I woke up Wednesday with a hole in my head. It was a large enough hole that I decided we can’t let this happen. This sudden emergence of America’s long-brewing racist undercurrent brought on by a relentless process of worldwide wealth inequality that its creators have decided must be mitigated by violent conflict between marginalized groups.
We can’t let that happen. Of course it’s already true that racist, sexist, and homophobic attacks are occurring in towns across America, and college campuses and schools are prime epicenters. There’s already been a series of marches in several major U.S. cities explicitly stating that Donald Trump is not our president, and even if that idea might appear unproductive or dubious to some, it’s extremely important to register grievances immediately and gather forces in whatever way we can. Even if it is not in our power to actually stop this, we can draw some lines and work toward getting to where we need to be, in 2 years, 4 years.
This month’s episode of Living in Spanglish is an attempt to give a voice to this perspective, as well as add commentary on some issues that are already emerging about the election in general. There’s a very tricky and possibly disturbing debate evolving about how race, gender and class are intersecting in the explanation of Trump’s victory. While I have quite a bit of respect for Glen Greenwald’s journalistic abilities, I don’t buy his argument that blames the “elite” media and Democratic establishment for missing the “class grievances” of working-class whites who live outside major cities. Of course those grievances exist, but they are not the primary factor in the result.
There are several complicating factors surrounding the white vote in swing states and in the exurb-rural hinterlands that are allegedly responsible for the election result. Trump supporters vary in income, and grievances about race and the changing demographic character of the U.S. are easily disguised by focusing on class rage, which has sometimes been merely represented as anger of being “left out” of the media glow of influential major cities. It’s not at all clear that Trump voters are always motivated by class interests, but what they perceive as their threatened whiteness is clearly a unifying force.
If any group has a legitimate class rage it’s poor people of color living in major cities. While you might always be able to find a few outliers, like the 7% or so of people who voted for Trump in my district in the South Bronx, the overwhelming majority of people who have the most urgent grievances about wealth inequality voted for Clinton, despite her apparent alliance to Wall Street. Many blame the mainstream media for not accurately gauging the “class rage” of Middle America, but the pundits and the so-called Beltway elite, as misguided as they can often be, simply believed that Trump’s rotten core of racism and neo-fascism would alienate most of the white working class. They made the mistake of believing in their basic humanity.
It’s a sad day because that humanity has been lost, perhaps manipulated by right-wing messages and strategizing, Koch-funded or not. Or maybe it’s just the legacy of a country that still refuses to face up to the colonizing violence that created it, and the racist manipulation that created the artificial category of whiteness that would become its inheritor. All I know is I didn’t want to wake up feeling like I have a hole in my head anymore. So I made it out to Brooklyn to do this live show, expressed some shock and anger, tried to make light of some things, and maybe the nervous laughter was a step on the way to healing. I wish I hadn’t had to do this show, but it is what it is. Maybe by the end we’ll all get to feel a little better.