It’s been 1 month. And the bar has been set so low that I’m at a point where any day we don’t enter into nuclear war is a good day. When President Trump was still President-elect Trump, I went through an accelerated grieving process as he was not the candidate I had in mind to advance the country, but he was the winner nonetheless. I rapidly traversed depression, then anger, then an IDGAF (Google it) attitude before I could intelligently articulate my proposal for a way forward in 9 concrete steps.
While I encourage considering all of these steps, I’ve taken personal responsibility in executing step 7:
Love your neighbor, but hold your neighbor accountable:
Don’t be afraid to have tough conversations with people who don’t look like you but who you are in relationship with – coworkers, spin partners, church members. I believe you cannot change anyone’s mind on anything significant without having a relationship with them. That being said, stop giving breath…to the people you encounter who harbor hate in traffic, or in the line at Starbucks, or in the comments section of any article on race on the internet, because you don’t have a relationship with them and will probably never encounter them again. Instead, save that energy for relationship building with those you encounter on a daily basis.
It’s important to hold all of our neighbors accountable, but I intentionally outline those who look differently from us – because no matter how much data we amass to show otherwise, the bottom line is that the 2016 Presidential Election was won and lost along racial lines. 58% of Whites voted for Trump while only 21% of non-whites did the same. If we parse out the data even further, Donald Trump received only 8% of the Black vote. So as a black man in America who did not support Trump, I set out to engage in meaningful dialogue with white people I’m in relationship with, whether they voted for Trump or not -because chances are they did, or they have a relative or close friend who did.
Here’s what I learned from our interactions:
- White middle-class liberal women who voted for Hillary Clinton are just as angry if not more than non-whites who voted the same, except many of them don’t understand that the effects of a Trump presidency will be markedly different for them than me. While their anger is authentic and palpable – as a person of color, my safety is in greater jeopardy now that hate, bigotry, and racism have been validated and normalized through our political process. White people get to be angry, but safe. People of color have to manage our anger around our fear; the former is a luxury of white privilege, the latter is a necessity of survival for people of color.
My thoughts: your anger is warranted, but it’s not enough. Be willing to use your anger for action to ensure that those of us who share your anger but do not share your security can exist without fear.
- A white millennial male with a background in urban youth ministry, couldn’t bring himself to support Trump or Clinton so he voted for Jill Stein. He understood why certain demographics of people like Muslims and Latinos, had a problem with Trump based on what he’d heard from the candidate during the campaign. What he could not fully understand was why Trump was bad for African Americans. Talks of a border wall or Muslim bans didn’t impact black people. He believed Hillary was the same if not worse than Trump for blacks based on Hillary’s past statements about “super predators” and legislation passed by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, that contributed to the mass incarceration of black people. He figured at the very least Trump made promises to crack down on crime in places like Chicago, which should appeal to black people.
My thoughts: Donald Trump has a history of housing discrimination against blacks (among other things), and while that may be trivial to some – what is less debatable is his disregard for the poor in general, majority of which are people of color. His idea of cracking down on crime is increasing the authority of law enforcement officers who already have contentious relationships with communities of color; for some, gangland is better than police state. As for Hillary Clinton, she is a career politician with 30 years of political baggage which she should be held accountable for, including disparaging remarks about people of color; but her comments must be considered within the context for which they were spoken. Also, Hillary was no more responsible for mass incarceration as the First Lady of the United States than Michelle Obama was responsible for unmitigated drone strikes in the Middle East. Bill Clinton was not running for president, Hillary was.
- Another white male millennial would have voted for Trump except his wife forbade him from doing so, so he wrote in Ted Cruz instead. He is a stock market trader and viewed the election purely from an economical standpoint. He believes Trump is the volatility the financial market needed to shake things up. He felt like the market had been running on cruise control for the last 20 years under republicans and democrats alike, and that it was too regulated by the federal government. Trump, being a business man, promised to loosen the reigns. And so he supported Trump as a protest to the status quo as it relates to the global economy. He believes in 4 years the economy will be more agile for years to come due to everyone having to evolve to the changing market, and that we’ll be much better off for it versus if the country had voted for “more of the same” in Hillary Clinton.
My thoughts: The stock market is not the economy. The gains achieved on Wall St. rarely transfer to Main St., yet the losses that happen on Wall St. come at the expense of Main St. (Great Recession). Over half of Americans have $0 invested in stocks, and a surging S&P or Dow does not equate to more jobs for everyday people, so while Trump may prove to be what the market needs, it doesn’t guarantee that the economy will follow suit.
- A white Evangelical Christian who did not disclose who he voted (but I don’t suspect it was Trump), pushed back on exit poll data that shows that white Christian evangelicals overwhelmingly voted for Trump. He believes the mainstream media et al. is a part of a long term strategy to separate society from Christ – so data like “81% of white Evangelical Christians voted for Trump” is a fabrication and ploy to paint Christianity as a part of the problem and further social agendas that include abortion and LGBTQ rights.
My thoughts: Facts are facts, the numbers are the numbers. Christians do a good enough job of separating ourselves from Christ, already. We don’t need outside help.
- A Trump supporter I went to high school with, said that she doesn’t hate Muslims, or black people, or gay people, or “fill in the blank” (I know her and know this to be true). She voted on a single issue that impacts her self interest. As a white law enforcement officer who works predominantly along the Texas border, she voted for the candidate she thought would be best for her profession, and Trump consistently made border protection and immigration a top priority during his candidacy.
My thoughts: Most people went to the polls and voted for their own interests – instead of the interests of the whole country. Very few people say to themselves, “I’ll end up paying more taxes if I vote a certain way, but I can afford to do so when majority of people cannot – so I’ll just take one for the team.” This doesn’t make those folks morally corrupt – just selfish. How do we convince people to remove self from the equation and consider our neighbors when we make decisions that impact all of us?
- Then there are the white allies who did not vote for Trump, who are angry, and who understand that their white privilege protects them from Trump’s America in ways that I – a black man- am not, and they sacrifice their relationships and their bodies to actively resist white supremacy. These people are few and far between but they exist, and I’m thankful to have them at my side.
My thoughts: Society is comprised of ‘pros’, ‘antis’, and ‘nons’ – people who are either pro-hate, pro-bigotry, or pro-racism for example, or anti-hate, anti-bigotry, and anti-racism; but most of us are ‘nons’: people who neither actively endorse those things nor resists them, but plays the middle to preserve our personal comfort and not agitate the status quo. A friend of mine goes even further to quantify this analysis of white people specifically as 10-10-80: 10% of white people are bonafide bigots and wish the worst for anyone not white, 10% are true allies of the marginalized who “get it’, but majority of whites – 80% – are only concerned with their most immediate circle. They don’t endorse hate or bigotry or racism, but they only actively resist hate when it impacts their circle. Bigotry is only bigotry worth speaking out against when it’s directed at someone they know. Racism is only named racism when it’s perpetuated against one of their 5 black friends. We need less ‘nons’ in society and more ‘antis’, and we need less white people in the 80% and more white allies in the 10%.
Together we must all communicate, and together we must all resist despite our best self-interests. But we must do so first within our personal relationships. Will you commit to listening to those who don’t look like you? Those who don’t worship like you? Those who don’t vote like you? Will you commit to listening to hear and not just to respond? And when you do respond, will you do so from a place of love?
Today, I challenge you to love your neighbor, but hold your neighbor accountable. So, let’s talk?