Two and a half weeks before the big election, it’s looking good, though not a lock, for Clinton to defeat Trump, which is a positive thing. But he and the ultra-right-wing movement aren’t going away no matter who wins, and it seems likely that a losing Trump will try to stay in the news by provocatively attempting to motivate and lead that movement to oppose just about everything Clinton tries to do.
One way for the ultra-rightists to be set back is for Trump to be defeated decisively. The key metrics there will be what percentage of the vote he gets and how many states he wins. If his total popular vote is 40% or less, and if he wins no more than 20 states and no more than 1/3 (180) of the Electoral College votes, that will brand Trump as a big loser, which will be hard for him to deal with.
It won’t be only the ultra-right bringing pressure on Clinton if she wins. Those of us on the progressive Left, those of us who supported the historic Bernie Sanders campaign, the tens of millions of us, are going to be throwing our political weight around too. It is clear, as distinct from what happened when Obama was elected in 2008, that many of us are prepared to oppose Clinton from the get-go where necessary and to push her to be much stronger than she would ordinarily be on a whole range of issues, from climate to economic justice to racial justice to health care and more.
But there’s a particular responsibility that those of us who are “white” have in this work. It’s the responsibility to interact with and organize among white people, particularly low-income and working-class white people, a large percentage of whom will be voting for Trump. And we need to do so in a way which helps some of them begin to realize that racism, or white supremacist ideology, in particular, as well as other divisive and oppressive ideologies and practices, are not in their best interest.
To sharpen the point: white progressives/radicals/revolutionaries need to be willing to intelligently risk being uncomfortable, or unpopular, or a victim of psychological or physical abuse, for speaking up among a predominantly white group of regular folks. Not a predominantly white group of progressives, though there are often more subtle, less overt, issues there too, but working-class white people.
Usually, in that kind of setting, sooner or later, there’s going to be white supremacist ideas expressed. That’s not necessarily because the group as a whole or the person(s) expressing them are hard-core KKK members. It’s because, as the mass response to the racist (and everything else) Trump campaign has shown us, white supremacy is very alive and well among a huge portion of the US population.
It is critical that more and more people of European ancestry in the U.S appreciate that a hopeful future for them and their families lies in joining together with, not being hostile to, Blacks, Latinos, Indigenous and Asian/Pacific Island people. It was stated this way in a statement earlier this year from the group, Showing Up for Racial Justice: “While people of color bear the brunt of racism, large numbers of white people have also been failed by the system – facing job loss, inadequate housing and cutbacks in core services. Instead of addressing real fears and insecurity, racist elites actively target white working class white people into blaming people of color for the problems their families and vulnerable communities face.”
HOW whites organize whites is also critical.
Guilt-tripping isn’t the way to do it. People who act primarily because they are feeling or have been made to feel guilty about their whiteness are people who are going to have a hard time interacting with whites who are suffering economic hardship or the white masses, in general. Instead, while acknowledging the legitimacy of guilt felt over the historically brutal violence, oppression and discrimination by huge numbers of white people generally against Indigenous, African, Mexican and Asian peoples, we as whites must move past guilt to an understanding that white supremacy also hurts us and that our human liberation is intimately bound up with liberation and justice for all people.
It’s also critical that whites organizing whites take up the economic, health care, education or other issues impacting predominantly white communities, show that they are concerned about all forms of inequality and want a just society for everyone. This is key. A good organizer knows that you need to start with people where they are, make connections on the basis of issues, experiences, or other things held in common. As those connections are made, as people get to know and respect the organizer, they are more willing to listen and think about constructive criticism from her/him or different ideas than the ones they ordinarily are exposed to.
Finally, white organizers who are serious about anti-racism need to have on-going connections to people of color, at least via participation in a multi-cultural organization of some kind. It is better if that happens at the same time that healthy relationships of friendship are developed with individual people of color. We as whites need ways to be continually reminded about the ways white supremacy works. We need friends of color whom we support and who will support us, criticizing us for things we say or do that reflect our upbringing in a white supremacist culture, and helping us to develop into better and more conscious people, better organizers, better and stronger human beings.
Ted Glick has been a progressive activist and organizer since April 4, 1968, the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered. For the last 13 years his primary work has been on the climate crisis. Past writings and other information can be found at http://www.tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jtglick.