[News] Trump Says Go Back, We Say Fight Back

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Nov 16 11:07:40 EST 2016

*Trump Says Go Back, We Say Fight Back*

Robin D. G. Kelley

Nov 15, 2016

If we are to keep the enormity of the forces aligned against us from 
establishing a false hierarchy of oppression, we must school ourselves 
to recognize that any attack against Blacks, any attack against women, 
is an attack against all of us who recognize that our interests are not 
being served by the systems we support. Each one of us here is a link in 
the connection between antipoor legislation, gay shootings, the burning 
of synagogues, street harassment, attacks against women, and resurgent 
violence against Black people.

—Audre Lorde, “Learning from the 60s”

Donald J. Trump’s election was a national trauma, an epic catastrophe 
that has left millions in the United States and around the world in a 
state of utter shock, uncertainty, deep depression, and genuine fear. 
The fear is palpable and justified, especially for those Trump and his 
acolytes targeted—the undocumented, Muslims, anyone who “looks” 
undocumented or Muslim, people of color, Jews, the LGBTQ community, the 
disabled, women, activists of all kinds (especially Black Lives Matter 
and allied movements resisting state-sanctioned violence), trade unions. 
. . . the list is long. And the attacks have begun; as I write these 
words, reports of hate crimes and racist violence 
are flooding my inbox.

The common refrain is that no one expected this. (Of course, the truth 
is that many people did expect this, just not in the elite media.) At no 
point, this refrain goes, could “we” imagine Trump in the Oval office 
surrounded by a cabinet made up of some of the most idiotic, corrupt, 
and authoritarian characters in modern day politics—Rudolph Giuliani, 
Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, John Bolton, Ben Carson, 
Jeff Sessions, David “Blue Lives Matter” Clarke, Joe Arpaio, to name a 
few. Meanwhile, paid professional pundits are scrambling to peddle their 
analyses and to normalize the results—on the same broadcast media that 
helped deliver Trump’s victory by making him their ratings-boosting 
spectacle rather than attending to issues, ideas, and other candidates 
(e.g., Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein). They deliver the same old 
platitudes: disaffected voters, angry white men who have suffered 
economically and feel forgotten, Trump’s populist message represented 
the nation’s deep-seated distrust of Washington, ad infinitum. Some 
liberal pundits have begun to speak of President-Elect Trump as 
thoughtful and conciliatory, and some even suggest that his 
unpredictability may prove to be an asset. The protests are premature or 
misplaced. All of this from the same folks who predicted a Clinton victory.

This election was a referendum on whether the United States will be a 
straight, white nation reminiscent of the mythic “old days” when armed 
white men ruled.

But the outcome should not have surprised us. This election was, among 
other things, a referendum on whether the United States will be a 
straight, white nation reminiscent of the mythic “old days” when armed 
white men ruled, owned their castle, boasted of unvanquished military 
power, and everyone else knew their place. Henry Giroux’s new book 
/America at War With Itself/ 
<http://www.citylights.com/book/?GCOI=87286100277470> made this point 
with clarity and foresight two months before the election. The easy 
claim that Trump appeals to legitimate working-class populism driven by 
class anger, Giroux argues, ignores both the historical link between 
whiteness, citizenship, and humanity, and the American dream of wealth 
accumulation built on private property. Trump’s followers are not trying 
to redistribute the wealth, nor are they all “working class”—their 
annual median income is about $72,000. On the contrary, they are 
attracted to Trump’s wealth as metonym of an American dream that they, 
too, can enjoy once America is “great” again—which is to say, once the 
country returns to being “a white MAN’s country.” What Giroux identifies 
as “civic illiteracy” keeps them convinced that the descendants of 
unfree labor or the colonized, or those who are currently unfree, are to 
blame for America’s decline and for blocking their path to Trump-style 

For the white people who voted overwhelmingly for Trump, their candidate 
embodied the anti-Obama backlash. Pundits who say race was not a factor 
point to rural, predominantly white counties that went for Obama in 2008 
and 2012, but now went for Trump, and to the low black and Latinx voter 
turnout. However, turnout was down overall, not just among African 
Americans. Post-election analysis shows that as a percentage of total 
votes the black vote dropped 
only 1 percent compared with the 2012 election, even while the number of 
black ballots counted decreased by nearly 11 percent. (Why this happened 
is beyond the scope of this essay, but one might begin with Greg 
Palast’s findings <http://www.gregpalast.com/election-stolen-heres/> 
about voter suppression and the use of “crosscheck” to invalidate 
ballots.) Moreover, claims that nearly a third of Latinxs went for Trump 
have been disputed by the website Latino Decision 
whose careful research puts the figure at 18 percent. The turnout does 
not contradict the fact that Trump drew the clear majority of white 
votes. This is not startling news.

