The 2016 election of a racist, misogynistic, narcissist was a jolt in many ways, but emotionally, it was devastating to many of us because we realized that some of our friends and neighbors just did not care about us. The hateful rhetoric left nothing to the imagination, and it was obvious to all that raising this man to the highest office in the land was going to endanger the lives of millions of people in vulnerable communities. Black people, Hispanics, Muslims, Jews, the LGBTQ community, and any nonwhite immigrant, American citizen or otherwise, as well as the poor now had a target on their backs.
Real people, including American citizens, are being hurt. Families are torn apart. People are harassed on buses, in airports, at the border, and just going about their daily lives. Efforts are being made to relegate the LGBTQ community to second-class citizen status — if that. Violence against targeted groups is largely tolerated with a wink and a nod and jokes about shooting immigrants.
As people are fond of saying, elections do have results.
When I was faced with the understanding that people I knew could so casually toss my family’s interests and safety into the dustbin, I got many excuses. “Of course” they weren’t like that. They had gay friends, black friends, hispanic friends! “How could I” even think such a thing?
It has long been white privilege to vote while ignoring the impact on minority groups. Modern Democrats have mastered the art of “elect the corporate white man for now, and we’ll address minority interests some day.” It is worth remembering that Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton were against “gay marriage” before they were for it. (They evolved.)
Yes, mostly white politicians “put their finger to the wind” to figure out what exactly straight, white people will accept before they will vote for it. White people aren’t ready for full integration or reparations? Take that off the table. White people aren’t ready for transgender rights? We shall triangulate and hem and haw, taking one step forward and maybe two steps back. I expect little better from politicians, honestly. But we should.
The 2016 election clearly drove home to me how much straight, largely Christian, white people disregard their so-called friends and neighbors. If you really aren’t homophobic or racist, why on earth would you support a man who is both, who is up front about it, and whose policies will harm or even kill? It’s like Candace Owens going on about Hitler wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for the concentration camps. You can see who this president is and what he stands for, but you can overlook it because it doesn’t affect you personally. Wow.
Mark the ballot, drop it in the box, out of sight, out of mind. No harm done.
Most Americans don’t do the hard work of vetting candidates. We expect the corporate media to tell us whom to vote for. They are happy to oblige. They are catering to that straight, white audience, too. This is laziness, but it is also privilege.
It’s a privilege to not worry about the consequences of your vote. It’s a privilege to not worry about your failure to act or speak out in the face of injustice. It’s a privilege to be offended and deny that you’re not even thinking about the well being of other members of your community. How dare I suggest? How dare you throw me and others to the wolves.
We can continue our painful march forward in Lord-of-the-Flies territory, where the [white] individuals take all and shred the social fabric until nothing is left. That is what white nationalism and imperialistic, predatory capitalism do best. But there are no winners in that game, because there is always an enemies list. And it will expand to include you.
The next time you vote, take a moment to consider more than your own self interest. Maybe, just maybe, what benefits your neighbors will benefit you, too. At the moment, it has the virtue of being untried.