Chapter 7: America’s 21st century alt-right / Make America White Again

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America’s 21st Century Alt-Right

A long time ago there was Apartheid, an ideology based on racial privilege, fear of the other, walls and barbed wire, censorship, ignorance and oppression (Scholars and Rogues).

The year 2016 saw the election of Donald John Trump as President of the US. A White billionaire of German and Scottish ancestry, Trump won the presidency with 304 Electoral College votes, while losing the popular vote by 2.86 million votes (Schmidt & Andrews, 2016). President Trump became the oldest and wealthiest male ever to hold the highest political office in the nation. He also became the first to do so without having prior government or military service to his name.

“Make America Great Again”[1]

We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us (John Winthrop).

An examination of the demographics related to the victory of President Trump reveals an interesting pattern of data in relation to the underlying reason for his election. According to the results of the national exit polls reported the day after the 2016 general elections, the distribution of the electorate consisted of 69% White voters versus 31% non-White voters (Henley, 2016; Tyson & Maniam, 2016). From the former group, 58% of White voters supported President Trump, with this statistic comprising 63% of White males and 53% of White females. From the overall total number of males and females (White and non-White) that made up the electorate, a greater number of males than females voted for the President (53% v. 41%). This gender gap was the widest to occur in presidential election exit polls since 1972.

Considered by education level, 67% of non-college-educated Whites voted for the President Trump, with 72% of that group being made up of males (Henley, 2016; Tyson & Maniam, 2016). Fifty two percent of the total number of college graduates (white collar) were reported to have voted for his opponent, Secretary Hillary Clinton. Conversely, 52% of the total number of voters without a college degree (blue collar) had voted for the President. This education gap was the widest in presidential election exit polls since 1980. 

Looking at the results by age, voters aged 65 and over preferred President Trump to the tune of 53%. Voters aged 18 to 29 years supported the President with a five percentage point differential in relation to Secretary Clinton (48% v. 43%). Examined by income bracket, 52% of the total number of voters earning less than $50,000 a year had voted for Clinton, whereas 49% of those earning more than $50,000 a year had voted for the President.

Considering the results through the variable of faith, 81% of White evangelicals/born again Christians, 61% of Mormons, and 52% of Catholics voted for President Trump (Goldberg, 2017; Schaeffer, 2017; Schmalz, 2016; Smith & Martinez, 2016). A full 60% of the Catholic vote belonged to White Catholics in comparison to 26% of the vote of Hispanic Catholics. Seventy one percent of Jews voted for Secretary Clinton.

Given the above results, it is evident that the White vote, the male vote, the wealthier vote, and the White Christian vote – in particular the White evangelical[2] vote that forms a strong part of the religious right[3] – were predominant in the election of President Trump. These four groups of votes were potentiated by what can be considered as the disenfranchised White vote. It can thus be contended that the current US President won the 2016 elections in what can be regarded as a classic racial and religious conversion reaction to President Obama, in keeping with the establishment of the primary identity of America as a White theocratic nation, rather than diverse and secular – an identity that dates back to the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the US Constitution; in particular Article 1, Section 2 of the latter, despite the reality on the ground. This contention holds true even when a margin of error in the aforementioned data and the results is taken into account. America had just become White and ‘really Christian’ again to the majority relief of White, wealthier, and White evangelical males;[4] in addition to White males hoping to regain or attain a piece of their lost pie. The Republic was ‘safe’ once more.

Make America White Again

By their fruits you shall know them (Matthew 7:16).

In the immediate aftermath of the 2016 elections, 867 cases of overt hateful harassment or intimidation were reported to have occurred in the streets of America, in its schools and workplaces, at people’s own homes, in churches, department stores, on public transportation, and several other places throughout all the states of the US except for the Dakotas, Hawaii, and Wyoming (SPLC, 2016a). Hate was manifested through graffiti, verbal, and at times violent physical harassment. Cases of online harassment are not included in the above figure. These 867 cases took place after a 67% increase in hate crimes against Muslim Americans in the US had occurred during the previous year, in addition to heightened attacks on African Americans, Jews, and LGBT[5] persons (US DOJ, 2016; Yan, Sgueglia, & Walker, 2016). Hate crimes have been defined by the FBI (2017) as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or gender identity.”