If history is our guide, “whitelash” usually follows periods of expanded 
racial justice and democratic rights. In the aftermath of 
Reconstruction, there were many instances in which southern white men 
switched from the biracial, abolitionist Republicans to the “redeemers,” 
whether it be the Democrats or, in states like Texas, the “White Man’s 
Party.” (No ambiguity there.) Or in the 1880s and ’90s, when white 
Populists betrayed their Black Populist allies in a united struggle to 
redistribute railroad land grants to farmers, reduce debt by inflating 
currency, abolish private national banks, nationalize railroads and 
telegraphs, and impose a graduated income tax to shift the burden onto 
the wealthy, among other things. Many of these one-time white “allies” 
joined the Ku Klux Klan, defeated the Lodge Force Bill of 1890 which 
would have authorized federal supervision of elections to protect black 
voting rights, and led the efforts to disfranchise black voters. Or the 
late 1960s, when vibrant struggles for black, brown, American Indian, 
Asian American, gay and lesbian, and women’s liberation, the anti-war 
movement, and student demands for a democratic revolution were followed 
by white backlash and the election of Richard Nixon—whose rhetoric of 
“law and order” and the “silent majority” Trump shamelessly plagiarized.

“Whitelash” usually follows periods of expanded racial justice and 
democratic rights.

Of course, Hilary Clinton did win the popular vote, and some are 
restoring to the easy lament that, were it not for the arcane Electoral 
College (itself a relic of slave power 
we would not be here. One might add, too, that had it not been for the 
gutting of the Voting Rights Act opening the door for expanded 
strategies of voter suppression, or the permanent disfranchisement of 
some or all convicted felons in ten states, or the fact that virtually 
all people currently in cages cannot vote at all, or the persistence of 
misogyny in our culture, we may have had a different outcome. This is 
all true. But we cannot ignore the fact that the vast majority of white 
men and a /majority of white women/, across class lines, voted for a 
platform and a message of white supremacy, Islamophobia, misogyny, 
xenophobia, homophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-science, anti-Earth, 
militarism, torture, and policies that blatantly maintain income 
inequality. The vast majority of people of color voted against Trump, 
with black women registering the highest voting percentage for Clinton 
of any other demographic (93 percent). It is an astounding number when 
we consider that her husband’s administration oversaw the virtual 
destruction of the social safety net by turning welfare into workfare, 
cutting food stamps, preventing undocumented workers from receiving 
benefits, and denying former drug felons and users access to public 
housing; a dramatic expansion of the border patrol, immigrant detention 
centers, and the fence on Mexico’s border; a crime bill that escalated 
the war on drugs and accelerated mass incarceration; as well as NAFTA 
and legislation deregulating financial institutions.

Still, had Trump received only a third of the votes he did and been 
defeated, we still would have had ample reason to worry about our future.

I am not suggesting that white racism alone explains Trump’s victory. 
Nor am I dismissing the white working class’s very real economic 
grievances. It is not a matter of disaffection /versus/ racism or sexism 
/versus/ fear. Rather, racism, class anxieties, and prevailing gender 
ideologies operate together, inseparably, or as Kimberlé Crenshaw would 
say, intersectionally. White working-class men understand their plight 
through a racial and gendered lens. For women and people of color to 
hold positions of privilege or power /over/ them is simply unnatural and 
can only be explained by an act of unfairness—for example, affirmative 
action. White privilege is taken for granted to the point where it need 
not be named and can’t be named. So, as activist/scholar Bill Fletcher 
recently observed 
even though Trump’s call to deport immigrants, close the borders, and 
reject free trade policies appealed to working-class whites’ discontent 
with the effects of globalization, Trump’s plans do not amount to a 
rejection of neoliberalism. Fletcher writes, “Trump focused on the 
symptoms inherent in neoliberal globalization, such as job loss, but his 
was not a critique of neoliberalism. He continues to advance 
deregulation, tax cuts, anti-unionism, etc. He was making no systemic 
critique at all, but the examples that he pointed to from wreckage 
resulting from economic and social dislocation, resonated for many 
whites who felt, for various reasons, that their world was collapsing.” 
Yet Fletcher is quick not to reduce white working-class support for 
Trump to class fears alone, adding, “This segment of the white 
population was looking in terror at the erosion of the American Dream, 
but they were looking at it through the prism of race.”

Racism, class anxieties, and prevailing gender ideologies operate 
together, inseparably, and intersectionally.

