Current Events

I’m Horrified but Not Surprised

I’m numb this morning.  I’m horrified.  I wish I was surprised.

White, college-educated people voted majority Trump.  That’s my demographic.  Those are a lot of the people I know.

I grew up in western Pennsylvania in a rural area outside of a city.  For most of the time when I was in school there was one non-white person.  I don’t mean in my class or in my school.  There was ONE non-white student in the entire school district.  She had been adopted by a white family.

My extended family on both sides was very racist.  Recently I found out that my great-grandmother was a Klan member.  Which great-grandmother? Oh, the one who was a teacher.  Yes, the most educated great-grandmother was KKK.

I was raised as an evangelical Christian.  That was a lily white world.

My classes for my major in college were all white.

I went to vet school in Tennessee.  There were 2 POC students in my class.  I didn’t know one of them was Latina until the last semester of our fourth year when she was talking about how people always speak Spanish in front of her because they think she can’t understand them.  She was born in Columbia.  I met my first openly gay person during my second year of vet school.  (Turns out that I was raised with a gay man but I didn’t know that until much later.)

I didn’t have any African American friends until I moved to a rural county in Ohio that was 97% white.  We made friends there with some neighbors and the father of some kids in my 4-H group.  But guess who was the most vocally concerned about us moving to a very racially diverse city?  “Are you sure you want to move there?  There are so many black people.”

“Um, we live by you now and you are black.”

“It’s different.  Make sure you find a white neighborhood.”

Are you getting the idea of how segregated the United States is and how easy it is for white people to be completely isolated from any engagement with people of color?  It is so easy to think in terms of “those people” when you don’t know any people who don’t look like you.

And let’s be honest, white people, if people of minority races are terrified of what white people say and do in public, I don’t even want to let them know the things white people say when they think they are among like-minded white folk.

That brings me to Facebook.  Dear god.  Consider my past life.  With that background you know my Facebook page is white-white.   By contrast my Twitter feed of primarily book people and social justice people is diverse.  I think there were four consistently pro-Democratic people on my Facebook page.  I’m sure there were a few other quiet ones but my Facebook page is meme after meme of pro-police brutality, pro-DAPL, and anti-Kaepernick rhetoric.  I countered with pro-sanity links which probably only got read by the people who already agreed.

I’m sure that any social justice awareness I have was started though reading.  I can name the books that started to open my eyes to life experiences that were different from my own.  That’s why continuing to read books written from a variety of viewpoints is so immensely important.

I don’t know what to do going forward.  Obviously call out what I see but it feels so futile. I want to scream at them for their blindness to what they are doing to other people but I know that they don’t see it.  I don’t know if they can see it.  Fellow white people, what is your plan?

In the mean time, I’m clinging to my Twitter feed.    Book people are the best.  I think it is because we’ve all read this novel over and over that we can see where the plot is going next….

4 Comments

  • Katherine Koba

    Until I know what to say to my friend and family who *gleefully* voted for Trump (and believe me, I have some), I am doing three things.

    1. They no longer have access to my life. Because I live across an ocean from them, this basically means that they now live in the “restricted” section of my Facebook contacts. My attempt at a positive influence obviously changed nothing, so I’d rather not be their ~~~token liberal that they chuckle at as they scroll by. This, I admit, is more for my own sanity and comfort than it is an attempt at trying to make a point. I don’t think making a point is possible with some people.

    2. More productively, I am looking at charities whose work will be very important in the next 2 – 4 years (I’m hoping for a wash of blue in mid-terms): the ACLU, the Trevor Project, BLM, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination League, etc. They are getting my money, and will continue to get my money for the foreseeable future. I’m encouraging others to donate as well.

    3. For the first time since an uninspiring middle school civics project, I’m writing my representatives. One of my senators is a Democrat; the other, as well as my Congressman, are the species of Republican who have avoided endorsing Trump (even if they’ve also avoided condemning him). If their feet are held to the fire, they may do a lot to protect those most vulnerable to America’s worst instincts right now. Encourage your Republican representatives to take a cue from the will of the people and mitigate this disaster; encourage your Democratic representatives to take a cue from Bernie Sanders and go hard left and pick up the younger vote NOW instead of waiting for old angry white people to die off. In the coming days I plan to figure out how I can be kept abreast of upcoming legislation and how who votes on what.

    Letters and phone calls are what Congresscritters cater to. Not Tweets, not Facebook comments, not Tumblr reblogs. Letters and phone calls. I already sent off my first round of letters now and will try to do so as often as possible.

    • heather

      This are good steps. I signed up for recurring monthly donations to Planned Parenthood today and for alerts from the ACLU. I’m planning on writing to Congress a lot now too.

  • RR Gilmore

    I have a similar background, except I’m from Rust Belt Ohio. I just keep thinking, what do I do now? What do I do? I’ve started by making plans to have available time in case I’m needed to protest. Trying to think of something else I can do.

    • heather

      That’s a good start. I think I need to be more vocal too. I’m a big talker online but completely non confrontational in person. Right now I’m not around the vocally racist at work. I certainly used to work in very racist environments. What do I say to my brother who I never discuss politics with but who I know always votes Republican?

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