Hope In Conflict In Trump’s America
by: David January 19, 2017
Michelle Obama said the President – elect Donald Trump was anti-hope. She argued that Donald Trump didn’t inspire hope in Americans. I disagree. Donald Trump does inspire hope. Hope fueled his populist movement. Hope led to his successful election. This same hope shaped the founding of America. It is the hope that in America so-called white people will find freedom and ownership.
Donald Trump appealed to this hope, but he didn’t create it. This same hope inspired chattel slavery, manufactured the civil war, sapped the strength of Reconstruction, created the black codes, sharecropping, Jim Crow, white mob vigilante justice, and states’ rights. This same hope pushed people to promote trade unionism, implement the New Deal, and create public schools and universities. It ultimately got Barack Obama elected. So-called white people hope that in America they will find a place where a successful crusade against ignorance, poverty and insecurity among whites would be accomplished.
This first hope is tied to a second hope. The second hope is not only the hope of so – called white people. African-Americans hold this second hope. This is the hope that if America can ultimately cure the ignorance, poverty and insecurity of so – called white people, then America would ultimately give these same things to African-Americans.
This is a strange story. It is strange, but true. Donald Trump inspires the KKK, white woman, corporate titans, elite blacks and many traditional Democratic Party voters. He can synchronize a deep plea to African-Americans about their concern for a better quality of life and simultaneously denigrate the first African-American president as an utter failure.
This is not his genius. Hope in America makes all this possible. America is a country full of people who hope that a rising tide lifts all boats. If Donald Trump, a businessman, can improve the lot of so – called whites, then won’t an improved economy, better schools and safer streets benefit everyone? Isn’t racism just a result of white ignorance, poverty and insecurity? If Donald Trump fixes white America, then won’t he simultaneously help African-Americans and remove the cause of racial prejudice? I think no. Unfortunately, many conservative, liberal, wealthy, poor, black and white Americans think yes!
The facts of racism exist. Most Americans agree. However, how the facts of racism should be handled, discovered, interpreted and analyzed are often a cause of confusion and disagreement. This confusion is created for a few reasons. First, few appreciate the truth that there are different frameworks for handling these facts. Second, fewer acknowledge the great difficulty in finding an adequate framework that is not overly tainted with the residue of racism as a powerful and evolving force in history. The attempt to find a framework to appropriately handle the facts of racism often causes disagreement. So, what does this have to do with Donald Trump and hope in America? Well, actually a lot.
It turns out the race problem, sometimes called the Negro problem, has been studied by white and black thought leaders for a long time. There are many characterizations of the problem and proposals for solving it. The dominant story about race relations in America claims that they will improve because of the character and culture of America and individual white people. The dominant story expresses a scandalous hope in both America and the so-called white race. Dubois, Booker T, Myrdal, Moynihan, Martin King, Harriett Tubman, President Obama and the average American citizen hope that America can recover from the sickness of racial prejudice and its addiction to white supremacy. There is a dissenting view. But, it is in the minority.
The dominant view is a deep expression of two hopes. The first hope is that America is not irredeemably racist. This is a hope shared by so-called whites and African-Americans. The second hope is that racism will evaporate or be cured when so-called white people in America get their medicine; that is, information, wealth and security. Once cured they will stop vomiting on black America and we all will walk hand in hand in this Promised Land. These are the hopes that fuel the populist support for Donald Trump. Trump will be inaugurated. We should watch the man. We should also watch the land and wonder if America has been led astray by false hope.