Hey, fellow white person. How much do we suck, huh? You know I used to defend the white racists who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution by saying “Well, they didn’t live the words they wrote, but they framed our country around morals that made us better than themselves.”
But that was kind of bullshit, because here we are 240 years later and we just elected a white nationalist demagogue, pretty much for the sole reason that he’s a white nationalist demagogue. We really fucking blew it, and we won’t even be the ones to suffer the consequences.
So now lots of white people are making themselves feel better by putting on safety pins, which is really bullshit. But not you and me. We’re going to do some things that will actually help the people we (as a racial cohort, anyway) have harmed. We aren’t going to congratulate ourselves on it, we’re not going to wear some stupid symbolic badge that says “Hey, I’m a good white person” so other white people will congratulate us on how woke we are. We’re just going to do these things because they’re the right things to do when you believe in fairness and equality and all those things the white racist founding fathers wrote about but didn’t believe.
Here are some really easy ways we can take concrete action that will bear results:
1. Be intolerant of intolerance
The first thing we have to do is make it clear that racism, discrimination, and intolerance are no longer values that we as a society will value. That means confronting other white people and making them feel marginalized for behaving in ways that do harm. You have to stand up against friends, relatives, and even strangers when you hear them saying racist or discriminatory things.
It’s not that hard; you say “What the hell is wrong with you?” and you walk away. One instance might not make a difference, but if it happens often enough, and if white racists learn that intolerance costs them social standing, they will eventually change–after all, the whole motive behind most white racism stems from loss of status.
The one exception is when you witness actual discrimination against another person. In those cases it is your responsibility to defend that person, not only by condemning the hate speech, but by staying with that marginalized person and treating them as an actual human being. You want to help people feel safe? Then forget your safety pin and do the work of actually helping people feel safe.
2. Seek out marginalized voices and perspectives
Here’s a question: How many black people do you follow on Twitter? How many black authors do you read? If you’re like many white people, the answer is not very many. I know I didn’t for a long time; I had to make a conscious effort to change that.
America is a culture that segregates by race, sometimes intentionally but often as an unexpected consequence of our social tendencies. Social media makes this worse–we’ve all heard of the echo chamber effect at this point. The best way to break free of that is to proactively seek out voices you aren’t hearing from.
The great thing, though, is that once you start paying attention to people different from you, whether that’s people of color, LGBTQ people, Muslims, people with disabilities, Desi people, East Asians, etcetera, you will begin to encounter other new voices that you’ll appreciate. But you have to take that first step.
Here are a few people I would suggest following, who have helped to broaden my own exposure. You can find them on Twitter, or in longer form work if you’re not so much into Twitter. Just Google their names. This is not a comprehensive list, nor does it cover all communities, it’s just a good starting point in my opinion.
Deray McKesson; Roxane Gay; Shaun King; Baratunde Thurston; Raquel Cepeda; Rebecca Cohen; Xeni Jardin; Sara Yasin; Kumail Nanjiani; Anil Dash; Jamelle Bouie; Rembert Browne; Heidi Heilig; Ta-Nehisi Coates
3. Confront your racism and don’t be fragile
Here’s something I can promise, if you take my advice on #2 and start paying attention to more marginalized voices: You are going to encounter some opinions that will upset you. Some that might make you feel discriminated against, some that might even make you feel victimized by racism.
Don’t stop listening. Don’t tune out. Lean into your discomfort. Force yourself to consider other opinions, and understand why people might say something you find offensive. I’m not saying you can’t still disagree–in fact, the ability to respectfully disagree is itself a skill many Americans, especially White Americans, are not great at. So learn.
You’ll learn a lot of terms you might not have encountered before, among them “White Fragility.” This is a reference to the tendency among White people to take offense when they are called out for saying or doing something discriminatory or even racist. It’s that thing you may have noticed where some White people think “racist” is itself a discriminatory slur, and instead of listening and examining what about their behavior might be problematic they get offended and even demand an apology from the person they have offended.
So don’t be fragile. Your feelings might be hurt, sure. You might even be offended. But resist that urge, and make yourself listen. Lean into the discomfort. All of us are programmed by a culture that embeds racism, and if we are going to be allies we have to recognize we are all capable of racist actions–only by listening can we learn to do better.
