Trump is Our Frankenstein’s Monster, or Peak Whiteness Personified

We live in a world where race, gender and socioeconomic status often determines our path. For Donald J. Trump, being born white, male and of means has led him on a course that brings him dangerously close to gaining the highest U.S. political office and becoming what many consider the “leader of the free world.”

The funny thing (in a not at all funny way actually) is that if Trump were a Black or Brown man, born into financially humble roots, we would we going “Donald who?” Frankly, even if he were Black and Brown and coming from wealthy and connected roots, I doubt he’d get the level of attention (and the blanket passes on his words and behavior and history) that he’s seen.

Trump is the embodiment of a certain level of privilege where the rules of proper society simply do not apply. A level of privilege where not only can you break the rules of a civilized society but people will excuse your bad behavior and enable you for life.

Sitting here as a working-class Black woman who has always had to work harder and smarter by a factor of two or three for half of what is bestowed upon my white peers, I struggle to grasp the train wreck and phenomenon known as Trump.

A man so despicable that in the course of less than two years, he has turned America on its head as we all grapple with this brave new world where right isn’t right and increasingly wrong is accepted with a shrug.

As I write this piece, we are all digesting the revelation that Trump as a powerful, privileged, white man has sexually assaulted women with no guilt or shame or reservations. The leaked piece from the Washington Post has Trump in his own words telling us that he grabs them by the pu**y. He moves on them like a bitch.  This interview happened back in 2005 and given that Trump is 70 years old, he was hardly a child when he made these statements, which are not really out of line with other comments that we have heard Trump make. This is a man who has stated he would date his own daughter were they not blood related. A man who uses every legal loophole available to avoid paying his taxes like the rest of us working stiffs. A man whose campaign has emboldened racists across America to come out of the closet.

Trump however is not an aberration or merely “a troubled man” as many would have us to believe. Trump is a product of unchecked peak whiteness and maleness meeting at the intersection of wealth and celebrity. For every poor or working-class person who understands the limits of our labels, men like Trump have never been given any limits. It’s why after the election of our first Black president, Trump traded on his whiteness and was a part of the birther movement which, if we are being honest, should have been called the New Klan movement because that is essentially what it was.

As a over-privileged, ego-driven white man with no political credentials or public policy experience, it seems pretty clear he felt slighted by the sight of a highly qualified Black man serving as president. So much so that eight years later he would feel a need to inflict his delusions upon us all and to charge into a presidential race with the most ignorant, crass, uncouth, inflammatory, prejudicial, bigoted campaign of modern times to “correct” things.

Trump serves as the Frankenstein’s Monster of peak of whiteness, maleness, cisgendered identity and heterosexuality. He’s also trading on the Christianity thing, lately, which is ironic given that he could barely be considered “nominally Christian.” He trades on being in every single identity that is most empowered in the United States.

More than that, he has taken each of those privileged credentials (gender, race, sexual identity and religion) and pushed them past the boundaries of good taste, common sense and logic. He has amped them up with rage, bluster, insults and money and become a creature and a perverted force of nature more than a man. Hence my characterization of him as Frankenstein’s Monster of American privilege.

But who created this monster? That creature from Mary Shelley’s novel was made by Dr. Frankenstein. Ultimately, when he rampaged and killed, it was under his own inertia and with his own will behind it (and it’s somewhat unfair to compare Trump to the monster, because the monster was actually persecuted and shunned, something Trump has never been…no matter how much he’s deserved it; yup, there’s that privilege again at work)…but nonetheless, he was not natural. He was made.

In this case, with regard to Trump, a not-insignificant portion of white America is, collectively, the mad scientist that gave this creature life and then created the circumstances for it to rampage unchecked.

In anti-racism spaces, we understand that racism not only affects people of color but white people as well. Trump is what happens when whiteness is allowed to thrive (thanks to white supremacy, systemic racism and institutional bias) and grow unchecked and unchallenged. When we don’t check the assumptions that we hold and why we hold them, especially when we have privilege, we open ourselves up to taking detours into dark spaces that are not fit for anyone.

For the past eight  years, many white people who see themselves as fundamentally good people were uncomfortable living in a country with a non-white president and looked for any excuse to avoid saying that. In Trump, they found their savior, a man whose only redeeming quality was arrogant, white manhood who, while thoroughly nonsensical and utterly ill-prepared, was enough to win their admiration. A man so horrible at his “successful” businesses (losing hundreds of millions and filing bankruptcy multiple times) that if he weren’t a white man, he would have been laughed off the national stage before he even started. Instead he wiped the floor with his milquetoast competition.

