|On October 27, 1936, It Can't Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis, opened simultaneously in 21 theaters. The Los Angeles Yiddish production, pictured here, featured Morris Weisman as "Buzz" Windrip. Credit: Federal Theatre Project Collection|
There’s been a lot of criticism lately of Donald Trump and his supporters’ rising Fascism. Proposals to ban Muslims from entering the United States, erect a wall between the US-Mexico border, crowds ejecting, beating, and assaulting attendees of color at rallies. It has been suggested Donald Trump is the candidate the Republican Party deserves, but this is unfair. Donald Trump is the candidate every white person in America deserves.
A comedian named W. Kamau Bell recently said in Salon, “I don’t care if you had no plans to vote for Trump. If you are white, he is your problem above all else.”
We are in this embarrassing Trump hurtbox right now, white people, because we have refused to police ourselves for 200 years. We offered freed slaves Forty Acres and a Mule as a gesture of restitution and then did nothing when the promise was reneged. Martin Luther King wrote us a letter from Birmingham Jail. We ignored it. A man yelled out at a soccer field to take out a black soccer player. We did nothing. It explains all.
Many will take offense at this, and claim they are doing plenty. Fine. Except schools in Massachusetts and New York City are more segregated today than they were before the landmark Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education. Police, security guards, and neighborhood watchers are carrying out more extrajudicial killings today than at the height of the Ku Klux Klan. Housing discrimination is as rampant today as it was prior to passage of the Fair Housing Act. The same can be said of literally every last one of America’s systems, and so honestly, white people who think we are doing enough to police our own white racism, we need to shut up and get to work.
In the most liberal cities in America we are watching police officers teach the American people it’s okay to stop black people on the street, violate their rights, strangle them for minor infractions, and shoot them in the back. We’re allowing the military to teach us the same about Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and wherever else they live. We blame mass shootings on guns when our government has been teaching us that the way to solve all of our problems is with drone strikes and machine guns.
We watch white supremacists shoot up churches. We act confused when our moral cancer wipes us out with heroin, suicide, and alcoholism. We stand by while courts, legislatures, and municipal governments grind down to a halt and refuse to perform their designated functions. Kindness, diplomacy, reason, and rule of law have ceased, yet we prattle endlessly about diplomacy, reason, and the rule of law from our couches. Meanwhile black people are showing up and risking their hides and their lives, getting ejected, beaten, and threatened with fiery deaths.
When Trump and his supporters get together and dream about doing big things, we are frozen in place, spouting off at the mouth as though everything that can be done to stop them is being done. Meanwhile, a cursory scan of American history shows literally thousands of additional options at our disposal. Actions that are as quintessentially “American” as apple pie and baseball. Our Colonist ancestors used boycotts of tea and other nonviolent resistance measures when the British stole money and killed unarmed civilians. Women used the same tactics to gain Suffrage, as did Hispanic crop workers seeking fair pay and more rights. In one book alone, Taylor Branch’s “Parting the Waters,” you can find literally thousands of examples of direct nonviolent action tactics that have been proven to work when democratic systems fail to protect We the People.
Like any pathology, racism must be policed. If not, it spreads and grows. Our systems are clearly not policing it. Our police are clearly not policing it. Which leaves us. You and me, America. Not just the brave men and women of Black Lives Matter and other groups, but white people. Writers, lawyers, judges, techies, and media gurus—everyone. If you are on a soapbox lamenting the rise of Trump, if you are complaining about it on Facebook, or Twitter, and you are not willing to employ the additional measures that our ancestors used to combat tyranny, then stop talking. In the history of the world, whining has never once stopped a genocide train from chugging. Free speech is important, but only in a democracy where reason and order still hold sway. It’s time now, good white people everywhere, to shut up and get in front of the train.