Some critics have contended that such a rise in overt racism after the declared victory of President Trump was due to the xenophobia and Islamophobia that had been implicitly and not-so-implicitly fostered during his election campaign – a campaign marked by “incendiary racial statements, the stoking of White racial resentment, and attacks on so-called ‘political correctness’” (SPLC, 2016a). The President, however, denied this charge and reported being “so saddened” (Yan, Sgueglia, & Walker, 2016) to hear what was happening, even though some of it seemed to be originating with his own electoral supporters. Referring to the above on the CBS program 60 Minutes, President Trump stated, “If it helps, I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: Stop it” (ibid.).

Specifically, the highest number of incidents of overt hateful harassment or intimidation occurred in California (99 cases), Florida (37 cases), Massachusetts (42 cases), Michigan (40 cases), New York (69 cases), Oregon (33 cases), Pennsylvania (36 cases), Texas (57 cases), Virginia (30 cases), and Washington (48 cases; SPLC, 2016a). The lowest number of incidents occurred in Alaska and Rhode Island (1 case each); Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi, New Hampshire, and Vermont (2 cases each); Delaware, Kansas, and Nebraska (3 cases each); Nevada and Utah (4 cases each); Louisiana, Montana, and Oklahoma (5 cases each); Alabama, New Mexico, and West Virginia (6 cases each). Two hundred and fifty seven incidents occurred in public spaces, whereas 183 incidents took place in K-12 school settings. One hundred sixty two incidents occurred in workplaces or retail venues, 140 incidents in university settings, 109 incidents in private places including homes, and 16 incidents at churches.

Motivation for the aforementioned incidents was reported to be as follows: 280 incidents were motivated by anti-immigrant sentiment, whereas 187 incidents were fueled by anti-Black sentiment. One hundred incidents were motivated by anti-Semitic sentiment, 95 incidents by anti-LGBT sentiment, 49 incidents by anti-Muslim sentiment, 43 incidents by generalized Trump sentiment, 40 incidents by anti-woman sentiment, 32 incidents by White nationalist sentiment, 23 incidents by anti-Trump sentiment, and 16 incidents by unrelated sentiment.

Taken together, all these cases are considered to be a conservative estimate of the overt hateful harassment or intimidation incidents that occurred throughout the nation post-2016 elections, because most instances of this kind of harassment or intimidation do not get reported out of fear. Some examples of the cases reported above are given herewith:

