In a few days, we all might be talking about President-elect Donald Trump. For me, as an African American, his rise has provided a sad demonstration of the moral flaws of our nation. But I’ve never been shocked by our collective ineptitude during this presidential race. America has never had the stomach to defeat domestic threats that inflict terror on non-white bodies.
As an African American man, I have a lot to lose in a Trump administration. Trump’s Supreme Court will be incredibly regressive. Affirmative action will probably be on the chopping block, and I would not be surprised if the Voting Rights Act was gutted even further. His racist supporters will feel emboldened to attack and harass African Americans and minorities. KKK members and white nationalists will be proud to show their faces in public and declare their hatred. Black churches will continue to burn in Mississippi.
I wish that when I envision an America under Trump that I could become apoplectic because a future this racist, stifling, and oppressive would be something that would shock me. I wish that I had felt that shock and alarm as Trump trampled his way to the top of the Republican Party by demonizing minorities, and women.
But I didn’t. To me, Trump’s rise has always been America reverting to the norm. President Obama was the anomaly in the American story, not Trump. During Obama’s eight years much of America has tried to project a narrative of progress, the normalcy of this progress, and the inevitability of further progress. This narrative has persisted throughout left-leaning environs despite the rise of birtherism, unprecedented congressional obstruction, and countless other attempts to delegitimize America’s first black president.
So let’s imagine President Trump. At some point after next Jan. 20, an African American—a young male, say, who had committed no crime, brandished no weapon—will be killed at the hands of law enforcement. I anticipate that Trump will not care. Long gone will be the days when America’s president showed compassion and understanding with the traumas inflicted upon African Americans. Our president won’t talk about how this innocent victim could have been him, as Obama did with Trayvon Martin.
Instead Trump will blame the victim for his own death, and he will probably blame the Black Lives Matter movement for escalating the racial tensions in America. Trump will blame black America for the destruction of a black life. He will probably throw some vitriolic language at his African American predecessor, and I will not be surprised when Trump refers to Obama using language that we hoped was no longer socially acceptable.
Trump will ratchet up the fears and moral insecurities of the American body politic, and convince them to wage a “war on” whoever it is that’s in his sights. It could be a war on crime, terror, drugs, etc. Or it could be a movement to reclaim law and order, and silence these black bodies who had the audacity to demand equal justice under the law.
Trump knows that America has never been structured to provide African Americans with equal protections or opportunities. That hasn’t changed in the civil rights era. The only thing that did change is that blacks started demanding those equal protections. But Trump wants to take us back to a previous era where black people knew their place and knew better than to disrupt white civility by bemoaning or plotting an escape from their oppressive plight.
As I brace myself for a Trump presidency, I have thought a lot about what America means to me and how I perceive the nation I call home. To my surprise, much of my sanity and solace stems from America’s immigrant communities that Trump has denounced throughout this campaign.
America’s non-white immigrant communities have come here to escape terror and seek economic opportunities, and many of them have sacrificed so much to build this new life. To a certain extent, they have been sold a false bill of goods that neglected to mention the surgical precision of America’s racial oppression, but they refuse to give up on their vision of America that believes in a universality of freedom and equality regardless of race, religion or gender.
As a native-born black man, I cannot see America through this prism. It would be disingenuous for me to believe that America is this equitable sanctuary of freedom and equality. But I can strive for the same end result. Increased voter turnout among minorities, both native-born and immigrant, consoles me and allows me to hope that my future won’t mimic America’s regressive past.
In this election these Americans are steadfastly fighting for the continuation of the America they were promised, and this fight gives me hope. Far too many other Americans have become consumed with disbelief about the rise of Trump. They want to act as though his actions and rhetoric are unprecedented, yet Trump’s entire campaign consists of dredging up unscrupulous ideas from the past and arguing that today’s America needs to emulate our more oppressive history.
America’s collective disbelief of our known history and the ensuing shock we have when Trump proudly references our deplorable past is actually what makes me most the concerned about the future. America’s shock about Trump inclined us to perceive him as a joke, and our society collectively hesitated and failed to confront the racist in our midst.
We thought somebody or something besides us would stop Trump, and we have had asinine conversations based around false equivalencies and falsehoods concerning Hillary Clinton and Trump.
A Trump presidency would show that America is unwilling to defeat the racist, tyrant within us, and that we are far more comfortable with our oppressive democratic facade that openly considers voter suppression and intimidation just politics as usual.
As a black man, I would be despondent about having to return to this all too familiar world. Trump’s rise would show ourselves and the world that America is not ready, and has never been ready to fight for the equitable democracy it erroneously has claimed to have always had.
Honestly, I still think that Clinton will win on Tuesday night, and while I’m not a religious man, I’ve considered praying that she does. However, if she doesn’t, I won’t say that I’m shocked. Unfortunately, the country that could elect Trump is the country I know.