And remember, you don’t have to AGREE with everything you hear, nor do you have to express your disagreement. You just have to listen to other people’s views and try to understand where they’re coming from.
4. Use your privilege to support marginalized movements
Join a Black Lives Matter march. Attend a meeting of your local community group. Go to a Black church. When people ask what you’re doing there, say “I’m here to support you.” Then ask how you can do that.
Your whiteness affords you privileges that can be a powerful asset for activists of color and from other marginalized groups. For one thing, police and politicians tend to take a movement far more seriously when there are white people participating–consider the difference in the way the Occupy movement was treated, versus the protesters in Ferguson Missouri.
However, you have to resist the urge to appoint yourself a leader. You might think I’m joking, but it’s something White people are programmed with, often by the prevalence of “White Savior” narratives in our entertainment media. Your job is to follow the leaders of the movement and do what you can to support them, even if you think you might know a better strategy.
On a related note, be prepared for the moment when a reporter with a camera will seek you out at a protest to be the spokesperson for the movement. As a white person in a minority space, I promise it will happen–it’s happened to me more than once. When that happens, here’s what you say: “I’m just here to support the movement, because I believe in it. You should speak with the leadership, I think they’re over there.” Then point in the direction where the reporter can find group leadership. Resist the urge to make further statements, because I promise it will be your face on the news that night, and none of the people of color who greatly outnumber you.
5. Give your time and money
There are a ton of organizations that do good work protecting marginalized groups in the courts, through lobbying and public advocacy, and through education and community organizing. You can donate money to them, and often you can donate time by volunteering.
Among those I would personally endorse: The Southern Poverty Law Center, Council on American-Islamic Relations, the American Civil Liberties Union, International Rescue Committee, Planned Parenthood, and the Disability Rights Network. All of these organizations are effective and deserve your money.
If you can’t volunteer for a large organization like one of these, you can find a food bank or other organization in your community that helps serve vulnerable communities. Your local Black church can almost certainly help direct you.
6. Be proactive about inclusion in your daily life
If you are in any position of authority, be it at work or for an organization or club, you have an opportunity to be more inclusive of people from other backgrounds and communities. But the mistake a lot of White people make is to think that simply not discriminating is enough. You can do more, and do better, by taking proactive measures to invite people of color, immigrants, and other marginalized people into your space.
If you’re recruiting at work, don’t simply put your ads on the usual web sites and newspapers and expect that to be enough. Seek out places where you can recruit people underrepresented in your workplace; in many locales predominantly Black colleges and Black business associations can help you recruit. LGBTQ community centers will have job posting boards, and your town or city may have organizations that exist specifically to connect immigrants, refugees, and racial minorities with the community.
Make sure that the space where you meet is accessible to people with disabilities, who may be confined to a wheelchair or otherwise unable to use stairs, or to reach buttons or door handles. It’s also good to be convenient to public transportation, since many people from poorer communities rely on public transit to get them around.
Also, don’t be afraid to outright say in your job listing or community post that you encourage participation from members of minority communities, LGBTQ people, immigrants, people with past convictions, and so on. This sends a signal to people who might otherwise assume that they are not welcome, and can go a long way to diversifying your environment.
7. Avoid segregation
Once again, American culture tends in many ways to self-segregate, for many reasons that I won’t get into here. For whatever reason, White spaces tend to be very White, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do something to fight that tendency.
If you’re willing to put a lot of effort into it, you can move. I realize that’s extreme, but I think it’s a powerfully transformative measure, especially if you have children. Growing up in a diverse community surrounded by people from different backgrounds tends to make people more accepting and open-minded, whereas growing up in homogenous spaces (like most suburbs) can make people fearful and insular.
Even if you don’t move, you can find easier and cheaper ways to diversify your own surroundings, or spend time in places that are less familiar. In many cases it’s as simple as going into the city nearest to you, and particularly neighborhoods that are not associated specifically with White tourism. In New York City, which is famously diverse but also strikingly segregated in many neighborhoods, you can eschew the Met or the Natural History Museum in favor of the New Museum or El Museo de Bario; skip dinner in Little Italy and go get soul food at Sylvia’s or matzo ball soup at a kosher deli.
Most houses of worship are very welcoming to people who don’t necessarily share their faith, especially parents seeking to expand their children’s horizons. Find a local mosque or synagogue and participate. Join a community group in a community different from yours. Your local chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters is just waiting to help connect you with a “little” who, in many places, is likely to be from a family of color or an immigrant family.
