Progressive Unity in the Face of MAGA
It was one of those gatherings of like-minded people that encourage empathy and "no judgment" rules. The building was one of those arts buildings in Pilsen with several floors and a labyrinth of small rooms used to rehearse or paint in. The collection of left-leaning folk that you could only find in a major city (mostly white) sat in a circle, nursing their grief over the two years left of Trump that had stolen any sense of hope for the future, leaving each in a state of breathless disbelief, anxiety, and a meaningless swirl of rage.
There were bagels, Trader Joe's crackers and a half-eaten box of generic donut holes on the table as they entered but no one was in the mood to eat.
"OK. To start off, I want to open up the discussion with a simple question. If you encounter someone on the street and they’re wearing a MAGA hat, do you assume they are racist because they support Trump’s rhetoric?"
There is a palpable pause and a group intake of breath.
"If they believe Mexicans are evil, I would feel confident in thinking their intentions are racist. But what if they think: "we're richer than them, therefore they will try to get our stuff, and I don't want that to happen. If the position was reversed, we'd want their stuff, and they'd probably want to build a wall. But tough titty, it’s our stuff, and I'm keepin' em out." While selfish, and perhaps simple-minded, it isn't precisely racist."
Feet begin to intertwine and the one black women begins to tap her right index finger on her biodegradable coffee cup filled with chai. The balding 25-year old with the expansive beard and the David Foster Wallace tattoo adjusts himself and adds:
"With all respect, that's a white man's definition of racism. It doesn't fly for a second with those who have actually been the target of and suffered the effects of racism."
The sole person of color looks at her Apple watch and sees that her heart rate is higher than it should be. She closes her eyes and breathes deeply, counting to ten. “It’s worse if they smirk.”
"Again, I'm saying the way I use the term, you are saying the way you use it. My definition is not "a white man's definition" and for a white guy to say that is amusingly presumptuous."
The woman no one seems to remember inviting to the meeting adjusts her cuffs on her tan blazer. The only adornment is a "I'm With Her" pin on the left lapel and a nose ring she got years ago because it made her feel edgy.
"Calling all Mexican rapists and thieves is racist, saying you want to reduce illegal immigration by building a wall or penalizing businesses isn't. Even a nation of immigrants has the right to determine the influx levels of immigrants."
"That's the question... does every one of the millions who voted for Trump think *every* Mexican or Mexican immigrant (legal or illegal) is a rapist? Do ALL of them (or even a significant portion) think ALL Muslims are terrorists? I have a very, very, very hard time swallowing that generalization and don't see the utility in painting the situation this way, outside of getting to reductively say that 'everyone who voted for Trump is a racist.'"
"Could you not call them 'Mexicans,' please?"
"They prefer to be called 'Latinx.'"
"But Trump called out Mexicans specifically."
"THEY prefer to be called 'Latinx.'"
The black woman takes a breath and begins to speak.
"It is a racist act. What you -"
The 32-year old Poli-Sci adjunct with the iPad mini on his lap jumps in as if everyone was actually just waiting for him to elucidate.
"I don't think, "Is it racist? Is this person racist?" is the right question. Racism is not a feeling; it's a structure that influences every aspect of society. Until that system is no longer part of the social structure of the United States (and we're not nearly as far along as some white people think), all white people are racist, whether they are consciously, willingly so or not. Some white bigots do exacerbate the problem, and that reinforces that system, making it harder to finally kill it off for good."
The guy with the Cubs jersey pipes up.
"Easy. RACIST. I would never join any team or buy any product put out by a racist, because, form a practical point of view, I know this person is an idiot disconnected from reality. Why would I want to join that club? Substitute the word racist for pedophile and see if that helps."
"Really? Because Ricketts donated millions of dollars to Trump's campaign. Substitute 'racist' with "Cubs owner.'"
”Ricketts is racist. Read the emails he sent.”
"So now a private email is a racist act, too? I think that might stretching the definition some."
"Of the term 'racist.'"
Nose Ring jumps in again, trying her best to ignore the obvious testosterone display.
"I would definitely enter Liberal PCism as a reason of division, playing its combined role in what happened. Shit aligned is what happened and each thing helped pull this chaos together. What to do now is the question, but post-mortem examination is very necessary to move forward too."
"I'm guessing you read that article in the Times? I have to say, I don't think that's the root of it. Or rather, it's more about the fear of a black/brown planet...and some people (read whites) not liking POC getting "uppity."
Everyone looks over at the woman of color. A pause. Then the the guy who identifies as 'Queer' because he received a blow job from whom he thought was a transgender woman in college adds:
"I don't think Trump's win had as much to do with racism as with internalized misogyny. Most analysts agree that it was the white religious suburban woman who got him into office."
”Yes! And it was the POC women who created the March for Women and #MeToo so we’re definitely working that angle.”
”What? No, no, no. It was white women who started the March and it fell apart because of the black women who love Farrakhan. And Melissa Milano started #MeToo.”
“Can we talk about gentrification for just a bit?”
”It’s ALL about the income disparity between rich and poor. Race is just another way to divide us!”
”Queer, Intersex, and Asexual.”
”Oh. Get with the times, girl. It’s QUILTBAG now. Queer and Questioning, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender and Two-Spirited, Bisexual, Asexual and Ally, and Gay and Genderqueer.”
“AOC. The mid-terms proved that women will turn Congress around.”
The leader smiles. He feels there has been progress made and decides to take control of the dialogue again.
"So, I think we all agree that Trump supporters are all racists. Next question. Do those of us coming from white cis heteronormative privilege have any right to even voice our opinions concerning oppression or should we be solid allies by shutting up and listening?"
At that very moment, President Donald Trump has just finished taking a HUGE crap and proceeds to wipe his orange baboon ass with a torn off section of the Constitution while, in the next room, Mike Pence laughs so hard he looks like he might have a stroke over a fag joke Rudy Giuliani just told him.