Contact Me

Please use the following means of contact to do any of the following: Sign on to receive blogs, Suggest a new recipient, and Comment on a blog.

Phone: (831) 345-6349

Add Someone To The Mailing List

Please type your full name.
Invalid email address.
Enter Code* Enter Code  Refresh
Invalid Input

Blogpage B. (11/26/16) THE 2016 ELECTION: A MEASURE OF WHITE PEOPLE’S PROGRESS [PART 2 – Post Election Day]

"America was until this last generation a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity. It is our creation and it belongs to us."

National Policy Institute,
a white nationalist think-tank

About a month ago, I asked readers to guess the percentage of white people who would vote for/against Donald Trump for president on November 8. I suggested that the answer to this question would be a good indicator of how far along white people collectively have come on the path of accepting fundamental decisions about racial equality that were reached by our nation way back in the 1960’s. I speculated that if 51% or more white people voted against Trump, that would indicate that we have passed a tipping point in permanently accepting those historic decisions. On the other hand, if 51% or more white people voted in favor of Trump, that would be a sign that we still have not arrived at the point where racial equality is a commonly agreed starting point in defining who we are as an American people.

Well, here’s the disappointing and deeply distressing news: 52 percent of all white women and 63 percent of all white men voted for Trump. Which means that today, 50 years after the passing of equal rights legislation, a large majority of white Americans still have not internalized the message that all of us are equal.

I have to admit that I thought the results would be different. My personal guess was that white America had reached a tipping point, that a majority of us - by a small percentage - would vote against a public advocate of racial superiority and exclusion.  I was wrong. We aren’t there yet. We aren’t even close.

I haven’t absorbed it yet. I’m still thinking incomplete thoughts, writing short sentences and leaving paragraphs unfinished. And I am clearly not alone. From what I see, hear and read, most other people have the same problem. We need time to comprehend it. It is not the moment for clever and overly simplistic responses, let alone well-thought-through solutions.  

But as a starting place, we can begin to share our initial feelings. The words I am hearing from friends and colleagues: “devastated” . . .  “deep shame for America” . . .  “disgusted and terrified” . . .  “heaven forbid” . . .  “mad as hell” . . . “I don't know how to say how sad I am for the U.S.”.

It’s not difficult to identify with the sense of shock reflected in these responses.

My personal reaction? Here’s what I initially think and feel:

  • Of course, I am angry! But I’m not only angry at Donald Trump, and not only angry at white Americans who voted for him, and not only angry at the national media that treated the campaign as another great entertainment spectacle. I am even more angry at myself and the rest of us in the “liberal”/“radical”/”progressive” white world for blaming the right wing for creating the gulf which divides us, while refusing to recognize how our own self-righteous superiority and our own unrecognized and unrepentant participation in a world of institutionalized white power and privilege has contributed to the current paralysis, and – as always – left people of color and other vulnerable groups hanging in the balance. Our recovery from the shock of Trump’s victory, and our ability to develop effective strategies to counter its effect requires first of all a lot of soul-searching on our part about our role in making a Donald Trump victory possible.

  • I am more aware than ever that positive social change also has inevitable negative and divisive effects that need to be strategically taken into account.  From my perspective, we have made enormous positive changes during the past 50 years with regard racial, gender and LGBTQ justice. Not enough, of course, but in ever so many ways we have become a far more inclusive, accepting society. But we need to pause for a minute and ask why it is that the more positively unified we become in one dimension, the more danger there is of becoming dis-unified in other dimensions. Not everyone has come along with us on the path we call progressive. Even while old lines of division are being erased, new lines of division have emerged that are deeper and every bit as dangerous as the old ones. Acceptance of social change is always a gradual, generational process – the deeper the change the slower the process. And even though we can’t take the pressure off making these progressive changes deeper and more permanent, we also need to learn how to avoid society being stretched to the breaking point in the process.

  • We who are white need to understand, love and help free our own people. I cannot divorce myself from my people. Racially, my people are white people. The majority of us voted for Trump, voted for racial division, voted for walls instead of bridges, and want to hold onto a nation that is controlled by us. We are collectively a people imprisoned and paralyzed in fear, suffering from a sickness called racism that makes us think and act in destructively superior ways. Tragically, those of us who believe otherwise – the minority of white people - respond with another version of prideful superiority. We pretend we are better than other white people and we turn away from them in shame instead of turning toward them in compassion and love to ask, “what is this evil power that is depriving all of us of our humanity?” By turning away and separating ourselves, we deepen the divide. How do we turn back, accept and love our people, take responsibility for the work of freeing our own people?

One of my great heroes, Will Campbell, a white southern Baptist minister, joined the struggle against racism in the 1960’s. His first response was to become part of the movement to free people of color from the bonds of racial segregation. But then he came to the realization that the root of the problem was that his own people, white people, were also in bondage to their own racism and needed to be freed.  He went home to learn to love and free his own people. He started a ministry to the Ku Klux Klan.

Racially I am white and I am part of a people who are white. I am devastated that a wonderfully changing, more inclusive world is a threat to my people because we are in bondage inside our prison of racism. And now the majority of us have voted Donald Trump into the position as our prison leader. What do we who are white anti-racist people need to do to help lead our people out of prison? As we develop plans to resist the renewed racism that is threatening all of us as a result of this election, we need to also ask what it means to go home to love and free our own people, to ask how we can help increase our numbers to the tipping point where the majority will see that an inclusive world offers freedom and new life to all of us.

Joseph Barndt
November 2016