This post is probably going to make some of you uncomfortable, and that’s okay.
I believe that most of Trump’s followers think racism is wrong (at least the ones not waving Confederate flags), and this is why Republicans are so uncomfortable and defensive when charges of racism are leveled at Trump.
I’ll get into the specifics of Trump’s racism in another post, but before I go there, we first need to take a closer look at ourselves. I’ll start with myself.
I grew up in rural, white America, and I grew up with a Republican worldview. I understand the hesitancy Republicans feel about acknowledging the existence of racism. My childhood was a world far away from diversity where everyone I knew looked very much like me in terms of skin color. My world was white and insular, and I had never truly met anyone or listened to anyone who had a life story that was markedly different than mine. How could I have known what racism was other than through what came into my world on 1980s TV?
Here’s where I have to get honest: even in my insular world, I remember conversations with classmates and friends in my youth where we said racist things. This racism was unfortunately casual and not directed at anyone in particular. It’s easy to dismiss episodes like this as kids saying stupid things, but dismissing them is a mistake. These moments reveal an ignorance that many of us don’t like to confront. I remember knowing better and not speaking out for justice when I was young, and this is something I deeply, deeply regret.
When you live in a place with little to no racial diversity, it’s easy to live with blinders on, to treat racism as a casual issue of no real concern that happens to other people in other places, or even to pretend that racism doesn’t exist. But stories of racism in America are not hard to find. All you have to do is open your ears and listen.
If you’re white and from rural America and you’re posting memes or stories criticizing Black Lives Matter protests and making claims that our cities are in ashes, can you please try to listen to the stories of others as they tell you their pain?
If you’re white and your first reaction on hearing a story of racism is to disbelieve it or attempt to discredit it, can you please recognize that your opinion on other people’s life stories is irrelevant?
If you’re white and your response to a story about racism is that you’re never personally experienced it or seen it, can you understand that your story doesn’t negate the stories that others share?
If you’re white and you’re more obsessed with criticizing protesters than you are with what started the protests, can you understand that maybe it’s time for you to listen rather than talk?
And, honestly, listening is not enough.
We need to stand up and do the work to make America better for all Americans. I believe that Joe Biden will help us do that, and that is one of the many reasons he’s earned my vote this fall.