How goes it with your spirit? I have to say that I have been crushed by this election. And when I say crushed I don’t just mean disappointed. I mean my spirit has been pulverized and left gasping for air. I am still struggling to catch my breath and absorb what has happened.
Last Sunday I stated this election was not about electing a man or a woman, or even about electing a republican or a democrat to the office of the presidency. It was about ratifying and affirming our nations most sacred values—E pluribus Unum—Out of Many, One. Our unalienable birth rights of Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Liberty and justice for all.
Apparently, America no longer wants to be an America that celebrates E Pluribus Unum. That value was okay to proclaim when America was 90% white in 1950. It apparently is not okay when America’s white people reflects 61% of the population in 2016 and is projected to be 49% in less than 30 years. When America finally begins to look like E Pluribus Unum, Whites get nervous because it will mean they will need to share their power.
I shouldn’t be surprised given how White America treated our first Black president who probably will go down in history as one of the all-time great presidents. Not by this generation but by future generations. Abraham Lincoln was hated when he was president[i]. I mean states seceded from the union and millions of people died because he became president. Not exactly how one wins and influence friends.
I still believe these values were the heart of this election. I still believe that this nation was given an opportunity to make a deliberate choice to embody the values on which this nation stood, albeit imperfectly. We were given a choice to turn away, even if ever so slightly, from our nation’s original sin of racism. We were given a choice.
And we chose white supremacy.
I think what stung me the most was the realization that the only demographic that overwhelmingly voted for Trump was the White vote. Of the 70% of White voters, 58% of them voted for Trump. No other racial demographic overwhelmingly voted for Trump. No other racial demographic comprised a majority in their support for Trump. Not one.
Now there are many individual reasons why a person might have voted for Trump. So when individuals begin giving reasons why they voted Trump, the reason is not because they believe that Whites need to stay in power and oppress other groups. No, they believe there are other reasons, but the aggregate reason is racism. This is an important distinction. Let me rephrase this point another way. Trump’s appeal to individual White voter’s is not because individually they supported his racism, but the systemic impact in this election of White voters is racism.
We need to understand the message this sends to marginalized groups when one demographic votes overwhelmingly for a demagogue like Donald Trump. We need to understand that their fear, my fear, is not unreasonable but is based in the history of events over the last 24 months.
We have seen an uptick in hate crimes against Blacks, Muslims, Trans-fulx, Mexican immigrants over the last 24 months committed by White people who support Trump. Southern Poverty Law Center reports 200 hate crimes[ii] were documented in the 72 hours after the election alone.
And these are the ones that are documented as hate crimes. The hanging effigy of a black man off the apartment balcony above OHenry’s is not considered a hate crime. The poster displaying Trump with a statement saying, “Obama, You’re Fired” in a math teacher’s class in Northridge High School is not considered a hate crime. The American Latino citizen, who was yelled at by a passerby “to go pack because Trump is deporting your ass” is not a hate crime. The woman at UA who received anonymous rape threats because of her public support of Clinton. Our congregation’s children being told in school by friends that Trump is going to remove all the gays from Alabama. These have all occurred in the last week here in Tuscaloosa. They may not be hate crimes per the current statutes of the law, but they carry with them pain and anguish.
The KKK in North Carolina is planning on hosting a victory parade in Trump’s honor. The Alabama Klan has come out publicly stating they are going to hold Trump accountable for his campaign promises to deport immigrants, ban Muslims, and repeal LGBT rights. But the White nationalists do not represent the White 70% of the 59 plus million who voted for Trump. But the White nationalists have benefitted from the collective vote that supports their agenda for oppression.
If your vote supports the oppression of others even if you voted your conscience for your personal reasons, then your vote supported racism. It is that simple and that complex.
I need to sit with that information and realize that I as a white person have some responsibility in these election results. I did not speak to my relatives of my concerns regarding a Trump presidency. I did not tell my relatives that if they loved me and supported my life as a gay man, that they should consider not voting for Trump. I didn’t, because if I did, then I would have to contemplate that my relatives do not in fact love me for who I am. That fact would be too painful for me to face. Despite all their verbal assurances that they do, their actions shout no. So I would prefer not hearing them say the words that they would prefer a Trump presidency over the safety of a gay relative. Did you tell your relatives—that a Trump presidency would endanger the life of your gay minister or your trans friends in this congregation? Or your friends of color? Or your Muslim friends? Or your immigrant friends?
But the individuals who voted for Trump are not going to be able to hear that a vote for Trump was a vote for racism. Not going to hear it because standing in their shoes, they believe that Trump finally heard their cry for help. They see their ability to earn a livable wage and to give their children a better life than they had, slipping away. Their concerns are not, in their essence, based in racism; they are based in economic realities. The median income finally rose this year to just over $56.5K[iii] but its buying power is still less than it was in 1999[iv]. The hard truth is that for millions of people in this country, they are hurting. No matter what they have done to try to get ahead they are thwarted in their attempts. My colleague, the Rev. Daniel O’Connell noted that half of the country ‘finally feels heard and the other half feels a deep and anxious fear for their future.’
I also know there is a desire to self-differentiate myself from the 58% of White voters who voted for Trump. I don’t want marginalized people, who do not know me, wondering if I voted for Trump because I am white. My age group voted overwhelmingly for Trump. So I want to differentiate myself. So I get it when others want to send some sort of signal, some sort of sign that says, I did not vote like the rest of my white family and neighbors. Should you decide to wear some symbol as a sign, a blue finger nail or safety pin, be ready to back that symbol up with some actions. Don’t wear them and then remain silent when the racist or sexist comment is made. Don’t wear them and then turn a blind eye when you see a person being discriminated against because they wear a hajib or are Black or Brown. Don’t wear them and then walk on by when you see someone being attacked.
I don’t know what the future holds. I appreciated Clinton’s concession speech. I appreciated Obama’s comments on the election and the smooth transition of power that he is in the process of ensuring. I even appreciated Trump’s acceptance speech which, if that was the first time I heard him speak, I would have thought wow, what a classy guy, praising his opponent and all. But that was not what he shared on the campaign trail. He made threats to prosecute his opponent if he was elected. He made threats against me and people like me, he made threats against my immigrant friends, those here with visas and greed cards and those undocumented, he made threats against my Muslim friends, and he made threats against my black friends. I can only assume that he now intends to follow through on these threats.
So what now in light of this turn of events in our nation’s history? We, as a congregation seek to love one another all the more. We find ways to differentiate ourselves from every other predominant white congregation in Tuscaloosa County so when people come here to visit, know that they have visited someplace unique and special and most importantly safe. That they will know our principles and our personal creeds are not just lip service but is indeed who we are in our most inner being.
As I stated I do not have a crystal ball to predict what is coming down the pike with a Trump presidency. We live in one of the most conservative states in the union. But every fiber in my being tells me that we are going to need one another more than ever if we are going to thrive in this brave new world. This means your support is needed more than ever to ensure that this congregation is able to support you in the days ahead. Support and nurture your inherent worth and dignity. Support your ability to develop justice, equity, and compassion in your relations. Support your free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Support your right of conscience and the democratic process. Support your work towards developing community with peace, liberty and justice for all. And support the well-being of your spirit. Blessed Be
What Now? 13 November 2016 © Rev. Fred L Hammond delivered to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tuscaloosa.
We attempted to live stream the sermon and discovered that the internet bandwidth was insufficient. So the video below is severely pixeled but the audio is relatively ok by comparison.