“Trump wasn’t condescending (toward the white working class),” said one of my taxi passengers, making a point that I failed to make in my 2016 blog posts (though I did write about leftist condescension).
Apparently hardly anyone else made my passenger’s point. I just googled the phrase and found no results.
Trump’s supporters felt he respected them, listened to them, spoke their language.
And one of Trump’s main points was his complaint about political correctness, which rang a bell with his supporters. I also failed to fully analyze that point, though in “Countering Racism,” I did quote Van Jones on the issue:
Van urged progressives to really understand the pain being experienced by many white working class people and learn how to speak to it. He described the struggles many suffer, including I believe the erosion of their long-held identity as breadwinner, and then one of their children comes home and tells them, “You are a bigot.” Van said, “That is painful.”
And I did often caution against name-calling and hurling judgmental labels. But, although I linked to Thomas Edsall’s excellent, important “The Anti-PC Vote,” I only commented on his reference to problematic language. On second thought, after Trump’s victory, his piece calls for fuller attention. And considering that it was published on June 1 2016, Hillary should have given it more thought too.
In both the workplace and academia, Haidt argues,
the accusatory and vindictive approach of many social justice activists and diversity trainers may actually have increased the desire and willingness of some white men to say and do un-PC things.
In this atmosphere, according to Haidt,
Trump comes along and punches political correctness in the face. Anyone feeling some degree of anti-PC reactance is going to feel a thrill in their heart, and will want to stand up and applaud. And because feelings drive reasoning, these feelings of gratitude will make it hard for anyone to present arguments to them about the downsides of a Trump presidency.
Trump’s anger at being policed or fenced in apparently speaks to the resentment of many American men and their resistance to being instructed, particularly by a female candidate, on how they should think, speak or behave.
On April 26, Trump wheeled out a spectacularly offensive attack on Clinton, perhaps designed to provoke the response it got. He accused her of playing “the women’s card” when “she has got nothing else going. Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she would get 5 percent of the vote.”
Hillary rose to the bait. Three days later, appearing on Jake Tapper’s CNN show “The Lead,” she countered:
I have a lot of experience dealing with men who sometimes get off the reservation in the way they behave and how they speak. … I am not going to deal with their temper tantrums, or their bullying or their efforts to try to provoke me. He can say whatever he wants to say about me, I could really care less.
Trump responded on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show on May 2. What Clinton said “was a very derogatory statement to men,” Trump declared. “It was almost as though she’s going to tell us what to do, tell men what to do.” He continued, “It was a real put-down.”
The kind of messages that provoke reactance and a defiant or oppositional response, according to one study, include “imperatives, such as ‘must’ or ‘need’; absolute allegations, such as ‘cannot deny that …’ and ‘any reasonable person would agree.’ ”
…Some people will reject a policy or action that is to their advantage when they feel pushed or forced into making the “correct” decision.
In other words, reactance can foster a totalizing loyalty that does not respond to reasoned fault finding. This might help explain Trump’s seeming immunity to criticism from his adversaries. His followers feel that they have experienced a “diminution of freedom” and believe that Trump can “restore their autonomy.”
He has won a unique admixture of support, based in part on what might be called an anti-rational or irrational loyalty but also in part on his recognition of legitimate grievances among his adherents that many other politicians belittle or deny. This loyalty, as Republican candidates found during the primaries, is far wider and deeper than anyone not sharing it expected.
She has yet to discover a compelling rebuttal to Trump on political correctness,…
One reason is her deeply embedded elitism, which is shared by many, probably most, leftists — as reflected by the fact that she still has not really apologized for her “irredeemable … deplorables” comment, which fired up Trump’s base. And neither have most of her supporters.
As I see it, political correctness, which was a term originated by Socialists in opposition to the top-down imposition of dogma by the Communist Party, is reflected in the following statement (I don’t recall who the author was) concerning how to respond to Trump:
If you are able to talk about “giving Trump a chance,” or to urge “reconciliation” with an authoritarian sexual predator, racist, xenophobic, megalomaniac, anti-Semitic, transphobic, islamophobic, ableist, cheat and liar–you likely have a whole lot of unexamined white, middle and upper class, cisgender, heterosexual privilege and you are exercising it in a way that will further oppress those without your privilege.
The accusation that others, even those who are generally allies, are exercising white privilege merely because they disagree on tactics is common, and, to my mind, troublesome. Yes, those of us who are white, including working-class whites like myself, need to examine our privilege closely and be careful when we offer comments — as middle-class professionals who are persons of color should examine their class privilege.
The moment during the convention coverage that was most memorable for me was a segment on Samantha Bee’s “Full Frontal,” Her reporter interviewed Republican delegates who repeatedly replied “All Lives Matter” when asked what they thought about the phrase, “Black Lives Matter.” Those responses reinforced the stereotype of white Republican racists. But when the reporter probed, the delegates talked convincingly about how they do not want to be racist and they want to learn more about how to talk with African-Americans without being offensive.