I have previously written about the place of whiteness in the rise of Trump but with each revelation about Trump’s past, it becomes even clearer that the only reason that Donald J. Trump exists is because of whiteness. Trump’s peak male whiteness gave him access to the open highway of success that simply doesn’t exist for others. But already having access to that highway, he isn’t even expected to do the work of getting down it; much of America is actually driving him down that road at high speed taking him anywhere he wants to go and getting anything he wants along the way.  They are eager to give him more than he already has and far more than he deserves simply because he appeals to all who long for the days when whiteness was the only credential needed for access to success.

The chorus against him grows louder in light of the sexual assault revelations but it is too little, too late. The chickens have come home to roost and regardless of who wins the 2016 presidential election, we are all facing the collective reckoning about unchecked white privilege and its role in our society. We have created our ultimate monster, and it is about to turn against us to destroy its creator, just like in Shelley’s novel. For make no mistake: If Trump becomes president, his very ascension is a blow to our collective decency and dignity as a nation and a people.
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Different is Good- A Guest post by parenting expert Sarah MacLaughlin

I rarely do guest posts here since the timing never quite works out, but I am honored to have author Sarah MacLaughlin here in this space. She is writing on the heavy topic of talking race with the kiddos, Sarah is also doing a giveaway of her book What Not to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children so please leave a comment so you can be entered to win the giveaway.

Different is Good

Talking with Children about Race and White Privilege

By Sarah MacLaughlin, Parenting Expert & Author of the Amazon bestselling book, What Not to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children

My son said something that truly shocked me the other day.

“Mommy,” he piped up from the backseat in his sweet little voice, “I don’t like people who have different skin color than mine.” I somehow managed to stay on the road, cover my disbelief, and respond as calmly as I could.

“Why is that, sweetie?” He explained how he hadn’t liked someone he’d recently met. He attributed his dislike with her skin color. Apparently four-year-olds sometimes make sweeping judgments and generalizations. I continued to play it cool and tried to broaden his view by validating that it was fine for him to feel unsure of new people, but also suggesting that his hesitation may not have had anything to do with the color of her skin.

In a light tone, like I was just letting him know, I said, “It’s actually kind of important to not decide things about people based on the color of their skin.” Then I spent a few moments reminding him of the non-white people in our lives—noticing what a short list it was. How did that happen?

Well, we moved to Maine, I guess that’s how. Maine is one of the whitest states in the country. When I first lived here in the mid-eighties, my rural high school was 100% Caucasian (and 97% Christian, noted the Jew, but that’s a different post). Arriving from California, I found people to be downright racist. Things have progressed a bit since then, and of course Portland, Maine has gotten much more diverse, though racism is still rampant.

I grew up and spent most of my adult life in and around San Francisco. I spent my childhood interacting with people of different backgrounds and colors (and also sexual orientations.) When I first moved to San Francisco at age 19, I once found myself in a situation where I was the lone Caucasian. That was an eye-opening experience. It did not feel particularly comfortable to be the “only” in that situation—a place many people of color find themselves every day.

In a Women’s Studies class in 1991, I was introduced to Peggy McIntosh’s essay, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. Ms. McIntosh’s clear naming of the “package of unearned assets” that those in the dominant class and culture possess was appalling. I was floored, and deeply embarrassed to have simply not noticed. I was oblivious to huge variations in the not-at-all-level playing field. I can assume that if I am turned down for a job, it is because of my lack of qualifications, not because of my race or color. I had also not noticed small inconveniences and biases: the lack of proper Band-Aids for darker skin, or the peach-colored crayon labeled “flesh.” (This has since been changed, and you can now buy a lovely box of Crayola “people” shades.)

This was a truly painful mirror to look in at the time. And I guess I found myself looking in it again when my son commented about skin differences in such a way. So, I’m paying more attention—aiming to deepen my awareness of my own privilege. I spoke to a biracial friend about what Joshua had said, and how horrified I had been. He assured me that comparing and making judgments is a typical thing for a preschooler to do. He consoled me with tales of his own mixed-race daughter making blanket statements about not liking black people. Oh dear.

A few things to keep in mind when discussing color, differences, and discrimination with young children:

Don’t ignore color. Research shows that aiming for a “colorblind” culture is misguided. You miss the opportunity for many rich conversations. Plus, kids aren’t blind. If they see differences and we ignore them, it creates an incongruence that is puzzling. Point out differences and talk about them. We are not all the same. And sadly, our world is not one where all are treated equally.

Acknowledge discrimination and privilege. Point out unfairness. Promote media literacy by highlighting just how many white people are represented in the mainstream media. Question the poor representation of racial and ethnic diversity. Notice and discuss the demonization of dark-skinned people in Disney movies.

Embrace diversity whenever possible. Don’t assume that white is the norm. Look for toys and picture books that include people of color. (Unfortunately, it is harder than it sounds.) Also, remember that history can always be told from multiple perspectives. When you tell children “facts” about our cultural past, try the caveat, “This is the commonly told story.”

