Shock. Outrage. Fear. Despair. Confusion. Disappointment. All of these emotions and more are certainly justifiable for those of us who advocate a progressive understanding of the gospel story. On Tuesday, we were quite certain that we would be helping elect the first female president of the United States. Early Wednesday morning, our desires and dreams were dashed as the Electoral College math indicated that Donald Trump would be our new president-elect.
Progressives immediately began attempting to figure out why the election results had not matched up with the polling data. Perhaps the first to be blamed were the over 40 percent of Americans who had not cast a ballot and made their voice heard. Second to be blamed might have been those who voted for a third party because they believed in the false equivalency that Mr. Trump and Secretary Clinton were equally bad candidates. Fingers were also pointed at the Democratic Party itself for nominating such a scandal-ridden candidate.
Certainly fingers may point until their are no more fingers left with which to point, but I continue to ask myself: who are these individuals who voted for Trump? Who are these neighbors of mine?
This question keeps echoing in my head. I do not know how to process these events because in my answer to this Sunday school question, my neighbors were always those who looked different from me. Loving your neighbor as yourself meant loving those who looked different and were different. And while I do not mean to suggest that such an answer is wrong, this election has raised a question as to whether or not my neighbor is also someone who looks a lot like me.
Perhaps my neighbors are white and a majority of them are men, although by no means exclusively. They are battered and bruised and lying on the ground, beaten to a pulp from their own fear and anxiety. Whether their situation is ill founded or of their own making they are lying on the side of the road missing out on the joys of the diversity of God’s creation, which they blame for their struggles.
I hear the news pundits saying that these are the “Forgotten Men” and the “Forgotten Women” in the American landscape. Certainly I have forgotten about them, or perhaps I have tried to block them out of my memory. Their faces have been blotted out and replaced with the words “racist,” “homophobe,” “xenophobe,” “sexist,” etc.
This election, however, has given me new eyes to remember their faces. They look like me. I simply look into the mirror and I see these forgotten men and women. I see the very face of the people who elected a man who was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. Trump is the product, not of a particular segment of “White America,” but of White America in its totality. This is every white American’s fault, and that is devastating to me.
There is certainly a time for grief and mourning, but that time must be quick. Our privilege as white Americans shields us from the realities of being a person of color in this country. We have a luxury that minorities do not.
After seeing a reported spike in hateful rhetoric toward people of color in the past few days, our call is clear. We must be vigilant in our protection of minority bodies as well as committed in our concerted effort to fix the problem within our white communities. This problem must be addressed and must be fixed in its totality. Damn moderation. We cannot compromise for the sake of white comfort while the actual lives of others hang in the balance.