UNIV 112 Research Paper
November 23, 2015
The United States citizens closely follow media coverage as the political campaigns begin to form and the political candidates are thrust into the spotlight. It is a whirlwind of who said a particular racist, sexist, or slightly insane comment. Once the prospective politicians announce their run for presidency, controversial issues slowly begin to become more prevalent in the news. Racial discussions have happened more often because of possible racially driven tragic events in very recent United States history. Some argue racism does not occur in today’s American society; that we are being too sensitive about an age old topic. Segregation and slavery are still recent within the US’ past, and white supremacy is still an active part in American citizen’s lives. How do white political candidates, such as Donald Trump, embody ideologies for a certain group of people in the US and sustain white supremacy? Political candidates that tend to be more socially conservative cultivate a support of American people who tend to be White, middle class citizens, that support the systematic oppression of minorities.
White people are systematically privileged with knowledge and ignorance to function as white-supremacist adults, whether they know it or not (usually they are not aware). Many scholars believe that white supremacy has to be explained along with how it still affects United States citizens and how it functions in society. Peggy McIntosh, an associate director for the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, discussed that people in places of privilege often get an “invisible knapsack” in life that they aren’t aware of that gives them automatic advantages; it is proposed that people with privilege are born with (McIntosh 87). With this unseen privilege, many people are tired of being politically correct, which is how presidential candidates like Donald Trump have gained so many supporters; that society, mostly containing middle to upper-class, white Americans, is promoting ignorance. These people are able to promote and uphold ignorance because being “politically correct” does not pertain to any part of their race, because White people are seen as the norm in American society. Shannon Sullivan, a professor of Philosophy at UNC Chapel Hill, and Nancy Tuana, a specialist in feminist and racial philosophy who received her Ph.D. from the University of California, theorize that race is more of a social construct because, “…it exposes the “White” race as having nothing to do with biology and everything to do with the actions of humans and, more specifically, with power,” (2). Sullivan and Tuana unpack what “whiteness” exactly is and allows us to view this racial aspect in a way that is not biologically based, but power-based. Being white, explained by Sullivan and Tuana, is not more of a biological aspect as it is an oppressive and powerful social hierarchy in America. So as a society within the United States, white people are systematically privileged because ignorance is maintained every day by denying knowledge that people are marginalized (Sullivan and Tuana 101). In the textbook Women's Voices, Feminist Visions: Classic and Contemporary Readings by Susan Shaw and Janet Lee, the authors illustrate the various marginalized people today in the U.S., which includes: homosexual individuals, People of Color, individuals who identify as female, low-income individuals, individuals with disabilities, and those who do not practice Christianity as a faith (Shaw and Lee 52). These experts are all saying that every day we all operate within social norms that are racist. When citizens don’t seek out racial justice and political correctness, we are contributing to the US’ privilege system, which is unnoticeable to those who benefit from it.
People of Color (POC) in the United States have a past riddled with struggle. Jaqueline Battalora, who has a Ph.D. from Northwestern University and who is also active in anti-racist training, observes the POC were deprived of freedom despite their loyalty to the US and their faithfulness to Christianity (Battalora 6). With the controversial topic of racism in the current United States media, conversations can be easily derailed into stereotypical generalizations of groups of people. POC are often generalized in a negative light because of America’s deep-seated history of race. To stay on track with racial discussions, historical evidence must be the foundation of the conversation. Battalora also examines how people of African descent were not allowed to hold public office, received no rights to vote, could not marry people outside their race, could not testify against a White person, and could not have White servants (Battalora 6). It was not POC’s fault that they could not rise within social rankings; it has been set up to work against POC since America was colonized. As explained through lecture by Dr. Archana Pathak, a Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, white supremacy is also held up through a hegemonic system, which creates a glass ceiling affect in social hierarchy and only allows the less privileged to succeed so far. Everyone participates in upholding a hegemonic system because when disprivileged people resist systematic oppression, a fundamental necessity becomes a “reward,” and the system continues to function (Pathak).
To invalidate POC’s existence and place within America, political candidates hurl racist comments all around, especially in Donald Trump’s official twitter where he has attacked President Obama repeatedly and said that America “won’t see another black president for generations”, implying that race is linked to ability to run a nation (Trump). Donald Trump supporters, however, admire this lack of political correctness. Christ Sheridan, a writer on politics for the Al Jazeera English news source, explains how a lack of political correctness happens to be a common theme for people who support Donald Trump in his campaign for presidency. Trump represents white, Middle-class Americans who are tired of politicians who are too afraid to speak their mind for fear of offending someone, or a group of people (Sheridan). For white people to maintain their ignorance about the topic of racism in today’s society, the phrase “get over it, it’s in the past” is constantly said because, “White America remains unable to believe that Black America’s grievances are real; they are unable to believe this because they cannot face what this fact says about themselves and their country,” (Sullivan and Tuana 119). To be reminded of a dark history is uncomfortable for White people in America, so they distance themselves from it, which delays racial progress since the topic is hard to discuss in civil ways and to keep focused on the topic. The desire to rid of political correctness in America enforces this uncomfortableness. The first amendment right is the freedom of speech, which is the symbol of freedom in America; to be able to say whatever you want whenever you want. The first amendment right is all too apparent with Donald Trump’s tweets, which are entirely his own thoughts, exercising this right. One of his more recent tweets pertains to a fake murder statistics infographic based on race, which illustrates that 1% of Black people are killed by police and that 81% of White people are killed by Black people (Trump). Judd Legum, a writer for Think Progress news, writes about how this claim is a lie. The statistics for racial crime have not been released for the 2015 year so far. The data for racial crime is stable each year, and shows that 14% of White people were murdered by a Black person, which is 67% lower than Donald Trump’s claim (Legum). The first amendment is essential to the US citizens, and I support the protection of the freedom of speech. However, Donald Trump creates ethnic prejudice against POC with his tweets, especially those with fake statistics. When free speech is derailed and designed to keep other humans socially, economically, and politically inferior to White people, it upholds ethnic bias and perpetuates an unjust system in a land where equality seems to be so important.
