Today I’m going to share something from Facebook recently posted by my wife, Claire Detels. Claire is a retired musicologist from the University of Arkansas and helped introduce me to the world of politics and feminism in the late 1980’s.
This week, it’s not so much the Comey testimony, as some insights about T’s character and its appeal to his supporters that have come to the fore. On character, I think Rebecca Sollnit’s article I posted a few days ago, is very telling. On his appeal to his supporters (and on their character), I am increasingly convinced, and have seen social science research data that supports, the idea that Trump’s tight bond with his supporters is due to his affirmation of their (previously wounded) sense of white privilege, esp, white male privilege. Following on the of outrage (to his supporters) of having a black president for 8 years, and following on general gains for women and people of color resulting from the civil rights and women’s movements, and the changes in demographics, Trump is ideally positioned, as a rich, powerful Easterner (rather than a fellow redneck) to restore that proud (though totally false and psychologically disturbed) sense of white privilege. This is a man who arranged to be sucked up to on TV for years by dozens of well known (if B-list) celebrities, and in our culture that helped establish him as a god or even an uber-god., i.e. someone capable of giving religious absolution. Then add the birtherism, the anti-black, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and misogynist statements and behavior, and it’s clear to me that DJT gave “the people who think they are white” (re. TaNehesi Coates and James Baldwin) a powerful sense of permission for their racism and sexism (also a huge subject, given that he faced a far superior woman candidate in the election). The sense of permission affected not just DJT’s white male supporters, but also women and people of color who have invested in their identities as supporters of white male privilege, of which there are unfortunately many (Hi, Clarence). Restored white privilege also affects Trump’s strongest supporters, the Southern white male Christians, who are much more more comfortable with a white-male-privileged culture than they are with the actual teachings of Jesus.
And what we have now, is full-throated denial of the racism in our justice system and our society in general, and many who are eager to express their new confidence in white privilege in openly violent terms. No matter that the man giving the permission is a liar, a buffoon, and an open danger to national security, world peace, health care, and any other kind of decent treatment and respect for anyone other than himself, his family. And his uber-rich cohorts The positive permission he gives to enjoy the false identity of white privilege is more powerful than any of these extraordinary negatives.
And it should be a wake-up to all white people in this country: that we have not come to terms with the way our history of white privilege has distorted our sense of human decency. When Obama was elected the first time, I thought maybe we had at least begun to do so, or were on the right path. I know better now The processes of reconciliation and restitution that have been faced by other societies after horrendous inhumanity have never been faced in this country. It’s not just time for Bill Maher to have a dark night of the soul. It’s time for all whites to think hard about the ways that our white privilege have affected and continue to affect our behavior and thinking. My 2 cents, Claire