“Also known as implicit social cognition, implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control. Residing deep in the subconscious, these biases are different from known biases that individuals may choose to conceal for the purposes of social and/or political correctness. Rather, implicit biases are not accessible through introspection.
The implicit associations we harbor in our subconscious cause us to have feelings and attitudes about other people based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, age, and appearance. These associations develop over the course of a lifetime beginning at a very early age through exposure to direct and indirect messages. In addition to early life experiences, the media and news programming are often-cited origins of implicit association”- Kirwan Institute
For months, the world has seen America’s unresolved racial ugliness laid bare courtesy of GOP presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and his supporters. What started out in the minds of many as a passing media cycle and joke has reached a boiling point and is far from being funny. Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric is having real consequences for people of color, immigrants, Muslims and anyone who Trump and his followers deem not American or at least not American enough. Others. People who are “the problem.” In other words, anyone who is not white, Christian or cisgendered in Trump land.
Trump’s rallies and events have taken on the air of a demented circus where dissenters and those who do not physically meet the standards of acceptable are joyfully thrown out. Hateful words and physical assaults at these events are increasingly the norm with Trump as the head ringmaster loudly proclaiming that people are “bad dudes.” while providing no evidence of that and constantly downplaying or defending the physical aggressions his supporters inflict on people who aren’t part of the Trump camp. Trump trades in dog-whistles and has been richly rewarded for his bombast by now being on a speeding train headed directly for the GOP nomination, much to the dismay of the establishment GOP who must now grapple with the house they allowed to be built on the foundation of hate after the 2008 elections.
However some of us are tired and as Trump’s campaign stops have started to go into more racially diverse cities and towns, Trump and his hatemongers are facing the reality that America is a place of diversity and there are people who will organize and show up to send a message to his hate show.
Trump’s recent stop in St. Louis turned out many who were opposed to him and his message and several skirmishes broke out leading to a number of arrests. But it was Trump’s attempted visit to my hometown of Chicago that has gotten the attention of the nation.
As soon as it was announced that Trump was coming to a rally at the University of Illinois-Chicago campus, many including personal friends of mine started organizing on the ground after efforts to get the school to cancel Trump’s appearance failed. The result was that thousands took to the streets to show their displeasure. Streets surrounding the campus were blocked as many Blacks, Latinos and others effectively went to shut it down. Many more filled the inside space where Trump was to speak. Trump canceled his appearance at the last moment after falsely saying that law enforcement suggested that he cancel due to security risks. Chicago interim police superintendent emphatically stated that was not true, in fact the Chicago Police Department was more than capable and able to keep the peace.
Yet in what should have been a moment of victory for those committed to inclusion and racial justice, the narrative that the media chose to project was one of utter chaos. A narrative that took advantage of the fact that many of the protestors in Chicago were people of color and played on underlying racial biases that see fear when too many Black and Brown bodies are gathered in one space. Given the fact that only a handful of arrests were reported, those of us who have been to large-scale protests know this indicates a relatively peaceful event. Given the fact that so many of Trump’s supporters are white and hold views that don’t include a racially inclusive America and that so many of the protestors were people of color, the overall lack of violence speaks to the restraint and desire for peaceful protests. Not to mention that what violence was reported broke out after the event was cancelled, strongly suggesting Trump supporters started most of anything that might have happened.
Yet the narrative that Trump is responding with is that it was “thugs” who shut his rally down and with the national media choosing a framing that essentially plays into Trump’s words, we now have many people asking why couldn’t the protests be peaceful? They were for the most part peaceful, so that’s a loaded question. And by the way, where were the cries for peace when an almost 80-year-old white man sucker-punched a Black protester who was being escorted out of a previous rally that week and later suggested he might need to be killed next time he shows up? Where were the national cries for peace when other people of color peacefully attended Trump rallies and were ejected despite not uttering a single word? We know that many of Trump’s rallies are almost de facto white nationalist gatherings yet too many say nothing other than to shake their heads in dismay.
For those of us who are “other,” we are only one maybe two generations removed from parents and grandparents who lived with overt bigotry and racism every day. We know of the relatives who toiled under Jim Crow or loved ones who survived the Holocaust, and the internment camps and we aren’t going back. We understand all too well that silence in the face of direct hate is to be complicit and that sometimes we must roll up our sleeves, get loud and make our case lest we find ourselves trapped in a historical repeat of a horror show.
America is a nation that sits on stolen land, built on the blood of displaced and enslaved people that was birthed in ugliness. An ugliness that too many of us want to forget but that some of us can never forget because we are the descendants of an anguished people who for reasons beyond our control carry the psychic weight of those displaced and enslaved people in our souls.
If Trump and his merry hatemongers have the right to gather then those who are committed to justice and inclusivity have that right too. Anyone who chooses to accept the violent narrative being peddled needs to ask why they can only see the violence when Black and Brown bodies are involved? This election cycle is a ride where for once we as a nation are being asked to open the closet and have a long overdue discussion on race and and what it truly means to be an American. History will capture this moment and hopefully there will be more people on the side of right than wrong.
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