A /New York Times/ poll 
shows that Trump supporters identified immigration and terrorism, not 
the economy, as the two most important issues in the campaign. 
Immigration and terrorism are both about race—Mexicans and Muslims. That 
there are “illegal” immigrants from around the globe, including Canada, 
Israel, and all over Europe doesn’t matter: anti-immigrant movements 
target those who can be racially profiled. And while Trump’s America 
fears “terrorism,” it does not disavow homegrown terrorist organizations 
such as the Ku Klux Klan, despite the fact that white nationalist 
movements are responsible for the majority of violent terrorist attacks 
on U.S. soil. On the contrary, Trump was not only endorsed by white 
nationalists and U.S.-based fascists, but during the campaign he refused 
to renounce their support, and Trump’s leading candidate for attorney 
general, Rudy Giuliani, has openly called 
Black Lives Matter “terrorists.”

So where do we go from here? If we really care about the world, our 
country, and our future, we have no choice but to resist. We need to 
reject a thoroughly bankrupt Democratic Party leadership that is calling 
for conciliation and, in Obama’s words, “rooting for [Trump’s] success.” 
Pay attention: Trump’s success means mass deportation; massive military 
spending; the continuation and escalation of global war; a conservative 
Supreme Court poised to roll back /Roe v. Wade/, marriage equality, and 
too many rights to name here; a justice department and FBI dedicated to 
growing the Bush/Obama-era surveillance state and waging 
COINTELPRO-style war on activists; fiscal policies that will accelerate 
income inequality; massive cuts in social spending; the weakening or 
elimination of the Affordable Care Act; and
the partial dismantling and corporatization of government.

What must resistance look like? There are at least five things we have 
to do right now:

*1. /Build up the sanctuary movement/.*

In the 1980s, when nearly one million refugees fled U.S.-backed 
dictatorships in Guatemala and El Salvador, churches offered shelter, 
sanctuary, and assistance to those seeking political asylum, and over 
thirty cities were subsequently designated “sanctuary cities” by their 
local governments. The Obama administration’s deportations of 
undocumented workers rebooted the sanctuary movement, along with a 
vibrant immigrant rights movement that pushed the president to use 
executive authority to launch the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals 
(DACA) program and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and 
Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). Trump has vowed to end both programs, 
leaving some five million immigrants vulnerable to deportation and 
identifiable through their applications, and he has promised to 
immediately cut all federal funding for sanctuary cities. To those who 
argue that millions of undocumented people are not “political refugees,” 
I counter that Trump’s war on immigrants is driven entirely by his quest 
to take power—they will become casualties of his political machinations. 
Some states have already outlawed the longstanding principle of 
sanctuary status, but this should not deter us from strengthening and 
expanding the sanctuary movement to other institutions. For example, 
many of us who work in the University of California system are working 
to turn our campuses into sanctuaries—preferably with legal and 
administrative backing. But even without the law behind us, we must act 
on moral principle.

*2. /Defend all of our targeted communities./*

We must defend against hate crimes, Islamophobia, anti-black racism, 
attacks on queer and trans people, and the erosion of reproductive 
rights. There is no need to reinvent the wheel since there are already 
hundreds of organizations across the country dedicated to the fight, 
including INCITE: Women of Color Against Violence 
<http://incite-national.org/>, Radical Women 
<http://www.radicalwomen.org/index.shtml>, the Immigrant Solidarity 
Network <http://www.immigrantsolidarity.org/>, the Praxis Project 
<https://www.facebook.com/The-Praxis-Project-47086345822/>, the Praxis 
Center <http://www.kzoo.edu/praxis/>, CAAAV: Organizing Asian 
Communities <http://caaav.org/>, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant 
Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) <http://www.chirla.org/>, the African 
American Policy Forum <http://www.aapf.org/>, the Network Against 
and Causa Justa <http://cjjc.org/>, to name only a few. One of the main 
targets of attack, of course, is the Movement for Black Lives 
<http://action.movementforblacklives.org/>, along with the dozens of 
organizations upon which it was built—Black Lives Matter, the Dream 
Defenders, Million Hoodies, Black Youth Project 100, Malcolm X 
Grassroots Movement, We Charge Genocide, and Black Organizing for 
Leadership and Dignity (BOLD), among others. We need to support these 
movements and institutions, financially and by doing the work. And we 
must defend the political and cultural spaces that enable us to plot, 
plan, build community and sustain social movements. Here in Los Angeles 
this means spaces such as the L.A. Black Workers Center, the 
Labor/Community Strategy Center and its new community space, Strategy 
and Soul, the L.A. Community Action Network, the Southern California 
Library for Social Studies and Research, the Community Coalition, and 
Revolutionary Autonomous Communities, among many others. In New York we 
can point to Decolonize This Place; in Detroit, the Boggs Center; in St. 
Louis, Organization for Black Struggle, and so on. There are literally 
hundreds of centers around the country building for local power, and 
while none were immune to state surveillance in the past, we can expect 
heightened monitoring and outright attacks under this extreme right-wing 
regime. Now is not the time to retreat to our identity silos. We need 
solidarity more than ever, recognizing that all solidarities are 
imperfect, often fragile, temporary, and always forged in struggle and 
sustained through hard work. In our state of emergency, political 
disagreements, slights, misunderstandings, and microaggressions should 
not prohibit us from fighting for peoples rights, privileges, and lives.