If you’re willing to do a little work and a little traveling, there are lots of ways to make America less segregated.
8. Do the work to be inclusive
Finally, one of the easiest things White people can do (and yet often refuse to do) is to simply keep up with what’s happening in communities other than White communities, including the language people use with and about one another.
One does have to wonder how many White Americans out there will be wearing their little safety pins to indicate support for marginalized communities, but not even willing to learn the difference between Latinx and Hispanic, why “person with disability” is preferable to “disabled person” or “handicapped,” or recognize that “they” is now an accepted singular pronoun for those who wish to avoid gendering.
What many label “political correctness” is in fact a minimally difficult effort at using language that shows respect and engagement with communities that are not the predominant weilders of power in the United States. When White people complain that “they can’t keep up” with the changes in the way marginalized communities prefer to be addressed, what we are really saying is that we can’t be bothered to learn new words simply because they make other people feel more included and respected.
So take the time to learn new words, and learn what emerging issues are of concern to non-White people. If you’re following the other suggestions above, this actually won’t feel that difficult–but all of these things go a long way to actually help include and support non-White communities who have been harmed by recent American events. You can save your safety pin for laundry day.
1. We protect our mental health
This has to be the immediate priority. The traumatic shock of this result is already being compared to the 9/11 attacks, and we need to take care of ourselves and each other.
For starters, try to avoid freaking out about things that haven’t happened yet. As someone with anxiety, I understand the impetus to catastrophize and panic, but that kind of thing only takes a toll on you, and does nothing to solve any problem.
Yes, there is abundant reason to believe Donald Trump will be a catastrophically terrible President. And his mere election reveals terrible things about the United States and Republican voters. You can mourn those things–but try to avoid panicking about the things you expect to happen, because you don’t know the future.
If you feel lost or hopeless, talk to someone. A friend, a family member, even a suicide hotline. Do what you need to care for yourself–if you need to take a sick day, do it. If you need to be around people, do it. But try to get outside. Go for a walk. Being isolated in your stress and anxiety will only cause more harm.
2. We face reality
This election taught us a terrible lesson about the United States: We are not the country many Americans believed we were. Going into the election, I thought Donald Trump would show us all that racism, xenophobia, and misogyny remained serious problems in the US; I didn’t expect to learn that they were strong enough to win.
What this means is that we, as progressives or liberals or Democrats or Social Justice Warriors or whatever we call ourselves, must reevaluate our strategies. We should resist blaming isolated causes, and face the harsh reality of the America we live within.
And yes, what I’m saying is we may need to find strategies for appealing to fragile white voters who are far too concerned with race. Condemning the majority of voters for refusing to come along with us might feel righteous and good, but if the end result is a White Nationalist party controlling all branches of government, we end up harming the very people we are trying to protect.
3. We prepare ourselves to be vigilant
This is not the first time in history that men with evil intentions have assumed power; it’s not even the first time in recent history. The administration of George W. Bush took office with a plan to invade and occupy all of the Middle East; they got as far as Iraq before the nation stood up against them.
This time it may be even harder, because the GOP majority looks to be so definitive. But again, we cannot predict the future. If we stay vigilant, and act early to resist the worst efforts of our new government, we can likely prevent at least some of the grevious damage they wish to do to our country.
We must, first and foremost, fight for and alongside the most vulnerable Americans in the wake of Trump’s bigoted campaign: Muslim Americans, Black Americans and other people of color, women, members of the LGBTQ community, Jewish Americans, immigrants, people with disabilities, and anyone else Trump’s followers (not to mention Trump himself, and his administration) wil now feel futher empowered to persecute. Already this morning the Ku Klux Klan staged a celebratory march in South Carolina; it’s up to us to send the message that, in spite of what this election would suggest, racism and hatred are not American values.
4. We start organizing for 2018
I know, it feels hopeless right now. Our Congressional districts are gerrymandered to all but ensure a GOP majority, and the Republican Party now knows that trading their racist dogwhistle for a big damn trumpet can be a winning strategy with white voters. But it wasn’t that long ago when things looked equally hopeless for the GOP. They got where they are today by persistent, strategic effort, and we can do the same.