Obviously, these tiny changes aren’t going to create instant world peace among all people. But even small changes in awareness and action can make a difference. Big shifts can be made incrementally. The other day we were driving again, this time listening to the radio. The DJ came on and made some announcements, finishing up with their station tagline—“Different is good.” Joshua perked up and asked me, “Why did that man say that different is good?”

It may have been overkill, but this is what I said in return: “They said different is good because lots of people in our world think that different isn’t good. Some people think everyone should be the same. Isn’t that silly? They’re talking about music, but it’s true for all kinds of things. Some people believe that those who look or seem different are scary or bad. It’s important to notice when things are different and embrace them anyway.” He gave me a long look and said, “Okay Mommy.”

Obviously, we’ll keep working on it.

 

Special Giveaway!

Please comment on this post. Your comment enters you in the eBook Giveaway — to win an ebook copy of What Not to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children in the format of your choice: PDF, epub, or Kindle format. Sarah will be giving away one copy at each blog stop and will announce it on the comments of this post within a few days. Be sure to leave your email so we can contact you in case you’re the winner!

 

Other stops and opportunities to win during this Blog Tour are listed on Sarah’s blog here: http://sarahsbalancingact.blogspot.com/p/blog-tour.html.

 

Also, you can enter at Sarah’s site for the Grand Prize Giveaway: a Kindle Touch. Winner will be announced at the end of the tour after July 15th. Go here to enter: http://sarahsbalancingact.blogspot.com/p/blog-tour.html

 

 

About The Author

Sarah MacLaughlin has worked with children and families for over twenty years. With a background in early childhood education, she has previously been both a preschool teacher and nanny. Sarah is currently a licensed social worker at The Opportunity Alliance in South Portland, Maine, and works as the resource coordinator in therapeutic foster care. She serves on the board of Birth Roots, and writes the “Parenting Toolbox” column for a local parenting newspaper, Parent & Family. Sarah teaches classes and workshops locally, and consults with families everywhere. She considers it her life’s work to promote happy, well-adjusted people in the future by increasing awareness of how children are spoken to today. She is mom to a young son who gives her plenty of opportunities to take her own advice about What Not to Say. More information about Sarah and her work can be found at her site: http://www.saramaclaughlin.com.

 

When Privilege Goes Wrong

Sometimes it’s easy when you are struggling to make ends meet or to get access to adequate healthcare and just struggling in general to assume that others especially those often deemed privileged by our culture have it easier. After all if one is wealthy enough or beautiful by society’s standards what struggles could such folks have? Well if there is nothing else that almost 40 years on this planet has taught me is that we all have our crosses or shit to bear and sometimes with great privilege it’s harder to have common sense.

A few days ago the electronic world was abuzz about Alexandra Wallace, she is the UCLA student who was so distraught that her precious study time was being interrupted in the library at her school by Asian students upset about the happenings in Japan, that she thought it was a great idea to make a You Tube video talking shit about Asians. Frankly what she said is juvenile, racist and frankly offensive. After all as someone who could be described as a busty blonde babe, I imagine she would be quite pissed if someone referred to her a bimbo. More important though and what I felt has been lost in this story is just how much privilege Wallace has; so much so that her compassion meter is actually lacking. The reality is if Wallace was annoyed about being disturbed, why couldn’t she get off her ass and go study someplace else? Interestingly enough in her rant she mentions why can’t the Asian students get up and leave the library, well it works two ways. However privilege can blind us and in her case I would say it has.

In other news of privilege gone wrong, we have the New York City mom suing a preschool because they have ruined her four year olds chance at getting into an Ivy League school. Now I have read a few pieces that lead me to believe that perhaps the preschool in question didn’t quite do all it said it was going to do with regards to the kid’s education. While many others have been hung up on the $19,000 a year price tag, hey it’s New York! I have known enough folks who live in New York City to know that such prices tags depending on where you live on the class ladder are just how things are done. So while I would be hard pressed to pay out that kind of cheddar for a four year old, I won’t hold it against the mother.

That said, ruined her chances for an Ivy League? Ummmm, Mama the kid is 4!!! 4 not 14, but 4! Look, I know we live in crazy times, everyone wants the best for their kid but if you are so devastated that your four year olds educational opportunities are ruined for life maybe you need to sit back and think about it. Really. More and more studies are coming out telling us that if we want bright kids maybe we need to sit back and well, let the kids be kids. Ya know that play shit we used to do before we all decided to start plugging our kids into our hectic lifestyles at an even earlier age.

Seriously, it takes a bucket load of confidence and a dumpster load of privilege to declare your kids ticket to the good and privileged life is ruined by age 4. Its really privilege gone wrong.