(ThyBlackMan.com) “It was as if my very presence in the White House triggered a deep-seated panic, a sense that the natural order had been disrupted… For millions of Americans spooked by a Black man in the White House, he [Trump] promised an elixir for their racial anxiety.” Barack Obama from “A Promised Land.”
First things first. Joe Biden is the President-Elect, having gotten over five million more popular votes and projected to receive 306 (270 needed to win) electoral votes. Incidentally, the Associated Press has been “calling” presidential races since the election of Zachary Taylor in 1848.
The ride down the escalator in Trump Tower to announce his candidacy was a metaphor for the descent America was about to experience during the Trump presidency. Yet he still received more votes than in his first run and got the majority of the white vote again, including white women.
Media outlets let Trump get through his entire term without ever asking him to define the era which he thought was America’s greatest. Some thought he meant the 1950s, but it seemed to me more like the 1850s: Think Dred Scott. Think before “suburban housewives” had the right to vote, or before it was against the law for he and his father to refuse to rent apartments to black families.
Of course Trump and the Republicans couldn’t believe he lost. They had tampered with the Post Office, rolled back voter approved restoration of voting rights for felons in Florida, conducted purges of voter rolls in states like Ohio and Georgia and asked his voters at rallies in Pennsylvania and North Carolina to “vote twice.” But it was all for naught. “Pookie and them” still showed up at the polls.
When two things happened right away after the election was called, I knew Biden’s victory was real: his Secret Service detail was immediately increased and the Pentagon restricted the air space over Wilmington, Delaware where he was about to give his victory speech. And this was done despite Trump’s refusal to concede.
But all the bitterness, vitriol and denial since the election, and Trump’s increased vote total, are about much more than the presidential race. It’s about the changing demographics of the United States and projections that by 2045 America will be a “majority minority” country.
According to demographer William H. Frye, author of “Diversity Explosion: How New Racial Demographics are Remaking America,” census data indicates that “racial minorities are projected to account for all of the rates in youthful population growth over the next 42 years.” He goes on to say, “minorities will be the source of all of the growth in the nation’s youth and working age population, most of the growth in its voters and much of the growth in its consumers and tax base as far into the future as we can see.”
Until the first decade of this century, the White Tribe had been the unquestioned leaders of this country. Then Obama won the presidency: twice. His elections sent shock waves throughout the political establishment, and the general white population, and heightened the “racial anxiety”, the sense of losing control, he talks about in his book.
May the best man win
One of the clearest ways to see this dynamic play out has been in the world of sports. When Jack Johnson became the first black man to win the Heavyweight Championship, the White Tribe clamored for a “Great White Hope.” Jim Jefferies, a former champion, was coaxed out of retirement for what was anticipated to be the biggest fight, with the biggest purse, of all time.
Amid the taunting and racial epithets hurled at Johnson before the bout, he is reported to have responded by merely saying, “May the best man win.” Johnson went on to pummel Jefferies, resulting in “race riots” (whites attacking blacks, on a July 4th no less) in fifty cities across twenty-five states. The film of the fight was banned and Congress banned all fight films from 1912 until 1940.
As the baseball season ended in 1973, Hank Aaron was one home run shy of tying the all-time home run record set by Babe Ruth. Such was the tumult that a black man was about to overtake “the Babe” that Aaron said his only fear was “he might not live to see 1974” due to the volume of death threats he was receiving.
Aaron would recall playing in the “Negro Leagues” and having dinner at a restaurant in Washington, D.C. after a game. When the team finished eating, they could hear the loud sound of plates breaking coming from the kitchen. He remembered thinking, “If dogs had eaten from those plates, they would have washed them.” For some in the White Tribe to get so upset about inconsequential things like the winner of a prize fight, the number of home runs hit, or black men enjoying a meal, imagine the rage they would feel seeing an African American win the White House.
Dying of Whiteness
Dr. Jonathan Metzl captured the deep feelings of racial anxiety and animus in the United States in his 2019 book “Dying of Whiteness.” He explained why poor and working class whites “vote against their interests” when they don’t support programs like the Affordable Care Act.
In the course of research for his book he found, for example, that repeal of gun laws in Missouri, resistance to “Obamacare” in Tennessee and spending cuts to public schools and social services in Kansas led to white suicide rates rising, life expectancies falling and an increase in white school drop-out rates.
He documented how “right-wing backlash policies have mortal consequences even for the white populations they promise to help.” Some of the people he interviewed said they literally “would rather die” than receive aid from social programs, especially if they thought those programs were designed for poor blacks, who they considered underserving. And some of them did.
Donald Trump is a common archetype of the White Tribe, “The Ugly American”. The narcissism, entitlement and the fragility. (He needs space to accept defeat?) Not only to not want to share power, but also to not want to compete for it on a level playing field either. “If I can’t win, or don’t get my way, I don’t even want to play.” No victory, no matter how small, can be allowed for the other side. Why don’t all Major League Hall of Fame baseball players, who played before Jackie Robinson, have an asterisk in front of their names?
Writing for the news website Axios, Stef Kight said “the numbers show that non-white Americans are now the majority in four states as well as in the most prosperous and powerful U.S. cities.” She then laid out the White Tribe’s dilemma by saying, “The U.S faces two possible futures: a thriving nation that embraces its new demographic makeup, or an escalation of fighting, racism and xenophobia.”
I stand with those who choose inclusion.
Staff Writer; Harry Sewell