It begins by understanding how we lost in 2016–again, facing reality no matter how much we may dislike it–and building our strategy from there. We have to address the needs of all voters, and motivate Democratic supporters to get out ot the polls. We have to weed out disenfranchisement and voter suppression. And we have to find the right candidates to appeal to the largest number of voters.
None of this will be easy, and a win is not guaranteed. But all you have to do is look at the current GOP to recognize that persistence pays off.
5. We resolve to resist obstructionism
I refuse to play the game the GOP has played for the last 8 years. As much as Donald Trump offends and terrifies me, I will not support an effort to block his initiatives simply out of spite or to score political points. As much as I loathe saying it, we need to rally behind the new President and help him make the right decisions for America.
One thing I will say for Donald Trump: We legitimately don’t know what he will do as President. Yes, candidate Trump said a lot of horrible, deplorable things, and he certainly could follow through on them. But Trump also has a long history of lying and betraying those who work with him, and his past positions (before he needed the support of GOP voters) were actually relatively progressive. I realize I sound like a ridiculous pollyana, but it is possible he could be an okay President–or at least he could advance some positive initiatives.
One way or another, the Democrats simply cannot become the new Party of No. It’s a surefire way to further alienate voters, it shows contempt for our whole political system, and I refuse to be a part of it. We have to be better.
6. We work to restore civility
On that same note, we just cannot have another election like this one. Our political discourse has steadily decayed with each election, to the point where Pew research says we are currently even more divided than during the Civil War. As Lincoln said, a house divided against itself simply cannot stand. We need to build bridges, or things will only get worse.
We need to return to an understanding that we are capable of disagreement without hating one another. I refuse to defend racism or urge “empathy” for people who vote based on hatred, but I do believe we need to at least understand other perspectives, so we can begin to speak with one another. Part of the reason we are currently so divided is that many of us don’t even live in the same world; the facts as we understand them on any particular issue may be directly contradictory. That simply cannot continue.
What I’d ask is for every person to develop an instinct: That when you read some piece of news or opinion that affirms your beliefs, that gives you that endorphin rush of righteous validation, that you regard that feeling the way you would a heroin high; addictive and ultimately damaging. We need to work to learn more about people who disagree with us, not reinforce the walls of our echo chamber and live assured that we are the ones who are right.
Wouldn’t it be great if, instead of showing you the articles you are most likely to agree with, Facebook changed their algorithm to show you the ones you’re least likely to have seen? It wouldn’t be hard to transform social media into something that would broaden our perspectives, rather than reinforcing our divisions.
I certainly don’t think that will happen. But each of us has the power to find those pieces ourselves. Instead of dismissing or unfollowing your conservative relatives, try reading those articles they share from Breitbart and Drudge. Yes, you’ll be horrified, but at least you’ll start to understand the paradigms in which they operate. Maybe then we can try to speak to one another as humans.
A friend and former coworker shared these photos on Facebook. Her daughter picked up a book from the school library about Thomas Jefferson–specifically it’s “Thomas Jefferson” by author Doraine Bennett, published in 2012 by Georgia-based State Standards Publishing as part of their “America, My Country: American Heroes” series.
Does it seem like something is missing to you?
This section, entitled “Thomas Wanted Freedom,” reads: “Thomas believed people should be free. People in America were not free. The king of England ruled them. Thomas did not think this was fair. Thomas went to meetings with other men. They wanted to make their own laws.”
And “Thomas at Home” tells the story of Monticello: “Thomas’s father died. Thomas was fourteen. The plantation belonged to Thomas now. He wanted to build a house. He drew a plan for the house. Workers built the house. Thomas called the house Monticello. The name means little mountain. Thomas liked working on the house….”
Referring to Jefferson’s slaves only as “workers” strikes me as particularly eggregious.
My friend and her husband contemplated writing a few things in the margins, but ultimately have decided to visit the school Principal and recommend this book be pulled from the library. Granted, it’s clearly intended to be easy to read and understand (the publisher recommends the series for young children, those with learning or physical disabilities, English language learners, and those who lag behind in reading skills) but that doesn’t justify the whitewashing of American history.
The comments they received on Facebook were entertaining as well. “When was this book published,” one person asked. When the response came back “2012,” you could almost HEAR a gasp.
