Tim Wise. White Like Me.
Ta-Nehisi Coates. The First White President.
The latter is what I thought of when we watched Wise’s documentary Thursday night. Wise asks young people what it means to be white. Most can’t find an answer. Is that because whiteness exists, and has always existed, in a capacity of oppressing others and stealing from them? This is a hard question to answer, made more so because the mind shies away from making such a broad statement about friends, neighbors, lovers. But Coates presents a strong argument that whiteness, at least American whiteness, is predicated on this negation of other races, and specifically of Blackness.
Coates sheds light on what has become a commonly accepted myth in post-election politics: the white working class, tired of being ignored and ‘oppressed’ by the identity politics of the left, turned to Trump. This belief alone lends support to much of what Coates illustrates. Somehow the blame for a President Trump voted into office by a majority of white people lies, at the end of the day, with non-whites and their demands for equality.
Don’t they know how far we’ve come? Why do they have to be so greedy?
And so the nation, led by political pundits and celebrities who cannot accept that their fellow whites and perhaps they themselves are still as accepting as black plight as their ancestors, accepts that the frustrated white working class have finally had enough of the left’s identity politics.
Coates says otherwise.
“The racial and ethnic isolation of whites at the zip code level is one of the strongest predictors of Trump support.”
What, then, led us to Trump? To read Coates’ essay is to perceive a massive retelling of facts, harkening back to the “mythic past” Wise speaks of.
“If the broad and remarkable white support for Donald Trump can be reduced to the righteous anger of a noble class of smallville firefighters and evangelicals, mocked by Brooklyn hipsters and womanist professors into voting against their interests, then the threat of racism and whiteness, the threat of the heirloom, can be dismissed. Consciences can be eased; no deeper existential reckoning is required.”
In our first class, I voiced my opinion that America had been built on a foundation of white supremacy, and do this day it’s institutions and economy function on white supremacy. Contrary to what scores of celebrities and political figures tell us, racism is not a plague upon our nation; racism is our nation.
There is no way to ‘rid’ the U.S. of racism without fundamentally changing parts of integral systems and processes of justice, education and legislation. The question now is, can we accomplish a restructuring of this level in the United States at present?
Here’s a final quote from Coates to shed some light on where we are as a nation.
“It is as if the white tribe united in demonstration to say, “If a black man can be president, then any white man—no matter how fallen—can be president.” And in that perverse way, the democratic dreams of Jefferson and Jackson were fulfilled.”
Coates’ article below: