candidates elected. Because those who overwhelmingly (many holding their noses) to vote for Clinton were again Black women, who for far too long been viewed as "mules of the earth," as described by Short story writer, folklorist, and anthropologist, Nora Zeale Hurston. In this Trump Era, if you want to really be any ally, checking your privilege will not be enough. You will have to literally put down and unpack that invisible knapsack of privilege . And this process begins with stepping forward, getting on the front lines, and being the first to resist and push back against the rising fascism of the Orange Empire, which now threatens the health, viability, security, and well-being of all Americans. Essentially, you caused the spill -- and simply cannot ask African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, Asians, Muslims, Jews, immigrants, those who are LGTBQ, and even the disabled (who were also openly mocked by the President Elect) to handle the clean up on Aisle 4 for you.