On their web site, the publisher brags, “Our focus on state-specific studies is unique in the market. While other publishers may provide state studies books, they may not fully cover the topics required in that state’s standards, or be written at grade level.” They also point out that their books meet Common Core ELA requirements. I sincerely hope that the state of Georgia has not established educational standards barring mention of slavery–though I wouldn’t be surprised if the Texas State School Board is to thank for this.
As the third and final debate of the 2016 Presidential Election concluded last night, it was clear to anyone that Donald Trump’s collapse was complete. After a performance in which he threatened to end 215 years of peaceful transition of Presidential power, vascilated between condemning and admiring Vladimir Putin, and lashed out at the last minute by labeling Hillary Clinton “such a nasty woman,” even the most die-hard conservative commentators had to admit that he’d lost.
Except, perhaps, Rudy Giuliani, who has transformed from America’s mayor to America’s greatest sycophant.
But Trump’s catastrophic collapse is not his alone. Certainly the election is far from over, but polling data shows that barring some unforeseen development, Hillary Clinton will win the election in a landslide so dramatic that the Democrats will likely take the Senate and possibly–even in spite of prohibitive gerrymandering–the House. As one could tell watching Bill Kristol practically collapse into tears on Morning Joe, the Republican Party is in dire straits, done in by an identity crisis and a fundamental sickness of which Donald Trump is a symptom, not a cause.
It didn’t have to be this way.
Only a scant 22 months ago, the Republicans were picking up massive gains in every body of government, from Congress to Gubernatorial mansions to state and local offices. As the 2014 election set records for low turnout, Tea Party Republicans seemed the only people motivated to go to the polls and signify their disapproval of President Obama and his policies.
But was it really ever about his policies? Trump’s rise provides evidence for something many on the left, myself included, have been saying since the earliest days of the Tea Party: That their energy and anger was never really about taxes or sovereignty or the Constitution, it was about race, white nationalism, and xenophobia. This was clear from the start to anyone who paid attention; people claiming to be driven by tax policy didn’t know anything about actual tax policy; what they “knew” was that President Obama was an African Muslim bent on taking their guns and destroying America.
This is the energy Donald Trump seized, and rode past 17 other candidates, all of them (arguably) more qualified than him, to the Republican nomination, despite the party establishment’s best efforts to stop him.
But why? Why couldn’t the Republicans trust their voters to choose policy and electability over racism and xenophobia, to save them from certain doom at the hands of Donald “The Groping Narcissist” Trump?
Simple. Because Republican policy has been broken for years, so broken that to get voters to support them, the GOP built a coalition of hate and fear. But as the population of people to be feared has grown, and more people added to the list, that coalition has found themselves outnumbered and incapable of winning the important elections.
Republicans knew as early as the 1960s that they could not win elections on the merits of their policies. The roots of Donald Trump’s rise are in Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy,” which used coded rhetoric and stoked latent Confederate resentment after the Civil Rights Era to win white racists to the Republican Party. Nixon replaced Johnson’s War on Poverty with a War on Drugs, which was only ever really a war on black communities.
By the 1980s it was Ronald Reagan, telling the story of a fictional “inner-city welfare queen,” playing on racism to get poor whites to vote against welfare programs from which they benefitted; but racism alone was not enough to win every election, so in the late 1970s and early 1980s the Republicans formed a pact with the so-called “Moral Majority,” the American theocratic movement that feared gays, abortion, and atheists.
Muslims, who through the 70s and 80s took a back seat as villains to the Soviets, would have to wait until the end of the Cold War to be labeled as the greatest enemies of the state, and while murmurs of white anxiety about Mexican immigrants were heard, it would not be until the 1990s, when recession made the job-destroying consequences of Republican policy vividly apparent, that white conservatives began pointing fingers at Mexico and the need for southern border security.
But the predominantly white population on which these tactics worked was ever shrinking as a percent of voting population, and as culture shifted and LGBTQ Americans gained mainstream acceptance the GOP lost one of their wedge issues. Republicans had a wake-up call in 2012, and in the miniature identity crisis that followed considered the need to alter immigration and jobs policies to appeal to Latinx Americans, soften on anti-LGBTQ initiatives, and otherwise shift to invite a wider section of America’s increasingly diverse voting base.