*3. /Stop referring to the South as a political backwater, a distinctive 
site of racist right-wing reaction/.*

First, white supremacy, homophobia, and anti-union attitudes are 
national, not regional, problems. Second, black and multiracial groups 
in the South are at the forefront of resisting Trump’s authoritarian 
agenda and building power outside the mainstream Democratic Party. Among 
them are Project South <http://projectsouth.org/>, Southerners on New 
Ground (SONG) <http://southernersonnewground.org/>, the Moral Mondays 
Movement, Kindred: Southern Healing Justice Collective 
<http://www.kindredhealingjustice.org/>, Jackson Rising 
in Mississippi, Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) in Louisville, 
Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Atlanta, and the Georgia Latino 
Alliance for Human Rights.

The frontline battles that preceded Trump’s election must not be 
abandoned. On the contrary, they need to be strengthened. We must 
redouble our fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline and support the 
Standing Rock Sioux Nation’s historic resistance. There is no question 
that Trump’s election has further empowered the corporation behind the 
pipeline—the Texas-based Fortune 500 company Energy Transfer Partners—to 
continue the build no matter what the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or 
the Obama Justice Department says. We need to recognize Standing Rock as 
not only a struggle for environmental justice but an episode in Native 
people’s five-hundred-year resistance to colonialism. And speaking of 
colonialism, the crisis in Puerto Rico has not abated—not in the least. 
As I write, Puerto Ricans on the island and in the U.S. mainland are 
using every means at their disposal to resist PROMESA 
the U.S. plan that empowers a seven-member, unelected board to impose 
austerity measures as a way of restructuring its debt—measures that 
include wage reductions, selling off public assets, altering retirement 
plans for public employees, and fast-tracking changes even if they 
violate existing laws.

*4/. Support and deepen the anti-Klan and anti-fascist movement./*

We must especially support groups such as Southern Poverty Law Center 
<https://www.splcenter.org/>, which has been on the frontlines of this 
movement for decades. Although the fight against white supremacist 
organizations has been continual since the 1860s, the federal government 
has never successfully outlawed the Klan and similar vigilante groups 
(although in the 1950s the state of Alabama succeeded in outlawing the 
NAACP). With Trump’s election we are likely to see a surge in white 
nationalist and other right-wing terrorism, including attacks on black 
churches, synagogues, mosques, abortion clinics; and against non-white, 
queer, and trans people and immigrants. Some on the left will argue that 
resisting the so-called “alt-right” is a secondary issue since these are 
fringe movements and building class unity across racial lines ought to 
be our priority. But with the memory of Colorado Springs and Charleston 
seared into our memory, this argument rings hollow. And while President 
Obama’s poignant rendition of “Amazing Grace” at Reverend Clementa 
Pinckney’s funeral moved much of the nation, the truth is that it is 
easier to pass laws criminalizing organizations that support the boycott 
of businesses and institutions complicit in Israel’s illegal occupation 
of Palestine than it is to outlaw the Ku Klux Klan.

*5. /Rebuild the labor movement/.*

As obvious as this may seem, the entire labor movement is under attack 
on a global scale. Today labor unions are portrayed as corrupt, bloated, 
a drain on the economy, and modern-day cartels that threaten workers’ 
“liberty.” Corporations and the CEOs who run them are portrayed as the 
most efficient and effective mode of organization. In our neoliberal 
age, emergency financial managers are sent in to replace elected 
government during real or imagined economic crises; charter schools 
organized along corporate lines are replacing public schools; 
universities are being restructured along corporate lines with 
presidents increasingly functioning like CEOs; and a businessman with a 
checkered record, a history of improprieties and legal violations and 
allegations of sexual assault, and no experience whatsoever in 
government is elected president.

