I’m sure you’ve heard the news. The election of overtly racist reality show con man Donald Trump to the once esteemed office of president has brought White nationalism back in vogue as the center of political discourse in Washington. To sane people, this is the setting of a dystopian nightmare. It’s been a couple of weeks since the election, and I still have a cognitive “no way” as my mind resists the slow entrenchment into a new dangerous reality. Some Americans have taken a queue from across the pond and have started wearing safety pins as a show of dissent to the majority opinion, calling themselves a “safe space” for any of the maligned groups fearful of what a Trump presidency could mean. I have mixed feelings. There is undoubtedly a supportive component to the protest that I like, but the cynical part of me strongly suspects the inciting emotion driving this trend is a bit less altruistic.
It must be understood that while Trump’s election is utterly terrifying to minorities, many whites are viscerally embarrassed by the ordeal. The inflammatory language coming out of the Trump campaign dropped all pretense and chose plain spoken bigotry over the coded derogatory language that pervaded prior Republican campaigns. While I appreciate the sentiment behind the safety pin movement, its inception is most likely derived from whites needing an active means to distinguish themselves from the others…the trumpers. The trend is presented as a safe space because positioning yourself as the noble actor in defense of another is more palatable than the craven self interest of “I’m not racist and don’t lump me in with them.”
Frankly, I can’t say I blame them. I even appreciate how unnerved a person needs to feel to invent or seek out ways to assuage their angst. But that is all it does; assuage their personal angst. As a minority, this election leaves me with an awkward taste that has persisted beyond the election. I don’t believe that everyone who voted for Trump is racist. Neo-liberalism has been a failure and this election was arguably the necessary rebuke of corporatist policies that have ruled the Democratic party. That said, like gum on my shoe, I’m stuck with the opinion that either the majority of Whites went to the polls and said, “Yes. I completely agree with the ideas spewing from that sexist bigot.” Or, “I don’t fully agree but racism and sexism aren’t deal breakers for me.” Neither scenario speaks highly of the the country and while I appreciate the poignant sentiment of multicultural solidarity, the reality of our predicament seems trivialized by the whimsical “feel goodness” of the fad.
After all, Trump is right on one point. The system IS rigged, and there are a host of issues that demand immediate attention. Climate scientists have given one hair on fire report after another on the global catastrophe of creeping climate change. The current level of income inequality in America exceeds anything seen in American history. Wages have been flat for the past 20 years, while expenses such as education and health care have sky rocketed. Not to mention, despite all the talk of job counts and stock market gains, most of the jobs created have been low paid service jobs, and 90% of ALL the gains in the Obama economic “recovery” have gone to the top 1%. To make matters worse, the people with the most shameful role in rigging the socioeconomic political apparatus have control of all branches of the federal government and nearly 70% of state and local governments. Even if you can somehow ignore the fears of federal power being used in the service of white nationalist or the U.S. government engaging in a war of aggression against Iran; domestically, we’re still left with the problem of important life saving programs such as medicare, social security, health care, and the EPA being subject to Republican destruction.
That said… my neighbor is wearing her safety pin so all and all, I totally feel safe.