Instead, the party went the other way, intensifying their rhetoric until they alienated even those relatively few diverse voters who still aligned with them. Rather than work to embrace minority populations (who, combined, now constitute a majority of Americans) the Republicans advanced new voting requirements to prevent those minorities from voting, a desperate and despicable ploy to preserve the power of their alliance just a little bit longer.
Many experts cited Republican fears about alienating their base, and the need to win local and primary elections dominated by Tea Party voters. The implied assumption there, however, and one that I believe is correct, is that softening would not successfully attract new voters because Republican policies are fundamentally flawed. This is why there are no more Rockefeller Republicans, and almost no more of Bush’s “compassionate conservatives.” The only way to get people other than the most wealthy corporate elite to vote against their own self-interest and to support the Republican party is to appeal to their hatred and bigotry.
And so the GOP candidates and party establishment finds themselves now, cursed with a candidate who cannot win–and whose catastrophic candidacy seems poised to drag the entire party down with it–as the inevitable product of a machine they created.
The only solution? If the Republican Party wants any chance at winning major elections in the future, it must evolve. The United States is never going back to the way things were in the 1950s, and it is past time that one of our two major parties stop pretending otherwise.
Our immigration system is antiquated and broken, and voters will embrace realistic, reasonable immigration reform. Closed borders and isolationism are neither practically feasible nor appealing to Americans who embrace our diversifying culture. No more mythology about immigrants bringing crime and drugs; reforming the way ICE approaches immigration enforcement and transforming it into something humane and decent would win a lot of votes.
No more “tough on crime” laws. Mandatory minimums and three-strikes laws are devastating to communities and carry a huge tax burden to enforce. In recent years, the curtain has been drawn back to reveal the ugly reality of American law enforcement. Modern policing is oppressive and incompatible with any party that claims to value a small government that doesn’t intrude in people’s lives. Put forward meaningful reforms on law enforcement, including community policing and sentencing guidelines.
While you’re at it, bring the War on Drugs to a definitive end. The idea is totally compatible with the core values of reducing regulation, shrinking government, and minimizing tax-funded public expense. The War on Drugs costs Americans billions every year, it destroys families and communities, and it doesn’t do anything to prevent drug abuse. Legalize drugs, tax their sales (Republicans prefer use taxes to income taxes, right?) and use the revenues to fund rehabilitation and education that might actually solve drug abuse problems–like the catastrophic opioid epidemic that generally already begins with the legal use of prescription drugs.
Abandon the anti-science stance that allows you to deny climate change is an existential crisis, and bring the same energy and enthusiasm to that problem that the GOP does to all other matters of national security. Stop allowing corporations to pretend carbon emissions aren’t the problem, and instead work with them to incentivize solutions.
It’s time to reevaluate all Republican policies, but especially the most hard-line, because the beliefs to which you cling hardest are the ones with the least rational justification. Trickle-down does not work, that’s a proven fact. Christianity has never been our official religion, and it never will be, so stop trying to force it on us. The Second Amendment affords Americans the right to self-defense, but right now Americans need defense from the Second Amendment.
All of these reforms would change the GOP from an out-of-touch relic that relies on trickery and manipulation to achieve any power, and provide a viable second party alternative to voters who feel frustrated by our broken political system. Would they alienate the racist white voters who have come to define the Republican Party? Abso-fucking-lately they would. The GOP would need to be prepared for a lot of angry phone calls, bigotry, and death threats of the variety those on the left currently receive on a daily basis. You’d probably also see a number of GOP politicians jump ship to become independents or join the Liberarian Party.
But that’s okay; embracing meaningful changes in policy would attract conservative-leaning voters who right now align as reluctant Democrats, or feel totally disenfranchised. In all likelihood, a GOP that kept to conservative principles while embracing science and realistic policy measures would lure bright centrist politicians away from the Democratic Party to replace fringe Tea Party extremists who jump ship.
And perhaps most importantly, such changes would again provide the American voter with two viable parties from which to choose. As a very left-leaning Democratic voter myself, I desperately want a reasonable and attractive Republican Party to force my politicians to work hard and put forward real solutions to our problems.
Will the Republican leadership see it this way? Almost certainly not. For one thing, appeals to racism have been so intrinsic to the party for so long that many of the officials themselves are racists. Others are corporate shills who aren’t interested in doing work that actually benefits the country, just the next rhetorical trick that will keep Americans voting against their own self-interest. My expectation is that the GOP will keep on the same path, maybe even further intensifying their rhetoric, until their victories are limited only to the whitest and most bigoted state and local offices, and congressional districts so gerrymandered they look like the letters of some alien language.
