Over these last week of terrible tweets and rallies, I have been stewing and thinking about fear-mongering. Fear is this visceral thing that we feel in our own bodies, it is natural and primal, instinctual. So people seeking power will use it against us. It’s the most reliable way to control.
The first moment that I read the current US president’s tweets, I thought, “Oh, crap. Well, that’s not surprising… he’s outed himself again.”
Because his words reveal his deeper beliefs- Trump believes real Americans are white.
He uses countries where people are dark-skinned (Mexico, Haiti, African nations) as examples of dirty, horrible (or allegedly “shithole”countries.) He uses countries where people are white, like Norway, as examples of countries whose citizens are desirable.
He is deeply white supremacist.
Again, not surprising, considering all the ways he has revealed this. From his expensive attacks against five innocent youth, to not speaking out against white supremacists marching in North Carolina, to calling down hatred on four American citizens, Trump has always revealed himself to be threatened by people of color, insecure when he is questioned about his own racist beliefs, and willing to whip up a hate filled crowd in the name of patriotism, without a care about the danger his words pose for dark-skinned people.
But racism and white supremacy always masquerade under the guise of patriotism, protection, or even religion. Rarely does racism show its face as, “I don’t like this person because he or she is different and I’m threatened by that and I’m worried that I’m going to lose my position in the highest rung of society.”
It masquerades in concern for “our” safety. It hides among in and out exclusionism.
This is where we can start to pull apart the threads of white supremacy. When leaders call for a return to something, look deeper… it may mean return to a time when oppression was the force that kept white people on top. It’s not okay. It’s not okay to call for America being “great” again, when the past is steeped in oppression. There was never a point when America was pastoral and ideal—the “good old days”—and Black, Latino, Chinese, and Indigenous Americans were not concurrently being squashed, oppressed, or used as labor to further white wealth. That time simply does not exist.
So I am not surprised by the president’s tirades. But I am deeply worried about how much of it is seeping into us. Are we growing used to racist words and thoughts—from a president in 2019—as a norm? Are we growing numb? Why is something that is so dangerous to the most vulnerable among us considered an appropriate way to campaign?
Fear of the other is devastating, cowardly, and dangerous.
The truth is that we are all together in our humanity. The truth is also that justice, human rights, and privilege have not been the same for all of us. This is the paradox of race. The fact that in truth there is no “other”— but the deep wounds of “othering” cannot be ignored, trivialized or cheerfully overlooked.
All of us have to face our racial heritage, no matter who we are. Black and indigenous people are forced to confront it all the time. What does it mean to have been enslaved but strong? Overtaken but triumphant? Brutalized but refusing to be victimized?
As white people we need to face the multiple threads of our own narrative. Not glossing over our heritage, but not wallowing in it either. What does it mean to love our ancestors and also own the fact that they oppressed others? That they ignorantly or knowingly enjoyed the top position in society, hiding behind a facade of “civilization?” What does it mean to value our heritage and condemn its sin?
As humans, we are all and nothing.
We are sparks in a long river.
We are dust and ashes.
For us the world was made.
And when we see words and chants and rage and self pity being used against people who are in danger, we must speak out.
Listen, facing our history of race and privilege is a matter of life and death. We cannot shrug it off or try to get out from under the discomfort. We can sit and uncomfortable and still be okay. Our dear fellow citizens are depending on it.
No more injust incarceration. No more police shootings of black men and women. No more filthy detention camps. No more othering to justify cruelty. No more dehumanization, words like animals, infestation, low-life, or dog. No more hatred.
No more protecting some fantasy past where we were on top and that was all great. It doesn’t exist. It was always at the expense of others. This is the hard truth. I am sorry. But Jesus has a different story for us. Redemption is his work, love and forgiveness is his whole identity. So if we are sad because our own stories are falling apart as fantasies do, we can turn and be loved not because we are pure, not because we have untouchable, righteous ancestors, but with all the others in this long history of sin and death, just because we are created. Because we are loved. Because great Creator God is love, because the Spirit gave us breath.
And because of this love, we must face hard truths, not make safety our god, not listen to fear mongering. We have to be expansive and brave, full of compassion rather than judgey about why people chose to flee their countries. God forbid we ever be in a position to flee. But I can tell you, I have experienced the most simple kindnesses from people who understand being in danger, because they remember how to include, how to be human. Let’s not forget how to be human.