Imagine a reality in which the first female president succeeded the first African-American president. Imagine a reality with taco trucks on every corner, without an administration pushing every legal and ethical boundary, without our global standing diminished, without the mass undoing of years of progress in criminal justice reform, financial regulation, and protecting the environment, without ICE agents ripping apart families, without White Supremacists emboldened enough to march by the thousands in Charlottesville. That sounds like a much better world to me.
But that world probably is also missing the incredible counter-protest that happened in Boston yesterday, the beautiful response from the community of Charlottesville, multiple Presidential Commissions resigning en masse, GoDaddy, Google, Zoho, Cloudflare, and Namecheap banning the Daily Stormer from their respective services, James Damore having the chutzpah to write that memo prompting a much needed acknowledgement of discriminatory beliefs within the tech community. In that reality, people speaking out against hate would probably still be derided as “Social Justice Warriors” and those of us who weren’t direct objects of discrimination could still plausibly deny how widespread it continues to be.
That reality may sound better, but this is the one we needed to truly make progress as a society and a nation.
With the benefit of current events, it’s impossible to ignore that hate and prejudice are deeply rooted in a much larger percentage of our fellow citizens than many of us (by virtue of our privilege to not be discriminated against) believed just a few months ago. As President Obama said recently of his election in 2008:
“I think some, you know, white voters, who sincerely were glad to see that the country had made this breakthrough, there was also made an unrealistic notion that somehow, ‘Okay, that means discrimination’s over.’”
But the truth is the discrimination, both systemic and individual, has always been there. And as long as we were having a debate about whether or not it was still an issue, we couldn’t have the much more pressing debate about how to truly irradicate it. As long as we wanted to believe that every case of police killing people of color, of sexual discrimination or assault, of homo- or transphobic rhetoric or legislation were isolated incidents and not part of a broader pattern, we were delegitimizing the lived experience of every one of our fellow citizens not born into our same privilege. We were also giving cover to the metastasis of “the Alt Right,” “Ethno Nationalism,” or whatever other normalizing euphemisms we’ve allowed White Supremacists to rebrand themselves as.
Everything horrible and regressive that has come from Trump’s election, which includes preventable deaths and other irreparable harm that cannot be trivialized, can be the foundation of much more meaningful progress if we answer the call. Hatred and prejudice derive their power from silence and fear in the rest of us, from the myth that they are the “silent majority.” And while it saddens me to now have proof that 1/3 of our country are actively or tacitly racist, I’m pretty good at math and that means there are still twice as many of the rest of us than there are of them.
Let us continue to raise our voices to show them to be the vocal minority they really are and to drown out their message of hate with our embrace of love, equality, and justice.
Also published on Medium.