During the campaign, numerous voters were quoted about how they often feel like they are walking on eggshells, worried about offending someone. At time, that leaves them speechless.
I’ve recently had one such interaction that has bothered me a great deal, and still does, leaving me uncertain about what to think. After another police killing of an African-American man, an African-American activist whom I considered an ally, with whom I’d had a number of positive interactions, posted:
I think we are better off without the police. I think we might be safer, happier, healthier if there were no police…. the system we have is not reformable and we are better of with no police than the ones we have now,…
I doubt that most people of color would support abolishing the police. Rather it seems that we need to insist that the police live up to their alleged purpose: to Serve and Protect. there are examples of police departments that have done that. Pushing to multiply those examples seems like a more winnable strategy. Working steadily to reform our systems can eventually transform them
Don’t speculate on what people of color would support to people of color. It is fucking annoying. Can you check your white privilege for once Wade it is getting so tiring. Go post your confident self righteous strategy thoughts on your own page. I don’t have the patience for your bullshit today. Speak for your fucking self. I have been ignoring your pattern of behavior for a while. quietly deleting your offensive posts without comment, but I am all out of hope and all out of patience for white bullshit. I am not inviting a dialogue. I am setting a boundary. Never post on my page again. You are happy to read but i don’t want to hear what you have to say. …You have made great sacrifice and I honor that. And the way you relate to me disrespectful of my basic humanity and you have to cut it out. Sorry of the vent but today I just can’t take it any more. Love to you….
Those comments disturbed me profoundly and I’ve thought about them a lot. After reading “It’s Not About Race” by John Metta, I thought about them more. Metta reports having been the only person of color in a discussion about race, during which he stated, ““I speak with a lot of emotion, and sometimes that emotion is anger. That should be allowed, because anger is a valid response to oppression. I’m not angry at you as an individual, but at a system of injustice.” Metta then reports that sometime later, a man said that he hoped we could “rise above emotions.” He wanted an “intellectual discussion” using logic so we could “really get to heart of the matter” without getting “derailed by emotions.”
Those remarks led Metta to analyze cultural norms and the need to accept cultural differences. He concludes:
I was angry that a white man was telling me we should “rise above emotions” and “get to the heart of the matter” by talking about race intellectually and avoiding emotions…. Every single thing white people do and say is done in the context of normative white culture, which they don’t have to think about…. Most of the time, they can’t see their own culture, much less someone else’s, meaning they have no idea what the hell we’re talking about anyway. So either we get angry, or we just close our eyes, nod our heads, and say things like “Yeah, using the Socratic method to talk intellectually would probably be a good way for us to discuss systematic racism.”
That essay prompted me to post Shut Up and Listen where I said:
Responding to anger can be difficult. Generally the best response is to listen, ask questions, learn, empathize, and find points of agreement. Unsolicited advice is rarely appreciated, as I’m still learning.
That’s especially true if you are White and the other is African-American. Let’s face it. In this country, race matters. Persistent oppression and White assumptions of superiority charge the atmosphere.
I wrote that though I have never said anyone should “avoid emotions.” How to channel anger wisely is another matter, however, especially in the context of talking about how to be effective politically. And if we want to counter racism, when and how we “call out” people for racist comments is a delicate matter. If we aren’t careful, we can make them more racist.
All this leaves me confused, uncertain, and discouraged. I see the whole world spiraling down into tribalism rooted in rigid identities, labelling, and name-calling. Hillary’s biggest mistake was letting Trump pull her down into the politics of personal destruction and ad hominem attacks, which was given birth by the 1968 Gore-Buckley debates and later the Democratic Party’s attack on Robert Bork. Activists are generally guilty of the same mistakes and fail to see their particular issues as simultaneously reflections of how the System divides, conquers, and oppresses everyone, including its administrators who are dehumanized.
I disagree with Bernie that we need to emphasize class more than race. Each are equally important. I disagree with Hillary’s elitism. And I believe we need a massive, democratic, multi-issue grassroots movement with inclusive leadership whose members are co-equal, with no claim to privilege based on background, including having been relatively more oppressed.
My New Year’s Resolution is: Speak my truth. At the same time, I remind myself: avoid unsolicited advice and precede, and follow, criticisms with appreciations.
I don’t know how much time and energy I’ll have to write, or how much I’ll be motivated because my efforts seem to resonate with only a relative few. I have to drive taxi as much as I can, probably for as long as I can, so I’ll have some money when I’m 95. And absent more support and encouragement, it’s hard for me to push myself to write more than an hour a day.
Maybe the #LoveArmy will indeed prove to be what I’m looking for and I can relax and just be a foot soldier rather than carrying so much of a burden on my shoulders.
Regardless, as I learned recently, “I am good enough (and will be better).” Whether the same applies to humanity remains to be seen.