  1. A boy in a school setting in Colorado approached a 12-year-old African American girl and said, “Now that Trump is President, I’m going to shoot you and all the Blacks I can find” (SPLC, 2016a);
  2. Three White males pulled up in a truck at a red light stop on a street in Louisiana and yelled at an African American woman, “Fuck your Black life!” One man started chanting “Trump!” as they drove away (ibid.);
  3. An 18-year-old service employee was spat on and called a “Black bitch” by a White male in Kalamazoo, Michigan, after she asked him if he needed anything. The man replied, “I don’t need to ask you for shit. Donald Trump is President” (ibid.);
  4. A Sudanese-American family in Iowa City, Iowa, found a note attached to the door of their home. The note read, “You can all go home now. We don’t want niggers and terrorists here. #trump” (ibid.);
  5. A resident in Pittsburg, California, draped a banner that read, “You can hang a nigger from a tree, equal rights he’ll never see” (ibid.);
  6. A 10-year-old boy in Hermosa, California, was approached by a middle-aged White male who called him “beaner . . . get the fuck out” of the country (ibid.);
  7. A Chinese-American high school student who was filling up her car with petrol was approached by an uninvited adult White male who said, “Can’t wait for Trump to deport you or I will deport you myself, dyke yellow bitch” (ibid.);
  8. A young girl in San Antonio, Texas, was approached by an adult White male while waiting for a bus. He told her, “You’re Asian, right? When they see your eyes, you are going to be deported” (ibid.);
  9. Eighth-grade students on a school bus in Colorado Springs, Colorado, told their Latino counterparts, “Not only should Trump build a wall, but it should be electrocuted and Mexicans should have to wear shock collars” (ibid.);
  10. A White teacher in Los Angeles, California, threatened a non-White student, “I have your phone numbers, your address, your mama’s address, your daddy’s address; it’s all in the system, sweetie” (ibid.);
  11. A high school teacher and golf coach in Wesley Chapel, Florida, told his African American students, “Don’t make me call Donald Trump to get you sent back to Africa” (ibid.; Germain, 2016);
  12. A woman in Arizona who was placing groceries in the trunk of her car was yelled at by two White males in a pickup truck, “Trump forever, you half-nigger slut bitch” (SPLC, 2016a);
  13. The title Noose Tying 101 appeared on a whiteboard at San Francisco State University, California (ibid.);
  14. A black doll was found hanging from a noose in an elevator at Canisius College, New York (ibid.);
  15. A man in Kansas City, Missouri, found a noose and a swastika spray painted on his car (ibid.);
  16. An African American female high school student in New York City was texted by a fellow White student, “Fuck u nigger bitch. Die. Painfully from a tree . . . Or being dragged behind a pickup truck flying the confederate flag filled with dem good ol boys. Nigger scum. Cotton picker” (ibid.);
  17. An African American woman managed to escape from a physical assault by an adult White male after he had already punched two Black males. The White man was heard exclaiming, “Donald Trump! White Power!” (ibid.);
  18. An African American male in Natick, Massachusetts, received three letters of warning with the following words: “Zero tolerance for Black people . . . We have reclaimed our country back by selecting Trump and now you are messing up everything . . . We have just cleared the White House of niggers! Do not bring niggers in our neighborhood . . . We will kill them” (ibid.);
  19. A White couple with 11 adopted African American children in Brundidge, Alabama, received the following note: “You and yours need to stay separate – NOT EQUAL” (ibid.);
  20. A building in Durham, North Carolina, was vandalized with the phrase: “Black lives don’t matter and neither does your votes” (ibid.);
  21. A flier in Washington, D. C., read: “We are organizing a new movement to rid our neighborhood of niggers. No more Black Lives Matter! Kill them all” (ibid.);
  22. A note in the bathroom of a university in Iowa read: “TRUMP 2016. Let’s run those niggers and illegals out of town” (ibid.);
  23. An adult White driver in San Diego, California, yelled at an African American person who was crossing the road, “Fucking nigger, go back to Africa! The slave ship is loading up! TRUMP!” (ibid.);
  24. An adult White male in a pickup truck in Nashville, Tennessee, yelled at a hijabi-wearing woman with a child, “Go back to your fucking country and take your terrorist son with you” (ibid.);
  25. A business in El Cajon, California, received a typewritten note that read: “BE PREPARED TO GO BACK TO YOUR COUNTRY WITH ISIS . . . DONALD TRUMP WILL KICK ALL OF YOUR ASS BACK WHERE YOU CAME FROM” (ibid.);
  26. A dark-skinned woman in a hospital in Chicago was told by a White male, “Fuckin’ sand-nigger. Thank God Trump is now President. He’s gonna deport your terrorist ass” (ibid.);
  27. A woman crossing the street in Arlington, Virginia, was yelled at by two White males in a car, “You better be ready because with Trump, we can grab you by the pussy even if you don’t want it” (ibid.);
  28. Flier handouts on many college campuses read: “White people have the right to exist as White people. BE WHITE” (ibid.);
  29. The group Americans for a Better Way sent copies of a letter to five mosques in San Jose, California. The letter, addressed to “The Children of Satan,” read as follows: “There’s a new sheriff in town – President Donald Trump. He is going to cleanse America and make it shine again. And he’s going to start with you Muslims. He’s going to do to you Muslims what Hitler did to the Jews. You Muslims would be wise to pack your bags and get out of Dodge” (Yan, Sgueglia, & Walker, 2016);
  30. Swastikas and the words “Go Trump” were spray painted on playground equipment at Adam Yauch Park in Brooklyn, New York (SPLC, 2016a). It was the 13th reported incident with swastikas that day in New York City;
  31. A dugout wall in Wellsville, New York, was spray painted with a swastika and surrounded by the phrase: “Make America White Again” (ibid.);
  32. One of the sides of Saint David’s Episcopal Church in Bloomsville, Indiana, was spray painted with a swastika and the words: “Heil Trump” (ibid.);
  33. A dormitory residence at the State University of New York at Genese was spray painted with a swastika and the word: “Trump” (ibid.);
  34. The bathroom door at Maple Grove Senior High School in Minnesota was scrawled with the words: “Whites only . . . White America . . . Trump” (ibid.);
  35. A glass window on South Broad Street, Philadelphia, was spray painted with the words: “Sieg Heil 2016 . . Trump.” A swastika substituted for the letter T in the last name of the President (ibid.);
  36. An African American female student walking to Baylor University was accosted by a White male who said, “No niggers allowed on the sidewalk.” Upon being confronted by two unknown men who came to her assistance, the White man replied, “Dude, like what? I’m just trying to make America great again” (ibid.).

