This has been a difficult post to write, perhaps the most difficult piece of writing I’ve ever had to do (thus I am posting it so much later in the week than I usually blog). It’s not so much because of the subject matter, but because there is so much I want to write and because of the constant sensation of tense anger I’ve experienced for a little over a week now. I feel compelled to write something, imperfect or incomplete though it may be and despite the fact that I’ve often remained silent on political issues in the past. Like so many others, I cannot stand idly by while I see and hear what is happening around the country since the presidential election, and in reality, for a long time before that.
In the week since the election, there have been violent protests on both sides of the divide and demonstrations of appalling racism on the very day following the election1 and the week since2. Of course that’s nothing to say of the large amount of personal stories I’ve heard and read about. And though it should come as no surprise, I think many of us are in shock.
During the months leading up to the election, Donald Trump’s statements and behaviours should have been universally condemned (they should have been for a lot longer, actually). Yet despite how many times this was addressed and brought to the public’s attention, the outcries were dismissed. It was normalised and people feared the effect that would have, and in just a rough week’s time, we’ve seen a confirmation of those fears.
Yet despite this, there are Trump supporters who claim “liberals” are the hateful ones, and have been spewing hatred since the election, that no racism is occurring here, and more that they are not racists themselves. They were merely voting for a man who could shake up Washington and change this country. To make it great again.
As I wrote back to one Trump supporter the day following the election, “…this election had more important things at stake than rebelling against a broken system. There are deep, human issues which Trump spat in the face of, and those who supported him may have said no to the system, but they also said his behaviour and personal beliefs are okay too…and that to me isn’t okay on a moral level.” Perhaps not all Trump supporters are misogynistic, homophobic racists, but they are chillingly too comfortable with such beliefs to have voted for this man, and there is such a thing as guilty by association, fair or not. (A similar sentiment was tweeted by Charles Gaba this week3.)
This distancing Trump supporters are doing from what is happening is as unacceptable as the acts themselves. Just like during the election, it’s normalizing the behaviour. It’s, by omission, saying it’s acceptable. Silence and doing nothing is a choice too. This could have been an opportunity for many to come forward and say “we made a mistake; this isn’t what we wanted”. But this isn’t happening, and yet people are wondering why they are being called racists.
In Trump’s own case, despite saying that these demonstrators should stop4, his recent appointment of Stephen Bannon to his cabinet5–popularly known as a White-Nationalist–is in contradiction to Trump’s own seeming attempt to fool us. Never mind that it was reported on the same day that two prominent women in West Virginia exchanged a racist sentiment about Michelle Obama referring to her as “an Ape in heels”6.
But I can tell you with near certainty, many Trump supporters will mildly state their distaste for a statement like this, though privately they will laugh about it. I say this because I like to keep informed. I read things on both sides. I listen, even when I don’t agree with someone (it’s a good skill to have). I’ve witnessed a Trump supporter say how “hateful” “liberals” are being and then will turn around and call Hillary Clinton a “whore”. (But no, Trump supporters aren’t misogynistic.) In the past, I’ve been in the presence of white people who have made racist remarks and then, when I’ve spoken up, they’ve responded “but I don’t understand…you’re white”. So what does that mean exactly? That because I’m white I’m supposed to act and be okay with people acting so disgustingly? No thank you!
But I think the hardest part about this election is that many of us thought things were different. Over the years, we’ve seen companies attempt to diversify. Television networks, publishing companies all to reflect the changing demographics and as should have been done a long time ago. We saw our first black president (and I do believe he saw much opposition because he was a black man in a White House). At least there had been a discussion. A forward movement. It wasn’t perfect, but something seemed to be happening, finally, and not just in regards to race, but sex and sexual orientation too.
But even in the midst of this, #BlackLivesMatter was so vehemently opposed by #AllLivesMatter, and now nearly half the country votes for a man who acts like a racist, even if he claims he is not one. We all knew racism still existed, but I think many of us are now seeing just how deep rooted and far reaching that racism is. Some of them are even close friends or family–and for me, that has been a hard pill to swallow. As a friend of mine summed it up perfectly: have some people “been this ignorant all along and now [they] have a reason to put it on full display?” Indeed it seems Trump supporters all over the country are experiencing an adrenaline-fueled version of beer muscles. They’re out in the open, and they’re feeling really brave now because Trump was elected.
Now, if any of this coming from me strikes you as shocking or disappointing, I just want to point something out: Chadhiyana, my dark-skinned, female comic heroine who is (in many ways) rebelling against the misogynistic and abusive society around her. I created her in part because I felt a character and story of this type was needed (apparently more so than I originally anticipated) and that work began before #BlackLivesMatter was a movement or before the diversity in publishing topic entered popular discussion. Before Trump. That’s not to brag, but rather to say, yes, of course this would be coming from me. You shouldn’t be surprised, and I don’t apologise if you are.
That said, I do believe we must remain vigilant in this time. Violent and intimidating against anyone, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or race, is unacceptable and if we are the victim or the bystander, we can’t say and do nothing. To do so is to be part of the problem and to let it propagate.
For myself, I know that in the twenty-four hours following the election there was a fast-spreading sentiment in the art community that we need now more than ever to create art, both to oppose and offer an escape from the blatant displays of hate coming from many. To that end, and the purpose of my writing today is to say that I am committed to continuing that which I started.
That said, I won’t hound you all with constant barrages of anti-Trump messages, but I am firm in my resolve that this can’t be stood for and if we allow that, things could get considerably worse for so many who don’t deserve it. I believe we all need to do our part, in whatever way we see fit and stand against hate.
NOTES & SOURCES
(yes, because you all should be using these!)