A week has passed since America elected Donald Trump our president, and I am still in a state of shock. Though I vacillate between anger and sadness, my feelings of surprise are unceasing; the nagging pull that removes me from lighthearted moments weighted by the heavy realization that hate prevailed. Various emotions swirl like a maelstrom within me, but the most pervasive is the shame I feel for this astonishment. My stupefaction is a byproduct of the privilege I derive from the color of my skin.
In my struggle to comprehend how a man so brazen and remorseless in his racism could be accepted and exalted by my fellow citizens, I missed the point. Trump’s victory was a confirmation of what people of color already knew: that racism and hatred are both alive and rampant in America. It was easy for my blue eyes to look forward in optimism, believing that the conversations that were raised by the Black Lives Matter movement and an increased political focus on institutional racism would make a difference. What I didn’t comprehend was that the ubiquitous disenfranchisement of those who did not share my skin tone was not isolated to a handful of hate groups or prejudiced politicians.
Racism is not a fixable problem in America, it is a legacy passed down from one generation to the next, never abated based on hope. Until the greater majority of Americans can recognize the racism that lies leaden at the feet of ignorance, neither excusable nor defensible, America will exist as a shameful shell of promises made but not kept.
As I struggled with comprehending how we got here, I was not acknowledging that we have always been here. Racism is not simply the bitter words of bigots or isolated hate crimes, it is looking past those words without voicing opposition. Though tongues laced with the venom of hateful vitriol are dangerous, it is the quiet majority remaining silent in allowance that is more threatening.
In my frustration, I have been equating a vote for Trump to an act of racism. It is difficult for me to see past my anger to concede that some may have ignored his discrimination in favor of supporting policies that are meaningful to them. Would they not be racist by proxy then, valuing their interests above the marginalized and maligned? The questions raised by Trump’s win are onerous, but important to discuss if we are truly going to make America great.