Today’s economic debates focus not on alternatives to capitalism but on 
what kind of capitalism—capitalism with a safety net for the poor or one 
driven by extreme free-market liberalization? A capitalism in which the 
state’s role is to bail out big banks and financial institutions, or one 
where the state imposes (or rather restores) greater regulation in order 
to avoid economic crises? In both of these scenarios, a weakened labor 
movement is a given. The once-powerful unions are doing little more than 
fighting to restore basic collective bargaining rights and deciding how 
much they are going to give back. Union leaders are struggling just to 
participate in crafting austerity measures. In the New Deal era, the 
state’s efforts to save capitalism centered on Keynesian strategies of 
massive state expenditures in infrastructure, job creation, a social 
safety net in the form of direct aid and social security, and certain 
protections for the right of unions to organize. All these measures were 
made possible by a strong labor movement. There was a level of militant 
organization that we did not see in our post-2008 collapse, in spite of 
Occupy Wall Street. While Occupy was massive, international, and built 
on preexisting social justice movements, it lacked the kind of 
institutional power base and political clout that organized labor had in 
the 1930s. Of course, labor unions have also been powerful engines of 
racial and gender exclusion, working with capital to impose glass 
ceilings and racially segmented wages, but the twenty-first-century 
labor movement has largely embraced principles of social justice, 
antiracism, immigrant rights, and cross-border strategies.

Obviously there is much missing here, like abolishing the Electoral 
College and continuing to wage a fight for local power in the 
legislative and electoral arenas as well as in the streets. Local 
campaigns to raise the minimum wage, for example, have not only produced 
key victories but served to mobilize people around issues of injustice 
and inequality. The sites of resistance will become clearer as the 
political situation becomes more concrete, especially after January 20.

Exposing whiteness for what it is—a foundational myth for the birth and 
consolidation of capitalism—is fundamental if we are to build a genuine 
social movement.

But I want to return to the white working class and how we might break 
the cycle of “whitelash.” First, we cannot change this country without 
winning over some portion of white working people, and I am not talking 
about gaining votes for the Democratic Party. I am talking about opening 
a path to freeing white people from the prison house of whiteness. True, 
with whiteness comes privilege, but many of the perceived privileges are 
inaccessible to most, which then generates resentment. Exposing 
whiteness for what it is—a foundational myth for the birth and 
consolidation of capitalism—is fundamental if we are to build a genuine 
social movement dedicated to dismantling the oppressive regimes of 
racism, heteropatriarchy, empire, and class exploitation that is at the 
root of inequality, precarity, materialism, and violence in many forms. 
I am not suggesting we ignore their grievances, but that we help white 
working people understand the source of their discontent—real and imagined.

Is this possible? The struggle to recruit the white working class is an 
old story. Black movement leaders have been trying to free white working 
people from the paltry wages of whiteness since Reconstruction, at 
least, and it seems to always end badly. This history is not necessarily 
legible because we tend to conflate populism and fascism with what Henry 
Giroux astutely identifies as authoritarianism. Populism is the idea 
that ordinary people ought to have the power to control their government 
and their communities, especially along lines that benefit the 
collective. In the 1880s and ’90s, the black populist movement adopted a 
vision of a new society based on cooperative economics. The great writer 
and activist Timothy Thomas Fortune gave their unique vision eloquent 
voice and plans for action in his book /Black and White: Land, Labor and 
Politics in the South/ (1884), which offered a path for the emancipation 
of the nation as a whole, not just black people. He attacked America’s 
betrayal of Reconstruction, identified monopoly and private ownership of 
land as the central source of inequality, and articulated a vision of a 
democratic, caring political economy based on equity and fairness. The 
National Colored Alliance members had advanced beyond printing more 
money or demanding free silver, adopting instead a more radical 
redistribution of wealth and power. They wanted more than a short-term 
alliance just to raise wages for picking cotton or reducing debt. But 
Fortune understood that a genuine cooperative commonwealth is not 
possible unless white workers and farmers join the movement. “The hour 
is approaching,” he wrote, “when the laboring classes of our country, 
North, East, West and South, will recognize that they have a /common 
cause/, a /common humanity/ and a /common enemy/; and that, therefore, 
if they would triumph over wrong and place the laurel wreath upon 
triumphant justice, without distinction of race or of previous condition 
/they must unite/!” Whatever unity they managed to create proved 
ephemeral. As in so many other scenarios, most whites chose white 
supremacy over liberation.

The lessons here are crucial. We cannot build a sustainable movement 
without a paradigm shift. Stopgap, utilitarian alliances to stop 
Trump aren’t enough. I concur with Giroux, who calls on all of us to 
wage “an anti-fascist struggle that is not simply about remaking 
economic structures, but also about refashioning identities, values, and 
social relations as part of a democratic project that reconfigures what 
it means to desire a better and more democratic future.”

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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