Thanks for Writing Back, White Ladies. Now Let’s Talk.
Some of you (and also some white gentlemen) took me up on my column offering to have a conversation about why so many of you support Trump. Let’s get to it.
Let me start here:
I am a middle-aged black woman living in the American South by choice. I have lived here, worked here, and loved here nearly the full of my adult life. There is nothing that I don’t love about Atlanta—aside from the infrequent snow storms that knot up the highways and send government officials into a frenzy as they gas up all three salt trucks. Admittedly, when I was a 17-year-old rising high school senior, I hated the very notion that my mother would deign to ruin my life by accepting a job transfer that brought us here in the summer of ’85.
In the 33 years since, my career has taken me to cities across the country. Often it was because there was a new and sometimes better job waiting for me. But more often than not, I was either chasing love or running from it. Whatever it was, I always returned home to Atlanta.
The years between then and now have taught me some things about myself and the world I live in. One of them is most certainly that you cannot outrun yourself. Wherever you go, you always go with you. Another is that the most uncomfortable question is often the one most needing to be asked.
Since the 2016 presidential race and again following this year’s elections, a lot has been written and said about how people voted and why. For the most part, the focus has been on the working class, evangelicals, suburbanites, and rural voters—all of which are shorthand for “what did white people do?”
Then, too, and especially in close races, prognosticators measured turnout by millennials and racial minorities, including African-Americans and Hispanics. Generally speaking, while turnout was higher than in any midterm going back to 1974 and with the exception of suburbanites, the electorate tended to mimic previous election cycles. In others words, we did as we’ve always done.
We maintained party loyalty. Voters even re-elected two congressmen under federal indictment—Reps. Chris Collins (R-NY) and Duncan Hunter (R-CA). In New Jersey, voters held their noses and returned Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) to the U.S. Senate despite his 2017 corruption trial and, after he got off the hook there, his 2018 censure by the Senate Ethics Committee.
And that got me to thinking: Who were the voters who put Donald Trump in the White House? And why after two years of egregious lies, incompetence, and moral failings did they pull the lever for some of his most staunch allies?
I wondered how otherwise sane people could do that, even though they know—thanks to the advent of videotape—that the president of the United States is a virulent liar. No matter your politics, surely one must know that you cannot trust a word that slides off his tongue even if it comes notarized via certified mail. One does not have to agree or disagree with Trump’s policy decisions to see the folly in that.
For me, one voting segment was more intriguing than others: white women. Despite having a demonstrable history of making misogynist remarks and an overall disregard for women’s rights, Trump won a clear majority of white female voters in 2016. Many of those women returned to the polls this year to support Trumpist Republicans.
African-Americans are often derided for casting nearly our full lot with Democrats. “Get off the plantation” is among the most prevalent jeers from both black and white conservatives. However, just as black voters are often asked why they maintain an allegiance to Democrats, I wanted to know why white women maintained an allegiance to Trump and his Republican party.
After my column “Dear White Lady” was published by The Daily Beast last week, my social media mentions were flooded by those who took issue with that question. And our newsroom received many dozens of emails. The responses were a mixed bag of applause and vitriol. For some, I was the “real racist.”
“Are you the same Goldie Taylor that [sic] wrote that racist article about white people?” a Facebook message read. “Your article titled ‘Dear White Lady’ is exactly what we don’t need in this world,” one email protested. “I know you’ll never respond to this,” another said.
While we cannot answer all of them, my editors and I decided it might be worthwhile to address some of the messages that came through. They are presented here as sent, typos and all.
“Plenty of women of color voted for Trump, so please don’t blame this on white women.”
False, unless you think less than 6 percent is “plenty.” Every piece of data available says black women are among the most loyal of all Democratic voters. Hillary Clinton won 94 percent of that vote in 2016. Furthermore, 64 percent of non-college-educated white women supported Trump in the general election compared to only 3 percent of non-college-educated black women and 25 percent of non-college-educated Hispanic women. I am willing to wager that you have no black friends or neighbors with whom you could have this discussion. But I cannot be faulted for your apparent inability to google election outcomes.
“Why must you always always have black people calling out white people? That is so wrong to continually pit one race against another! We all have differences, that doesn’t make one persons view righter than the others. I don’t need or have to justify why I vote or think the way I do.”
Black people are “called out” by white people every day in this country and we certainly are not the “pitters” in this equation.
I am curious to know how many messages you’ve sent to The Daily Caller or The Federalist demanding to know why they target non-white people so much of the time. My guess is none, zilch, zero, nada. The fact of the matter is that when African-Americans raise their voices on civil and human rights issues we are accused of “playing the race card.” It takes real gall to say that you “don’t need or have to justify why I vote or think the way I do” when black people are mocked, ridiculed, and reviled for silently taking a knee in protest at state-sanctioned police violence in our communities. A question if, as I suppose, you are a Fox News viewer: Have you, in even one instance, called them out for peddling cruel and vicious stereotypes about Hispanics and African-Americans?
Before you pretend to be color-blind, let me say it is insulting that one would ask me to fold away my culture and experiences to better assimilate with yours. To care about one another is to want to understand where we came from and to honor them. The history of this nation has been marred by the domestic terrorism of slavery and Jim Crow-era segregation. As a country, we are who we are because of those struggles. Asking me to forget them is only of service to you.