But wouldn’t it be nice if Trump were the last of the racist Republians? If Nixon’s Southern Strategy was finally laid on the ash-heap of history, as they say, and America entered 2017 with two rival political parties ready to face the realities of the 21st century instead of trying to turn back the clock?
Human progress moves slowly; that’s a fact. In government, in the United States, it is almost incentivized to move slower still. But Donald Trump and his catastrophic, embarassing bid for the Presidency is a death knell for the Republican Party. The question is whether it can reinvent itself and rise, or be itself consigned to the ashes.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
This morning, an artist named Anthony Scioli staged a political protest in downtown Manhattan by erecting a mostly-naked statue of Hillary Clinton near Bowling Green park. The move appears to be a reaction to the naked Donald Trump statue displayed in Union Square in August by an anarchist collective called INDECLINE.
Note: I could find no photos of either the Hillary or Trump statue that I could use without violating the photographer’s copyright; click the links above to see the statues for yourself.
Politically, Scioli has every right to stage his protest. New York City requires a permit for such a display, and counter-terrorism(!) police reportedly told him he had to remove his statue less than three hours after it went up, but not before morning commuters tore it down and engaged in a street-brawl about whether it belonged.
As an artistic and political statement, Scioli’s statue is troubling and speaks to much of what’s wrong with the way Hillary’s critics approach her, especially in contrast with the artistic choices around “Naked Trump.”
Let’s begin with the most obvious and attention-getting aspect of Naked Hillary: Her swollen, naked belly and exposed breasts. The artist who created Naked Trump crafted a very realistic human form that, while overweight, closely approximated Donald Trump’s actual physique. The one (likely) exaggeration was the statue’s obvious micropenis.
Naked Hillary, in contrast, has a body resembling a fertility goddess or R. Crumb cartoon, a grotesque parody of the female form. It bears almost no resemblance to Hillary Clinton’s actual figure. Instead, it is a commentary on the female form itself. The statue’s shape reflects the way Hillary’s critics view her: Burdened and disfigured by her femininity. Were this the artist’s primary statement, one could almost see this as a commentary on the way our society regards women; in combination with the statue’s other aesthetic and symbolic choices, however, such a reading is impossible.
Naked Hillary is posed mid-gesticulation, her arms spread wide as her mouth and eyes expand in wild-eyed frenzy. Once again, the choice contrasts with that to depict Naked Trump at rest, a placid if somewhat self-satisfied expression on his face. Especially when one considers that Trump is by far the more bombastic of the two, this choice again says more about the artist than about Hillary herself. Hillary Clinton is many things, but frenzied is not one of them. Instead, the wild expression and contorted open mouth reflect a primary objection from her critics: She is an outspoken woman.
From behind her belly and beneath her open shirt emerges the glib face and hand of her husband Bill; because god forbid any woman, even the likely first female President, be regarded as an individual human being apart from the man who defines her. It’s not entirely clear what purpose Bill serves; his expression and reaching hand likely hint at his well-known reputation, but in a surprisingly subtle move (considering the other symbolic choices) he is sans-cigar.[EDIT, 12:30PM: From the photos available earlier this morning I took this to be Bill Clinton, but from later photos, it’s clearly not. It appears to be a banker fondling her and kissing her breast, adding another layer of troubling symbolism to the piece (why must alleged corruption be portrayed via sexual symbology? Because she’s a woman??) but doesn’t much alter the overall thesis as I’ve laid it out here. Just note that it is definitely not Bill.]
Below Bill’s hand, Hillary’s nether-regions are clad in a simple pair of white panties, because even in retaliating for Naked Trump, the artists regard female genitalia as too vulgar and offensive to be exposed in public. From there down, Hillary is transformed into a literal devil, her human legs replaced by hairy goat legs and hooves. Beneath her left hoof is a pile of papers; it’s hard to say with certainty from the photos online, but they would appear to be a mountain of emails. Her right hoof crushes a Google-style marker denoting a location on the map she stands upon, soaking it in blood that spills into the ocean.
Though the map is distorted, it’s almost certain that the marker denotes… wait for it… BENGHAZI.
