Since Trump’s victory in the Presidential election, I’ve been seeing article after article, and post after post, and comment after comment on how we shouldn’t regard those who voted for him as racist, or sexist, or homophobic, or xenophobic, or anti-Muslim, or antisemitic, or any of the other prejudices that were on full display during his candidacy. I saw the same things after the Brexit referendum in my own country. At the same time, in both instances, I’ve also seen a big spike in racist attacks mere days afterwards.
But, I’m told, Trump voters hate his bigotries as much as I do, they’re just angry, or afraid, or hurting, they don’t really hate marginalised people. But my question here is why should I care whether they do or don’t? I’m going to adapt an observation that’s been made about rape jokes, and why they enable rape culture even if the person telling them doesn’t really support rape:
Maybe you don’t think that voting for a Nazi-wannabe candidate is the same as endorsing the bigotries he was peddling, or the same as siding with those voters of his who wholeheartedly embrace them. Maybe you’re pissed off at “liberals” for conflating you with those assholes. But the people who really believe that all white people deep down hate the brown pople, or that all real Americans hate Muslims? Are the racists and the anti-Muslims – the people doing things like this. And when you voted for their champion, you reassured them in their belief that you’re one of them.
Does that bother you? If it doesn’t, maybe you don’t hate their views as much as you think. And if it does, shouldn’t you be taking it up with them, rather than the liberals, or the minorities targeted by those you’ve reassured?
I have no idea what proportion of Trump’s supporters were voting his way because other problems left them angry, or afraid, or hurting. For those who really are hurting, their problems deserve looking at. But not because they’re Trump supporters, because they’re people who are hurting. And it doesn’t mean it somehow shouldn’t “count” that they stood up to be counted with (literally) the KKK, or those who want to reduce women’s bodies to property, and built a platform based inextricably on multiple hatreds.
I’m sure someone will point out that this is pretty much the argument leveled at black people vs black criminals. But the difference is that regular black people merely have the same skin colour black criminals – whereas non-bigoted Trump supporters deliberately and knowingly lent their endorsement to the bigoted ones. And the results of that endorsement are playing out already.
So: if you’re a Trump supporter who really wants me to understand that you’re not really like the racists, misogynists, homophobes, xenophobes, anti-Muslims, and anti-semites, I say this: I’m not the person you need to tell. You need to tell the racists, the misogynists, and their ilk – show them they’re wrong about you, and about America – show them that you won’t condone their hate. This week, you wasted your biggest chance to do that – so what now? Will you look for another? Will you take it if you find it?
And if the answer is no, then are they truly wrong about you?