27 Mar

Blacklash: Is the rise of Donald Trump a racist retaliation for electing a black President?

In today’s New York Times there is an article entitled, “Donald Trump’s Blue-State Appeal.” Everyone knew Trump would do well with working class Republicans, but Democrats too? The answer to the question of his appeal appears to be race. The article states that, “There’s a remarkably strong correlation, for example, between Mr. Trump’s support and the number of racist Web searches by state.” When I read this article I recalled a comment I heard from a long-distance trucker when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were vying for the Democratic nomination. He shamelessly told me that many truckers across the country (many of them unionized Democrats) were outraged that a woman and a black man were battling for the Democratic nomination for the presidency of the United States. He said some of the truckers would rant for hours on their CB radios about that n—- and that c—, saying that only a white man should be President.

People talk a lot today about the simmering rage over the economy and fears that immigrants will take all the jobs. It is a fact that less educated people support candidates like Donald Trump who specialize in fear-mongering and siphoning hatred off to some identified “other.” Yet they don’t typically cross party lines. I think we may have underestimated the number of people, like those truckers I was told about, who have been harboring class and race resentment against the very idea of a black president.

The feel good historical moment of electing Barack Obama was clearly in evidence for black people across this country and for non-racist whites who took pride in transcending our very racist past to elect a person of color to the highest office in the nation. Clearly there are a multitude of mostly white working class men who have been clenching their teeth for the last eight years and are now being “liberated” by the no-holds barred hate-mongering of Donald Trump. They have had to sit through eight years with a leader who, like the Republican controlled Congress and Senate, they never acknowledged as being the legitimate President. They have been simply killing time until a “real President” is elected.

“Black-lash” may be a real social-psychological phenomenon. As sad and embarrassing as it is, what will save us is that people who feel this way do not appear to be the majority of American voters. Yet Donald Trump has taught us something about the power of primitive emotion, particularly fear and hatred.

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