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Blogpage B. (10/19/16) THE 2016 ELECTION: A MEASURE OF WHITE PEOPLE’S PROGRESS [PART 1 – Pre-Election Day]

Ladies and Gentlemen, please place your bets! What’s your best guess as to the percentage of the white vote that will go for or against Donald Trump in the election next month? To be more direct in my question, when all the votes have been cast, counted and averaged for all 50 states, do you think the votes of white men and women for Trump will be more or less than 51%? Underneath the Sturm und Drang of this turbulent election season, the answer to this question could be one of the most significant indicators of white opinion at this moment of time.

But hold on a minute, I’m not talking about measuring white opinion about current racial issues such as Black Lives Matter, or Obama’s accomplishments as a black President! Rather, I am suggesting that the white vote for or against Trump will be a measure of where white people are today in their acceptance or rejection of legislation that was passed fifty years ago. In the 1960’s, the passing of civil rights legislation was a defining moment for our society, drawing a new “line in the sand” with regard to racial equality and white supremacy. The Trump campaign is attempting to erase this line in the sand.

Crossing the Rubicon

I believe this election can be seen as a plebiscite on whether and to what degree the laws defining racial equality, passed fifty years ago, have been internalized by white people, and whether or not they can be seen as a permanent starting point in defining who we are as an American people. The degree to which Trump’s position and platform are rejected by the white voting electorate could be seen as a measure as to how close white people have come to accepting the permanency of this fifty-year-old starting principle of racial equality.

In a real sense, I believe that a Trump defeat in this election could signal a “crossing of the Rubicon” moment, a reaching of a point of no return to the old ways and the old days. If the white vote turns against Trump, even by a tiny percentage, it would be very difficult for any future presidential candidate or any other candidate for national office to ever again be able to seriously suggest that laws of racial equality are not permanent and un-erasable.

I am not suggesting that if Trump and his platform are defeated, white resistance to laws of equality will have disappeared. It will still be a long time before adherence to white supremacy can be fully eradicated. But rather I believe we will have reached a point in time when white supremacists will no longer have the power or position to succeed in bringing about a reversal of these fundamental laws of equality.

Not The End Of Racism

Also please note, I am not talking about our being anywhere near the end of racism; we are a long way, a very long way, from passing that point of no return. There is still a huge anti-racist agenda in order to move that line in the sand forward to true racial justice and equity in America. We still have an enormous task of transforming our overwhelmingly racist culture and our profoundly racist societal systems and institutions to conform with those fifty-year-old laws of equality.  But before we can move any further on this long-term anti-racist reconstruction process, we need a more solid and secure foundation to build on, a foundation based on an unchallengeable majority agreement to a simple fundamental principle about who is included in the “all of us” in our national declaration that all of us are created equal. I believe this election is an important measure as to whether we have crossed the Rubicon on that basic issue.

Popular acceptance of social change is always a gradual process - the larger the change, the slower the process. The passing of a law does not constitute acceptance of the law. Only when society has lived with the law to the point of majority acceptance can a law be considered permanent. Picture in your mind a bell curve slowly moving across a continuum that measures change. When 51% of the bell curve has passed the point of change, a tipping point is reached. Only when this tipping point is ultimately passed can there be a sense of acceptance of change. And until that tipping point is reached, there is always a question of whether the change is permanent.  After the tipping point is reached, there will still be dissent, but dissenters will have for the most part lost their power to prevent the change from being a permanent part of society.

There are a number of examples of issues which have reached this irreversible tipping point. A short list of examples (from my point of view) would include: voting rights for women, a federal program of social security and accessibility rights for the handicapped. A short list of examples of issues where this tipping point has not yet been reached and permanency of change is still up for grabs would (also from my point of view) include: abortion rights for women, belief in global warming and LGBTQ equality. Once again, in these and a thousand more examples, reaching the tipping point does not mean the end of dissent or the end of the acceptance process, but it does mean that the existence of the law can be seen as permanent and is fundamentally unchallengeable.

Tipping Trump

The positions and platform of Donald Trump make clear that racist challenges to civil rights legislation and other laws of equality are still possible, and a tipping point has not been reached. This means that even though the law is clear about racial equality, there are still questions about the law’s enforceability and permanency. The point has not yet been reached where the law is no longer challengeable as part of defining of who we are. Only when we’ve reached that tipping point can we move further on the task of fully implementing these laws (a difficult task under any circumstance) without fear of their being reversed. Rejection of Donald Trump and his blatant promise to contradict the laws of equality would be a mark of a tipping point, a mark of majority acceptance of the permanency of the laws of equality.

Like it or not, 51% is a winner in democratic process. What I am suggesting here is that the 2016 elections can be seen as one of those crucial moments that is a test of whether we’ve reached the point of no return in the societal acceptance of equal rights that were defined by law in the 1960’s. If that is the case, all the confusion, all the Sturm und Drang is worth going through. Most importantly, we have an even greater reason for rejecting the presidential candidacy of a racist loser named Donald Trump.

By Joseph Barndt
October 2016