On February 23, 2017, a 51-year-old White male, Adam Purinton, opened fire on two Garmin computer engineers from India who were dining at Austin’s Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas. He killed one engineer and wounded the other. As Purinton fired the rounds, he was overheard yelling: “Get out of my country!” and other racial slurs that indicated he thought the men were Iranians (Associated Press, 2017b; Berman & Schmidt, 2017; Wu & Agrawai, 2017). In Douglasville, Georgia, two persons, Jose Ismael Torres and Kayla Rae Norton, were sentenced to spend 13 years and six years in prison respectively after having disrupted the birthday party of a young African American boy with Confederate flags, multiple racial slurs, and armed threats about killing all the party attendees with shotguns (Associated Press, 2017c). This incident had occurred two years before. Torres and Norton were also sentenced to be forever banished from Douglas County after their release.

On February 27, 2017, a new wave of bomb threats was directed toward 29 Jewish community centers and day schools across the US (Jerusalem Post, 2017). Evacuations became necessary in Alabama, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington. This wave of threats was considered to be the fifth in less than two months. Federal authorities are at present investigating the incidents.

On March 21, 2017, a 28-year-old multi-decorated US Army veteran and military intelligence expert, James Harris Jackson, stabbed to death with a 26-inch sword Timothy Caughman, a 66-year-old African American male can-and-bottle recycler and autograph collector (Cohen & Perez, 2017). Jackson had traveled from Maryland to New York City as “the media capital of the world” (Boyle, 2017), with the express purpose of killing Black males “to make a statement” (ibid., Cohen, Moore, Selona, & Eustachewich, 2017). The veteran told the police that he was a White supremacist who had been set off by seeing a Black-and-White couple together, because he experienced “rage against Black men who get romantically involved with White women” (Boyle, 2017). Jackson had also penned a racial manifesto on his computer about carrying out attacks on Blacks.

Given all the above, it is evident that the continuous stream of negative remarks and negative rhetoric that had been used by President Trump, as well as some of his closest aides and staffers, during his 2016 electoral campaign in relation to the factors of race, religion, immigrant status, gender, and sexual orientation in America – remarks so well-known, they do not need to be repeated – had at least some relationship to the unprecedented spike in overt racism and discrimination that occurred post-election throughout the country. At the very least, those remarks and rhetoric can be postulated to have facilitated a campaign not just of significant divisiveness among the American people, but a manifest campaign of hate for the supreme goal of winning, instead of facilitating the unity and national healing that both the country and the people much needed.

Such negative facilitation in turn enabled individuals and groups of individuals with hatred for different others in their hearts to bring it out into the open and act upon it without restraint, since they felt legitimized in their feelings and protected to some degree from retribution. This process occurred despite the vast majority of those who were considered as different others being none other than fellow Americans.

It can, therefore, be concluded that the majority Whites, the majority males, the majority wealthier, and the majority White Christians who, in effect, elected the President to office – several of them in the name of God and for the sake of God – did so for one unconscious reason alone, despite all the other conscious reasons spouted to mask, for themselves and others, the underlying reason in their hearts. This unconscious reason, both at the individual level and at the collective level, was to make America White again – and try to get rid of all those detested, if not outright hated, rest who did not fit into the nice and little niche ‘untainted’ box, regardless of whether they were American or not. The spirits behind the original sentiment and construction of Article 1, Section 2, of the US Constitution had returned with a vengeance, in addition to those dark spirits who had succeeded with great effectiveness in keeping America divided along core racial and religious lines for 240 years.

[1] Slogan and registered service mark used by President Trump during his 2015-2016 electoral campaign. He had been using the phrase in a colloquial manner since 2011. At the end of the 2016 campaign of the Republican party, it had become “an anti-Obama rallying cry with nativist overtones” (Jouet, 2017). The phrase was also part of a larger slogan that had been used by President Ronald Reagan during his campaign in 1980. In common parlance, the phrase is considered to refer to the concept of American exceptionalism as first articulated by John Winthrop, the Puritan first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

[2] White evangelical Christians have been defined as the “third of the leading strands in American Protestantism, straddling the divide between fundamentalists and liberals” (Mead, 2006). American evangelicalism is derived from the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the 20th century.

[3] The religious right is made up of a conglomerate of traditionalist and active church-going groups that include Catholics who are opposed to contraception and abortion, but are not necessarily opposed to the death penalty or opportunistic environmental exploitation (double-issue Catholics; Schweber, 2012; The Economist, 2004); Southern Baptists, Bible Belt Lutherans, Mormons, and similar others. The aforementioned Catholics often hold a Manichean view of the world (Schweber, 2012).

[4] A perfect example of the confluence of the White male privilege and the religious privilege characteristic of the good old boys’ club in the US.

[5] Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.

[6] In Scalfari (2013).

[7] Alternative right.