by Ahmad Greene-Hayes
[Photo: Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press]
“Look at what they did to my sister! Last century, last week,” laments Jamila Woods in her newest album HEAVN. The neurotic cry of racial-sexual violence blares the silences and the white noise of both pre- and post-election America crush the ear gates of black and brown, queer, trans, and womyn Americans. A white nationalist, xenophobic, homophobic, sexist, and ableist man named Donald J. Trump is now president-elect of the United States. Among his many crimes and sins, however, one is often ignored even as it disturbs the mental and spiritual fortitudes and psyches of so many in our world.
Trump is an alleged child rapist, a harasser of women’s bodies and autonomies, and the contemporary manifestation of the Thomas Jeffersons, Klansmen, and white vigilante rapists of our American past and present. When he speaks, he conjures the sadistic imaginaries of racial-sexual terrorists and he lambasts survivors and marginalized folks with both boldness and might.
Without doubt, I am troubled by the realities that permeate our current political moment, but I am also not surprised. The American presidency, which emerged out of the colonial imaginary of white male domination, the pillaging of indigenous land and people, and the brutalization and enslavement of African bodies, is rooted in racial-sexual terrorism. In fact, there is no United States lest there is the rape and dehumanization of black and brown people.
And even as the American people bear witness to Donald Trump’s truth (or falsehood) as racist, alleged rapist, America—and white America specifically—allowed him to rise, like white Jesus, to the highest political office in the United States of America. Propped up by the religious right, white Evangelicals, and white people of all classes, Trump’s racist, alleged rapist identity was fortified by manipulation of scripture (i.e. “God has called Trump for such a time as this”), a neoliberal Democratic failure, the Clinton campaign’s elevation of Trump with its “pied piper” strategy, and the consistent inability for Democrats and Progressive politicians, to stand on the side of the oppressed. Indeed, after Trump’s election to the presidency, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren among many others have recommended giving Trump “an open mind.” But alas, so many of us cannot give an open mind to a racist, alleged rapist, and far more stand between life and death, or are already dead, murdered by racism and rape.
And even as racist, alleged rapist Trump disturbs us, we need not situate Hillary Clinton as a white savior able to rectify and dismantle the structural and tangible realities of racial-sexual terrorism. As I have previously argued, along with so many others, white women also perform white male acts of violence. Clinton was soon to re-do this work as President, even as she performed these acts as Secretary of State (Just look at her track record with black and brown women in Haiti and Honduras, for example. Or with incarcerated women on Rikers Island).
We should also pay attention to how so much of our political moment disregards children. Children don’t vote, but they will be devastatingly impacted by Trump, especially if he not only allegedly rapes children but deports them, calls them “illegals,” threatens to beat them up for saying that their black lives matter, or dehumanizes them for being gay or disabled or differently abled.
Even still, I am unwilling to put all blame for our collective mistreatment of children entirely on Trump.
After her painful defeat, Clinton gave a speech at the Children’s Defense Fund’s “Beat the Odds” Gala, in which she stated, “We have work to do, and for the sake of our children and our families and our country, I ask you to stay engaged, stay engaged on every level. We need you. America needs you, your energy, your ambition, your talent. That is how we get through this.”
And yet, many fail to recall that it was the Clintons who ended Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), a federal assistance program created by the Social Security Act (SSA) and administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that provided federal assistance to children whose families had low or no income.
The Clintons, then, gave an “open mind” to a Republican Congress, and again, our children suffered. Black and brown children suffered. So many poor folks suffered in ways comparable, but in no ways equivalent, to how Trump led a racist campaign against the Central Park Five (group of young black and brown boys) just seven years prior to the eradication of AFDC in 1996.
Indeed, our children have been handed a future that is not only dim, but its promise (or lack thereof) is stained by the blood of both America’s past and present, which blur as Democrats and Republicans teeter the same line of dishonesty, cowardice, and corruption.
The surprise, then, at Trump’s election by white liberals and the black and brown middle class functions as a reinscription of violence over and over again on the bodies of the most vulnerable: the poor; those who are queer and transgender; babies in Flint, Michigan; bedridden black grandmothers in the Lowcountry; and a host of others whose realities many of us never pay attention to, or we blatantly ignore, because of our class privileges and proximities to whiteness.
What remains clear, though, is that an openly racist, alleged rapist could be elected President of the United States of America, because America itself is a racist-rapist nation. We live in a country where former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw could rape 13 or more black women, and where women, especially black and brown women whose ancestors were raped by white male elites sanctioned by the U.S. nation-state, are disallowed from making their own reproductive health choices to this day. Racial-sexual terrorism is America, and Trump is its new leader.
Even as white liberals cry and lament Trump with more fervor than they would ever mourn Tamir Rice, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, and Sandra Bland; or cry with and for our indigenous co-laborers in North Dakota; or even our Latinx kin who have been deported under Obama’s regime, what is undoubtedly apparent to those of us who have been living under white nationalism is that white tears will not save us, nor will white Jesus, nor will white liberals, nor will white Evangelicals. What will save us, though, is a doing away with whiteness writ-large.
The long road to freedom and justice ahead beckons us to divest from white saviorism, the falsity of American democracy, and the wickedness of neoliberalism. To do so we must instead invest in the conjured wisdoms of African foremothers and forefathers who said, “before I’ll be a slave, I’ll be buried in my grave and go home to my Lord and be free.” Yes, we must tap into the well of life within each of ourselves and render fugitive blackness, or maroon blackness, our self-sustenance.
Trumpism is an Americanism, and because we saw Trumpism in Ferguson on August 9, 2014, I turn to the words of the freedom fighters of the Mike Brown rebellion who chanted, “the whole damn system is guilty as hell.” Those queer and trans black women taught us that before we can acknowledge our hell(s), we must “indict and convict” the racist, alleged rapists who stand before us upholding evil. We must also re-imagine the prophetic black radical tradition, such that we are no longer interested in working with the master’s tools, having a seat at the master’s table, or doing the emotional work of repackaging damaged “democratic” goods for faux liberation. We must “be like trees planted by the rivers of water,” or as Shirley Chisholm observed, “unbought, unbossed.”
About the author: Ahmad Greene-Hayes is the founder of Children of Combahee and a PhD student in the Departments of Religion and African American Studies at Princeton University. Follow him on Twitter @_BrothaG.