We live in a world where race, gender and socioeconomic status often determines our path. For Donald J. Trump, being born white, male and of means has led him on a course that brings him dangerously close to gaining the highest U.S. political office and becoming what many consider the “leader of the free world.”
The funny thing (in a not at all funny way actually) is that if Trump were a Black or Brown man, born into financially humble roots, we would we going “Donald who?” Frankly, even if he were Black and Brown and coming from wealthy and connected roots, I doubt he’d get the level of attention (and the blanket passes on his words and behavior and history) that he’s seen.
Trump is the embodiment of a certain level of privilege where the rules of proper society simply do not apply. A level of privilege where not only can you break the rules of a civilized society but people will excuse your bad behavior and enable you for life.
Sitting here as a working-class Black woman who has always had to work harder and smarter by a factor of two or three for half of what is bestowed upon my white peers, I struggle to grasp the train wreck and phenomenon known as Trump.
A man so despicable that in the course of less than two years, he has turned America on its head as we all grapple with this brave new world where right isn’t right and increasingly wrong is accepted with a shrug.
As I write this piece, we are all digesting the revelation that Trump as a powerful, privileged, white man has sexually assaulted women with no guilt or shame or reservations. The leaked piece from the Washington Post has Trump in his own words telling us that he grabs them by the pu**y. He moves on them like a bitch. This interview happened back in 2005 and given that Trump is 70 years old, he was hardly a child when he made these statements, which are not really out of line with other comments that we have heard Trump make. This is a man who has stated he would date his own daughter were they not blood related. A man who uses every legal loophole available to avoid paying his taxes like the rest of us working stiffs. A man whose campaign has emboldened racists across America to come out of the closet.
Trump however is not an aberration or merely “a troubled man” as many would have us to believe. Trump is a product of unchecked peak whiteness and maleness meeting at the intersection of wealth and celebrity. For every poor or working-class person who understands the limits of our labels, men like Trump have never been given any limits. It’s why after the election of our first Black president, Trump traded on his whiteness and was a part of the birther movement which, if we are being honest, should have been called the New Klan movement because that is essentially what it was.
As a over-privileged, ego-driven white man with no political credentials or public policy experience, it seems pretty clear he felt slighted by the sight of a highly qualified Black man serving as president. So much so that eight years later he would feel a need to inflict his delusions upon us all and to charge into a presidential race with the most ignorant, crass, uncouth, inflammatory, prejudicial, bigoted campaign of modern times to “correct” things.
Trump serves as the Frankenstein’s Monster of peak of whiteness, maleness, cisgendered identity and heterosexuality. He’s also trading on the Christianity thing, lately, which is ironic given that he could barely be considered “nominally Christian.” He trades on being in every single identity that is most empowered in the United States.
More than that, he has taken each of those privileged credentials (gender, race, sexual identity and religion) and pushed them past the boundaries of good taste, common sense and logic. He has amped them up with rage, bluster, insults and money and become a creature and a perverted force of nature more than a man. Hence my characterization of him as Frankenstein’s Monster of American privilege.
But who created this monster? That creature from Mary Shelley’s novel was made by Dr. Frankenstein. Ultimately, when he rampaged and killed, it was under his own inertia and with his own will behind it (and it’s somewhat unfair to compare Trump to the monster, because the monster was actually persecuted and shunned, something Trump has never been…no matter how much he’s deserved it; yup, there’s that privilege again at work)…but nonetheless, he was not natural. He was made.
In this case, with regard to Trump, a not-insignificant portion of white America is, collectively, the mad scientist that gave this creature life and then created the circumstances for it to rampage unchecked.
In anti-racism spaces, we understand that racism not only affects people of color but white people as well. Trump is what happens when whiteness is allowed to thrive (thanks to white supremacy, systemic racism and institutional bias) and grow unchecked and unchallenged. When we don’t check the assumptions that we hold and why we hold them, especially when we have privilege, we open ourselves up to taking detours into dark spaces that are not fit for anyone.
For the past eight years, many white people who see themselves as fundamentally good people were uncomfortable living in a country with a non-white president and looked for any excuse to avoid saying that. In Trump, they found their savior, a man whose only redeeming quality was arrogant, white manhood who, while thoroughly nonsensical and utterly ill-prepared, was enough to win their admiration. A man so horrible at his “successful” businesses (losing hundreds of millions and filing bankruptcy multiple times) that if he weren’t a white man, he would have been laughed off the national stage before he even started. Instead he wiped the floor with his milquetoast competition.
I have previously written about the place of whiteness in the rise of Trump but with each revelation about Trump’s past, it becomes even clearer that the only reason that Donald J. Trump exists is because of whiteness. Trump’s peak male whiteness gave him access to the open highway of success that simply doesn’t exist for others. But already having access to that highway, he isn’t even expected to do the work of getting down it; much of America is actually driving him down that road at high speed taking him anywhere he wants to go and getting anything he wants along the way. They are eager to give him more than he already has and far more than he deserves simply because he appeals to all who long for the days when whiteness was the only credential needed for access to success.
The chorus against him grows louder in light of the sexual assault revelations but it is too little, too late. The chickens have come home to roost and regardless of who wins the 2016 presidential election, we are all facing the collective reckoning about unchecked white privilege and its role in our society. We have created our ultimate monster, and it is about to turn against us to destroy its creator, just like in Shelley’s novel. For make no mistake: If Trump becomes president, his very ascension is a blow to our collective decency and dignity as a nation and a people.
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