The Naked Trump statue that made headlines in August was a simple artistic statement: It stripped The Donald of his glamor, of his character, of his bluster and his dignity and depicted him as nothing more than a man. Yes, the representation was distorted in some subtle ways to embarrass him: the tiny penis, the saggy skin and hanging jowl. But the artistic statement was to emphasize his humanity.
Naked Hillary, in contrast, is anything but human. She is a cartoon, so burdened by the symbols of right-wing knocks against her that no actual person remains. The statue’s artistic choices illustrate more about her critics than the candidate herself. Hillary’s attackers see her female-ness, they see the manufactured scandals they’ve associated with her, they see her refusal to sit down and keep quiet, and they see her husband as an intrinsic part of her personhood. The thing they are incapable of seeing is her humanity.
In the end, the Naked Hillary statue shares much with the right-wing movement against Hillary. It is wholly unoriginal and reactionary, exaggerated until it has little resemblance to reality, and based more on an imaginary character named Hillary Clinton than on the actual human politician by that name. It is fundamentally misogynist, and so burdened by decades of talking points and fake scandals that it can’t make an original statement of criticism. It’s less a “protest” than a political cartoon, one that repeats the same tired message Republicans have been reciting for the better part of 30 years.
As the election draws nearer, and evidence mounts that Donald Trump really is the worst candidate ever to have a real shot at President of the United States, one common refrain from those who still support Trump (and those who intend to vote third-party or stay home) is that they just don’t like Hillary Clinton.
I am not one of those people who thinks it’s unreasonable to dislike Hillary. And we’ll tease that apart in a moment to consider the factors, fair and unfair, that make Hillary unlikable, but first I want to make this clear: Hillary Clinton is arguably the most qualified and competent person ever to run for President. She has dedicated her entire life to public service, and part of the reason she fails to connect on a human level is that she’s just so damn caught up in policy details. Oh, and her opponent is a priapic sex-monster who is either virulently racist or willing to embrace virulently racist voters to win, an irrelevant distinction.
The point is, you don’t need to like Hillary Clinton to think she’s the right choice in this election, or to cast your ballot for her. Continue Reading
No one looks forward to accusing a national celebrity, a candidate for President, of rape or sexual assault. No one WANTS to be in the national media talking about a violation of their body, to be asked probing questions that violate their privacy, to be called a liar and an opportunist and a slut.
No woman in the country is ignorant to the experience of such an accusation, even when her abuser is not famous. Your life becomes defined by the worst thing that ever happened to you, your identity buried beneath that of the person who violated you. And for every woman who came forward and was believed, there are dozens, hundreds maybe, who came forward and were ignored.
If you’re like me, you have zero intention of seeing 13 Hours, Michael Bay’s new right-wing fantasy porn flick. Maybe, like me, you’ve sat through four incomprehensible Transformers movies (owing to a borderline masochistic need to stay up on pop culture) and thought, “The only thing that could possibly make these worse is if they carried a more overt and deceptive endorsement of Republican conspiracy theory.”
However, like me you might have concerns about the effect it might have on our upcoming election. So I give you a handy guide to the coded messaging of 13 Hours, from Matt Gertz at Media Matters, the hero who watched this thing so we won’t have to. Continue Reading
2015 was America’s truth mirror. It was the year we had to face a host of sordid, ugly aspects of our culture, most of which had bubbled under the surface for decades. If you’re a fan of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, it was essentially the focus of each week’s main story: Here’s a terrible thing that’s been happening regularly for a long time, and most people have no idea.
Whether it was Black Lives Matter exposing power-mad murderous police, John Legend and Common talking mass incarceration on the Oscar stage, or Donald Trump making it abundantly clear that roughly half of Americans are virulently, openly racist, it seemed like everywhere you looked in 2015 you saw people pulling back the curtain on some shame we as a culture used to pretend didn’t exist.
This is, to my mind, a good thing. A very good thing. Sure, it’s disturbing and even depressing to see the ugliness in our society, and for a lot of people it’s shaken their faith in America and humanity. But I’m in the camp that says before we can solve a problem, we have to face it. These aren’t new problems. It’s not as if police haven’t been murdering black people in cold blood since police became a thing. What has changed is that the people suffering under such oppression now have camera phones and YouTube, and can prove to the world what they’ve been seeing forever. Continue Reading