“Filthy mud shark. Don’t come complaining to white people when you get culturally enriched by the pavement ape.”
“How about move to Africa with your black husband to stay away from white racism?”
I woke up to find this and much more on my phone yesterday.
Apparently, the editor of a neo-Nazi and white supremacist website had discovered the recent article I’d written about weeding out racism in the family and sent an army of internet trolls after me on Twitter.
It seems that my article offended him and his readers. In it, I had described my parents, who are fervent Donald Trump supporters, and particularly my mother, who is a Trump delegate. I recalled personal instances of racism within my family to provide examples of what racist and xenophobic speech looks like behind closed doors and to encourage people to stop ignoring this behaviour in their own families.
I advocated for an end to racism and denounced Donald Trump, my parents, and all that their ideologies promote and represent. Indeed, I denounced and defiled their “Glorious Leader” (that website’s term, not mine). And in response, this vile rhetoric was launched at me, my husband, and our four-year-old daughter.
The saddest part being that I wasn’t terribly surprised. Donald Trump is scratching at a familiar sore, instilling fear in a weakening and insecure white, middle-class America that has found itself in political turmoil with an increasing, non-white population and a rising minority political power that’s threatening the long-standing dominant status of the white American.
But it’s not just immigrants who threaten the dominant status of the white American and motivate rage in the shrinking white majority. Many believe it’s a black man in the White House that symbolises a physical manifestation of that threat.
The Huffington Post suggested in 2014 that “Barack Obama’s election actually ignited racial tension in the country, rather than end[ed] it. As a result, white supremacists, hate crimes, and internet sites like Stormfront have grown exponentially.”
There is a perceived economic threat to the dominant white American majority by the immigrant minority, in conjunction with the overall threat to the white American’s dominant status within the social structure of America itself that jeopardises the cohesion of the United States as a nation. The resulting increase of hate-filled rhetoric now finds a home in a political party’s platform and becomes a new normal in the country’s shared vocabulary inciting contempt, resentment, and in the extreme, hatred and violence.
Former US president and Nobel peace prize winner Jimmy Carter has taken note of this recent rise in racism and hate speech in America, organising a peace summit scheduled for August this year where he intends to gather together Baptists of all races to focus on topics of race and social inequality. He told the New York Times Donald Trump’s success has “tapped a waiting reservoir of inherent racism” and that he thinks there is “a heavy reaction among some of the racially conscious Republicans against an African-American being president”.
He suggests that a rise in white police brutality against innocent blacks has re-awakened racial tensions in the US that were thought to have long since been reconciled. Indeed, an Associated Press poll showed that implicit, anti-black attitudes in the US increased during President Obama’s first term in office from 49 per cent to 56 per cent. For implicit and explicit anti-Hispanic attitudes, the numbers increased from 52 per cent to 57 per cent from 2008 to 2012.
Donald Trump welcomes these sentiments and rhetoric into his campaign. According to Carter, Trump violated “basic human rights” when he used hate-speech to single out Mexican immigrants as criminals, rapists and drug dealers and advocated for a ban on all Muslims entering the country.
But doesn’t that seem the norm now, the singling out of a group of people as secondary citizens, aiming hateful rhetoric at them in public discourse, on television, in the news, and on social media? When the public accepts this type of speech and behaviour from its leaders and supposed diplomats, it welcomes with it the hate and violence that this speech incites, self-perpetuates, fuels, and intensifies.
The 2016 US presidential election hits at a time when the white majority feels threatened by the minority; there is a president in office who represents everything that the shrinking white majority fears, and a “Glorious Leader” rises to exploit public fear and turn it into adversarial contempt for those who oppose his position.
This campaign season will end. The rallies, the debates, the news coverage, the hype will all come to a close, but the world will feel the effects of these words and this violence for years to come. Trump has ushered in a new level of tolerance for what is acceptable thought, behaviour, and speech. My hope is that our collective, social vocabulary will not be forever scarred with Trumpisms and that those who oppose him and what he represents will speak out loudly with words of their own, words that founded a country, words like one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Aubrey Perry is a Melbourne-based artist and writer.