That said, you should note that I have a deep and abiding respect for conservatives, and there are likely more than a few positions on which we agree. What I take issue with is rank hypocrisy. What I take issue with are voters who once trumpeted the politics of personal responsibility and accountability and who now turn a blind eye as the rule of law comes under near daily assault. I mean, what exactly did you do when The New York Times published the results of a rigorous investigation that found that the president and his family have allegedly been defrauding the U.S. government for decades to evade paying taxes? What I take issue with are the throngs of people chanting “Lock her up!” while the nation’s commander in chief, who regularly violates his oath of office, appears to have broken the law both before and after he became president.
What’s good for the goose damn well ought to be good for the gander.
“As a white lady I was horrified that so many white women ever supported DT and that they still support DT? Unbelievable! So many of my friends feel exactly the same way.”
People tied by race, culture, or gender will not always agree. However, I think what we can and should agree on is that there should be a moral standard for the presidency. We should be able to expect basic decency. That Trump lacks the temperament and intellectual curiosity to serve this nation well should not be a question. Issues aside, I do not know how anyone looks at that honestly and is still able to lend him their support.
“Goldie, I am a white lady from South Carolina and I totally agree with you. I don’t understand how anyone, especially women, can abide Donald Trump! I am not a Hillary Clinton fan but she got my vote because I certainly couldn’t vote for a fascist narcissistic crook, which is Trump.”
In the last presidential election, a lot of people felt as if it was a choice between “two evils.” While I did not subscribe to that notion, many people of good conscience did. However, there is a real consequence to allowing someone, regardless of party affiliation, to lower the standards of the office. I don’t know about you, but—politics aside—not a day goes by that I am not embarrassed for us as a country. Irrespective of party affiliation, this nation can and should do better.
“I found your letter ‘Dear White Lady, What are you doing to Us?’ very offensive to woman and European Americans. If that was written by someone other than color or a man there would be an uproar and the calling to fire that person. But it was written by a person of color so it’s acceptable. People of color keep separating themselves which puzzles me and your letter is an example of that.
You stated that women of color picked up the slake to give Hillary Clinton the win of the popular vote. Women of color make up approximately 7% of the population so you can contribute to the popular vote but by far are not the major factor in her vote totals. The same goes with Obama, without the European American vote he does not get elected.”
You’ve obviously never run a political campaign. I have. In fact, I’ve worked on state, local, and federal campaigns. Winning almost always requires coalition building. In national elections, that means one has to garner support across racial and ethnic lines. You are correct in pointing out that both Clinton and former President Obama received support from many white women and men. Clinton took 54 percent of white women overall in her matchup with Trump. Obama only got 39 percent of white women voters in his race against the late Sen. John McCain.
When I say “picked up the slack,” I mean African-American women, across all age groups and education, voted in larger numbers than in previous elections and we overwhelmingly supported Obama. In 2008 and 2012, we were the fuel in our households and often made sure our adult children voted. In state races, that vote often made the difference for both Obama and Clinton. For instance, in 2012, despite losing badly among white women, Obama won Pennsylvania in his race against Mitt Romney—51.97 percent to 46.59 percent. Predominantly black Democratic strongholds in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh weighed heavily on that math.
It’s true that a not insignificant number of college-educated and younger white voters also supported Obama, but Romney pulled much stronger numbers among white women—college and non-college-educated—than Obama in every state in the union. Even so, Obama won the 2012 election in an electoral landslide.
Even more telling is Clinton lost Pennsylvania in 2016, and one of the reasons was a depressed and suppressed African-American voting bloc.
Black turnout dipped with Clinton at the top of the ballot. Just 80,000 voters in just three states—Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin—put Trump ahead in the electoral college count. I can tell you plainly that there were at least double that number of black voters in those same states who stayed home rather than vote for Clinton.
Examining voting trends in terms of racial groups is neither new nor is it “racist.” In fact entire bodies of academic study are devoted to it. The difference for you now appears to be that it is the voting trends of someone that you more closely identify with—women of “European” descent—that is being critically examined. I am certain it is uncomfortable to be called on the carpet for hypocrisy.
That said, I want to address your first point clearly: Black people and people of color writ large do not get a pass in this country and certainly not in the news business. I could spend all day and into the night telling you about colleague after colleague who lost an opportunity in journalism over some small perceived slight or gaffe. There is no racial discount. If anything, there is a tax. We understand that we must comport ourselves with a significantly greater level of decorum than our white colleagues. Working twice as hard to get half as far is the reality we live with.
Brian Williams still has a job at NBC News. He is a good anchor, but he has had his share of controversy. Some called him “too big to fail.” There is no one in that building who thinks Williams would have been able to keep his job had he been black. I am sorry if the truth offends you, but I will keep telling it.
Moreover, I can assure you that—like every other human being on the planet—I harbor a host of biases. Race and ethnicity aren’t among them.
“Didn’t know how else to reach you, but wanted very much to comment on your opinion piece—the letter to white women who support Trump.
“I am a white woman, and I have the same question of these women. I don’t understand. I am shocked, angered, and embarrassed by their behavior.
“Thank you for posing this question so eloquently. I hope you and I and others who find Trump and his henchmen so heinous can find the answer to this crucial question. More importantly, I hope we can find a way to do something constructive about it.
“Again, thank you for being a strong voice for all of us who wholeheartedly agree with you. If you are ever in Portland, ME, I would like to take you for a cup of coffee.”