The closet of hate and intolerance has been opened, or Trump in Chicago

“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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2 thoughts on “The closet of hate and intolerance has been opened, or Trump in Chicago

  1. YEP…..James A. Morone revisted in reference to his very profound work …Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History. As a reviewer, Benjamin Shepard (http://www.logosjournal.com/shepard.pdf) so aptly puts its…

    “What happens when ourpragmatic, commonsense, split-the-difference
    American politics turnsrighteous?” James Morone asks in the
    introduction to his new work, Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History
    , a study of U.S. politics as a response to sin,
    from Puritan Williamsburg to Prohibition. For
    Morone, the answer is simple enough: checks and balances become little
    more than nuisances, easily manipulated with hysteria to shift public opinion.
    Compromise disappears; in its place lynchings, witch-hunts, get-tough laws,
    and race riots often follow. Women on public assistance become “welfare
    queens.” Labels, demonology, and zero-sum arguments win the day as
    political players are divided between “us” and “them,” and panic takes
    precedence over reasoned discourse.”

    The solution ? Maybe grow up !
    .

  2. Glad to have come across your writings – you have an interesting and illuminating perspective. I wish I had studied anthropology or sociology because the more I learn/think about human history, the rise and fall of empires and currents events, I have reached the conclusion that because humans are tribal (probably a better word for that but it’s late …), winners of battles & wars take the land, possessions, power and culture from the losers (whoa, another ill-chosen word, perhaps), and, within nations, cities, neighborhoods, etc., people are always going to be battling for power. The way humans gain power and advantage, as any kindergartener knows, is to target someone else or another group as the scapegoat. You’d think humanity would have progressed and not repeat the mistakes of the past, but it has not nor ever will, in my increasingly cynical and frustrated opinion. If we replace the first word, America, in your second to last paragraph, with any other nation/ empire now or through out history, the context would remain accurate. We humans will always fight for advantage and power for our tribe(s) by scapegoating vulnerable groups. “White people” and white society are always navigating the complex and unwritten rules of social class and pecking order and ethnicity and religion that may be invisible to you and others. While you may view a restaurant dining room full of white people as one cohesive group, a white person will, probably unconsciously, see numerous tribes and will, unconsciously again, determine where he/she fits in the pecking order. Add another race or culture, and attempts at figuring out where on fits get even more complicated for everyone – and then the posturing for power begins. I know that the tribal complexities and navigation of which are just as complicated within other races/cultures. How on earth do we learn about one another and live peacefully together with all of these unwritten rules and complex social structures? While I’ve had many experiences working with and socializing with those with brown & black skin, my life remains segregated from them, though not purposely so. At least I know better than to buy into the racial hysteria about brown & black protesters in Chicago you so accurately described. Of course I could not write the narrative from your perspective nor begin to understand the social complexities you would see in a restaurant dining room full of black people. Nor could I understand the complexities going on in a room full of, say, Cubans. (Living in south FL, I have been shocked by the racism of many Hispanics I’ve encountered against African-Americans and the advantage in pecking order of those with lighter skin.) Add, then, unspeakably tragic genocide happening in Sudan, the enslavement of those kidnapped by Boko Haram and ISIS and those from poverty stricken areas around the world who are forced into labor, barely paid and basically owned by their bosses. Even though horrific acts by humans have occurred through out human history, will humanity ever progress? How can we remain hopeful about our own nation’s ability to heal its racial and ethnic and every other discord? Keep writing and keep bravely putting your perspective and opinions out there, Shay. We may never meet, but reflecting on your views may chip away, ever so slightly, at the mysteries between us. A step in the right direction, yes, but how to turn those steps into leaps? And quickly!

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