Even with systematic privilege and racism still prevalent today, Americans believed that racial tensions would improve under the Obama administration since he was the first Black president, but this belief has turned out to be unfounded. Bill Wanlund who is a freelance writer with a degree in Journalism from George Washington University and writes for CQ Researcher examines how the binary races of black and white both agree that racial prejudice happens, “But according to the survey, blacks and whites agree that racial stereotyping still exists, although whites are much more likely than than blacks to believe there is no discrimination in access to affordable housing, jobs or justice,” (Wanlund). White people refuse to believe it is a systemic issue and that prejudice happens on individual, bigotry-filled interactions (Wanlund). White people who support candidates such as Trump fear that the social, political, and economic progression of POC in the United States will somehow take away White people’s existing privilege. It is important to represent many different cultures and races within America, a country that prides itself on diversity, but White people do not understand why representation is important, because their race is always highly represented in every way possible, especially in media. Because of a lack of representation in America, POC are starting to speak up on this topic, which causes discomfort among White people, in turn causing racial tensions to rise. Trump has only added to the racial tension within the United States now, as observed and written by Dean Obeidallah who is a columnist for The Daily Beast and editor of the politics blog The Dean’s Report. In a report from CNN Politics, Obeidallah discusses Donald Trump’s recent statement for “Muslim-Americans to be registered into a government database,” and to “carry special identification cards that note their faith,” as a way to combat terrorism from ISIS (Obeidallah). Trump generalizes groups of minorities within the U.S. and creates irrational “solutions” for racial problems. Racial topics and issues have become more prevalent not only from the fear of terrorism, but also because of recent police brutality stories (whether or not their traumatic demise is racially directed or not) and also through racist events that happen across colleges campuses throughout America, most recently University of Missouri where anonymous threats were directed at POC students there. The ignorant ideas that racism is “fixed” and “doesn’t exist” anymore, is where arguments and racial tensions form, which create a more divided America because, “sexism and racism, patriarchy and white supremacy, have not been the exception but the norm,” (Sullivan and Tuana 17). All that the United States has ever known is hidden oppressive systems, which are embodied and amplified through Donald Trump’s campaign. It is hard to enact change when half of the nation denies the existence of these systems and allows someone like Donald Trump to be in the lead for polls of political candidates.
How else does Donald Trump promote white supremacy? I have previously stated how Trump is a symbol for white power and upholds systematic racism, but Donald Trump’s platform goes beyond being a symbol; it is a catalyst for those with power, White people, to prevent change and equality from taking place in the US. In an article written by Evan Osnos for The New Yorker, Donald Trump stated, “I play to people’s fantasies…I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration and a very effective form of promotion.” It is debatable how innocent his claims are when he has generalized Mexicans to be rapists and criminals, and yet he still gains the support of republicans throughout America. His support has surged from 16% to 57%, which is a greater growth than any other candidate (Osnos). Donald Trump takes the immigration fears of today’s American citizens and amplifies them to his benefit. Conor Friedersdorf, a writer for The Atlantic gathered letters from United States citizens explaining why they want to vote for Donald Trump. Most people wrote how they truly believe that Trump would keep the “American Dream” alive through his harsh immigration reforms and give the American people their jobs “back” (Friedersdorf). Though Donald Trump’s intentions seem for him to want to benefit the good of the American people, he also seems to forget that America is not compromised of middle class, White Americans. America is known for, and prides itself on, diversity with a slew of different races, genders, and social classes.
Even though many White, American citizens do not support Donald Trump, enough people do support him that the fear of Trump being elected is real. Though many of his irrational, racist promises for America would never pass through the US Congress, having Trump as president would create a massive symbol of minority oppression in the United States. As a nation, equity for oppressed groups is essential for social progress, and Trump would “make America great again” by driving the country back into the Unites State’s past, which when observed, was ridiculously racist through the system of White hierarchy. Trump unabashedly admits to being disrespectful to minority groups and does not care who he offends; as a nation we all deserve, and can do better than letting Donald Trump embody the American people.
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