THE BLOG

Donald Trump's White Lives Matter Movement

03/18/2016 01:55 pm ET
  • Touré Author of "Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness? What It Means To Be Black Now"
Sean Rayford via Getty Images

We should just call it what it is: Donald Trump is the leader of the White Lives Matter movement. Someone had to start it -- they were gettin' out of control. First, one of them became president and now they're in the streets protesting every time a Black thug gets shot. They're gettin' a little too free.

Then Trump arrived like white supremacy's version of Santa Claus with a bag full of gifts. He gave them swagger. He gave them unadulterated machismo -- Trump is the most macho presidential contender ever. And Trumpy KKKlaus reminded them that a white man who employs good ol' fashioned white toughness is unstoppable. And everywhere he looks there's someone to fight. In Trump's mind, everything in society is aligned against white men -- Washington, Mexico, China, Democrats, Black Lives Matter, everything; it's a total disaster. So little time, so many asses to kick. Entitlement is a powerful drug and Trump's a big-time dealer.

We should have seen Trump coming. We should have known that decades of Republican race baiting -- from the Southern Strategy to welfare queens to self-deportation -- and decades of the GOP welcoming racists in their tent would eventually lead to "Make America White Again." We should have known that the browning of America and the growing inclusivity of America was not going to be taken lying down. Many people see all of that as code for the decline of white people. And to some, any advance by Black and brown people is a loss for whites.

A 2011 study called "Whites See Racism as a Zero-Sum Game That They Are Now Losing" is painfully instructive. It found that many white people see the Black and brown people's advances as a loss for themselves. They see it as damaging their dominant status, and in the modern global economy that seems to be true: White Americans are losing their jobs to people in other nations who will work for less, and because of that it feels like America is losing its dominant status. So while Trump is leading a coalition that includes a lot of the people won by George Wallace and by the Southern Strategy, his preferred villains are non-white people from other countries. He's winning the South by focusing on racial divisions in the context of a modern global economy.

So where the 2008 election seemed like shocking proof of how non-racist we were, the pendulum has now swung back hard and 2016 is shocking proof of how racist some of us still are. And those phenomena -- the rise of Obama and the rise of Trump -- are completely interlinked. The Trump phenomenon is occurring in response to the rise of Obama, like a correction or a reversion to the mean. Or a people trying to reassert the status they feel they've lost. And now the people who feel most disaffected by the success of Obama are screaming loud to make sure that this time they're heard: "White Lives Matter."

I could see myself one day supporting a White Lives Matter movement. I believe white men should be proud of who they are and where they've come from. The concept of white pride has been ruined by white supremacists because they've made it something that's necessarily hierarchical -- white pride as part of asserting racial superiority.

But the racial pride I've been taught by my community does not include devaluing whiteness. My Black pride isn't about superiority, it's about self-love. My Black pride is intramural: it's about spreading self-worth in a society that undervalues Blackness and seems to be conducting an all-out attack on Black self-esteem. We say Black is beautiful and Black lives matter because society is constantly telling us the opposite. I would love to see a white pride that's not a sneering retort. I want to see a white pride that celebrates heritage and foments self-love and rejects racial superiority and dismisses the absurd delusions of white marginalization. Steal "white pride" from the Klan and rechristen it as a new white pride that has no time for hate.

I want to see white people who are against the Trump movement snatch White Lives Matter from him and turn it into something that uplifts without oppressing anyone. Help build a whiteness we can all be proud of. I'd support that.

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