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Kevin Cokley

Kevin Cokley

Kevin Cokley

Making America white again: The ‘white lash’ that carries Trump Add to ...

Kevin Cokley is Professor of Educational Psychology and African and African Diaspora Studies, director of the Institute for Urban Policy Research & Analysis at the University of Texas at Austin and author of The Myth of Black Anti-Intellectualism.

American citizens in the United States have spoken. The election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, at one point an unthinkable and inconceivable outcome, is now a reality. This historic election has revealed an electorate that is as divided along racial, gender and class lines as at any point in recent history.

In Mr. Trump’s acceptance speech he characterized his campaign as an incredible movement comprising Americans from all races, religions, backgrounds and beliefs who love their country and want a brighter future for themselves and their families. While he did technically have individuals from diverse groups, he did not enjoy widespread support from African-Americans or Latino-Americans, likely because of the statements and actions he has made against these groups. According to CNN exit polls, only 8 per cent of African-Americans and 29 per cent of Latinos voted for the president-elect.

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Mr. Trump’s statements about banning Muslim immigrants from entering the country has exacerbated fears among Muslim Americans and undocumented immigrants that they will be deported. Despite overwhelming evidence of his impolitic comments and bigotry, he was still elected. For some people the election of Donald Trump will now sanction and embolden bigotry.

He had widespread support from working-class white Americans, a group especially hit hard economically because of de-industrialization and jobs moving overseas. But as much as working-class whites are hurting, Latinos and African Americas are still worse off yet we are asked to privilege white pain above all others. CNN commentator Van Jones characterized this support as “white lash,” in part because of having a black president and presumably because of changing racial demographics. In 2011 an article was published on CNN addressing the question of whether whites are racially oppressed.

The article provided several examples of racial anxiety:

· A poll finding 44 per cent of Americans identify discrimination against whites being just as big as bigotry against blacks and other minorities · White people being considered a “dispossessed majority group”

· A fear that whiteness no longer represents the norm.

The rising tide of white racial anxiety might lead one to conclude that racism is the predominant cause of Mr. Trump being elected. After all, he did receive significant public support from white nationalists and racists. And there have been numerous articles written about the racism among Trump supporters.

But to be fair, not all Trump supporters are racist. Many had genuine policy differences with Hillary Clinton, or voted for Mr. Trump based on their moral convictions, or voted for Mr. Trump because of their disdain for Ms. Clinton and the establishment politics she represents.

We would be naive and disingenuous to not acknowledge that there was an underlying racial dynamic at play which represented white disenfranchisement and resentment of an America that has increasingly become unrecognizable to them. This is why Mr. Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” resonated with so many people.

There is another issue at play that reflects a larger global dynamic, and that is tensions surrounding immigration and what some have characterized as a rejection of multiculturalism. We see this in the U.K. Brexit vote, which ultimately was a referendum on issues such as immigration, national identity and cultural identity. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel said that multiculturalism was a “sham” and that the country’s attempt to create a multicultural society had “utterly failed.” During their time in office, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy also said that multiculturalism was an outright failure and partly to blame for fostering Islamist extremism.

The rejection of multiculturalism appears to have come home to roost in the United States. In Ms. Clinton’s concession speech she characterized her campaign as “hopeful, inclusive and big-hearted.” Many of us believed an inclusive campaign that promoted an optimistic message which embraced people of colour, women, Muslims and people with disabilities would be victorious over a campaign that disparaged these groups. We were wrong. Trump rejected attempts to moderate his language as “political correctness.” Further evidence of the rejection of multiculturalism can be found on the campus of Texas State University, where alleged Trump supporters recently posted threatening flyers that advocated organizing tar-and-feather vigilante squads to arrest and torture university leaders who promote diversity.

Right now human rights are looking bleak in the United States. We can no longer (if we ever really could) present ourselves as a moral authority to the rest of the world. My social-justice friends and colleagues are mourning the election results and wondering what is in store for us.

Fortunately, they have taken the election results as a renewed call for activism and have vowed to continue fighting injustice. Let’s hope for the sake of our country that the pursuit of social justice will ultimately prevail over xenophobic appeals to make America great again.

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