The president visited Chicago this past Monday, as thousands of people turned out to protest his first return to the city since his campaign and impeachment hearings picked up speed in the House. I wish I could have been out there protesting on Monday, and I support every effort to remove this president. He has demonstrated again and again that he is not fit to hold the office. In fact, he had never hidden from us what kind of president he would be: he has shown us by his words and actions what kind of person he is. Anyone who is surprised by the outcome of this presidency had willfully blinded themselves to the facts of his nature during the campaign.
But I’m afraid that most of his supporters had their eyes wide open about what kind of person he is and what kind of president he would be, and they either explicitly endorsed it or tacitly accepted it. Some people simply wanted as president a racist, sexist, trash-talking shell of a man who was clearly damaged by a lack of compassion in his childhood, a man who has always gotten whatever he wanted and so thought nothing of, as just one of many examples, holding up military aid to Ukraine to initiate an investigation of his political rival. These people are either openly racist themselves or they are so disconnected from the experiences of people of color as to be functionally racist for all intents and purposes. Other people accept his racism and sexism because this president was a means to an end for them — getting more conservative judges approved, or simply keeping Hillary Clinton out of the White House. These people, by tacitly accepting this racism, condone and enable its continuation. This week, the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police board got in on the act, condemning Chicago’s police chief because he refused to attend the president’s speech and reemphasizing the consistent alignment between policing and white supremacy. All of these supporters, including many Republican members of Congress, will find it very difficult to abandon their support for this president.
But the election of 2016 was world-disrupting for me because it revealed the degree to which many white liberals, myself included, are part of the problem as well. I know many people, especially people of color, find laughable that so many of us had been asleep about the systemic racism and sexism coursing through the veins of our nation. But we were asleep, and some of us are beginning to wake up.
For all of us — those who have been in this fight and those just waking up and joining in — there are twin dangers on the horizon. The first danger is Trump himself, and it is vital that we remove him and his racist, norm-destroying behavior from office through impeachment or defeat at the polls. The second danger is that we will direct all of our thinking and pushing and striving towards his removal. This is the attitude that says, “If we could only go back to how it was before Trump, we would be OK.” This idea is alluring, because it means we would only have to pull our country back to where it was just 4 years ago. It is also utterly false. Our goal is not to pull our country back four years — it is to create a country that never has been. With or without this president, we live in a nation that locks up more people than any other country in the world and that disproportionately locks up people of color, especially Black men. We live in a country that funds education through a broken and unequal system that gives less funding to people of color, especially Black people. We live in a country that is satisfied with offering medical care to only a portion of its people, especially excluding people of color, particularly the undocumented . We live in a country that is doing barely a drop of what we need to do to defeat climate change, which disproportionately affects poor people, especially, once again, people of color.. Defeating this president is vital, but it is only a vital first step. We must consign him to oblivion, not to go back to how things were before, but so that we can push forward to true transformation — electing leaders at the national, state, and local levels who will provide basic needs such as food, shelter, education, and health care to all Americans, who will implement policies that break the hold of fossil fuel companies and put us on a path to zero carbon emissions. We must advocate for these policies and leaders, and we must create welcoming communities that truly appreciate and nourish the cultures, spirits, and bodies of people of color.
To accomplish this, we need to connect with our relationships, with our planet, with ourselves — with our own values. These connections lie at the core of antiracism, and they must fuel us to move beyond the initial goal of removing this president. We must accomplish that goal, yes, but at the same time we must begin to truly grapple with our core challenge: fostering a society that exists in equilibrium with all its members, with other societies around the world, and with the planet itself; creating a society that truly values and embraces all of its people.
Please follow this blog by subscribing at the bottom of this page. And please follow me on Twitter and Instagram: