Dear white liberals, Here is what you should tell your kids about Trump’s election
The United States has just fairly elected Donald Trump, an openly racist and misogynist right-wing zealot, who has bragged about forcefully grabbing women “by the pussy.” You, my white liberal friends, cannot understand how this could happen in 2016 America. You truly didn’t expect this to happen. What should you do?
You sob. You cry. You scream.
But that’s not enough. You, my white progressive friends, decide to reach out to me. You text me. You call me. You tag me on Facebook to apologize.
“I’m sick to my stomach with shame,” you write.
But most of you, my white liberal friends, ask how you should explain to your children that your country — which is envied around the world for being welcoming — has just democratically elected a xenophobic bigot to the most powerful office on Earth. I don’t know why you think that I — a black immigrant from Kenya — should shoulder the burden of educating you about politics in your own country. But since you asked, I’m going to be brutally honest. I hope you too will be honest with your kids, instead of creating in their mind an America that doesn’t exist for Americans like me.
You should tell your kids what we black people, Latinos, Muslims, and other minorities have been telling our children every day — since Trump awakened the racist half of America. Tell your kids that America is inherently racist. Tell them that this country was founded on racism. Tell them that racial tension is rive in this country because your race came from Europe and eliminated the indigenous population and eventually created the United States. Tell them that most black people they see around are descendants of African slaves, who your European ancestors uprooted forcefully from their continent and brought to America to build this country.
Tell your kids that even though President Abraham Lincoln signed Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 to free American slaves, black people have never really been free. Tell them that there are millions of Americans living today who witnessed segregation, and might have even attended lynchings of black people by racist white supremacist mobs, backed by their local governments. Tell your children that in the ‘60s — a little more than 50 years ago — good progressive Americans like you came together and said that they had had enough. The good white Americans stood up and said no to segregation and other racist government policies. They pushed hard and led to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 signing of the Civil Rights Act, which outlawed racial segregation and discrimination.
When talking to your kids about Trump, be honest about the failures of the Democratic Party and white liberals in the last 50 years, which have led to his election. Tell your kids that after the signing of the Civil Rights Act, you, my white liberal friends, patted yourself on your backs for making it illegal to have separate toilets, drinking fountains, and cafeteria lines for blacks and whites. Tell your kids that Trump is going to be our president because after you made sure it was illegal to discriminate against people based on race, color, or ethnic origin, you went into deep sleep. Tell them that once in a while, you are woken up from this sleep by news that some prominent white person has called a black person “nigger.”
When Michael Richards, who played Kramer in one of America’s favorite sitcoms, Seinfeld, was caught, on tape calling a black heckler “nigger,” you came out of slumber and wondered how anyone could be racist in 2006 America. You went back to sleep in your post-race America. When in 2014 it was alleged that “nigger” was one of the favorite words of Donald Sterling, then the owner of L.A. Clippers basketball team, you expressed disbelief that any one in 2014 America could be racist.
Now, in 2016, you find yourself unable to explain to your kids that another racist named Donald — who has described Mexican immigrants as “criminals” and “rapists”, and has vowed to ban Muslims from the United States — is going to be the man your kids should aspire to be. This is supposedly so disturbing to you that the shame you feel can no longer allow you to go back to sleep in your utopian America.
Tell your children that Trump will be their role model because you mistakenly thought that LBJ’s signature had delivered a new “post-race” America in 1964. (Why any reasonable human being would think that 400 years of racism could be ended instantly by the stroke of a president’s pen is beyond my ability to comprehend).
Tell your kids that Trump is their president-elect because white liberals like you are the only ones who think that we live in “post-race” America. (Most of Trumps’ voters know we’re far from a post-race America because they do the racism, and those of us who aren’t white know it because we are on the receiving end of racism every day).
If the truth I have outlined above is too heavy for you or your children to handle, don’t worry. There is a more comforting truth. Tell your kids that they shouldn’t worry too much about having a racist president. Because they are white children, their lives will go on as normal. Their white privilege will remain intact. Unlike black, Latino, and Arab kids, yours will never be frisked by a Trump-era cop, who only stops you because of your “un-American” race. Tell them that, because they are white kids, there are great chances that they will go to great schools and universities, and land lucrative careers. Tell them that if — God forbid — college is not their thing, their white skin will still entitle them to great jobs, even though there are highly educated people of color who can’t find jobs.
And if that’s still too heavy a truth for your kids to stomach, tell them that you are the good white people. You did your part. You didn’t vote for Trump. Go ahead and shift the burden to us, people of color. If only African Americans had turned out to vote in the same way they did for Barack Obama. If only Latinos community organizers had worked harder to get people to the polls in critical battleground states like Florida.