I’m coming around on the idea of safety pins. I realize I need to get over the relative privilege of living in a blue state where I don’t necessarily feel threatened every day (although even Connecticut isn’t immune, as folks at Staples High School can tell you). I’m lucky to be surrounded by communities of people who embody mutual support and respect. So it’s not that I’m hurting for allies or feeling unsafe in any palpable way.
I just need to know.
I need to know which of the white people in my life secretly voted for Trump.*
I single out white people, specifically, based on exit polls from last week’s election. Odds are extremely high that the people of color in my life did not vote for Trump.** And until last week, I would have been sure that the odds were similarly high for the white people in my life, simply by dint of the fact that they were even tangentially part of my life.
But that was before last week, when white people—white women in particular—proved overwhelming polling data wrong by tilting the electoral college for Trump. Obviously the shocking upsets in places like Michigan and Wisconsin were far outside the polling margins of error. But even here in Fairfield County, Trump got almost 40% of the vote. Those poor, disenfranchised white people.
That white people voted for Trump in such majorities is painful enough, but the thing that’s really getting to me is that so many of them did so in secret. That’s why I’m coming around on the safety pins. I’m seriously starting to unravel here. A co-worker smiles hello in the breakroom, and I’m suspicious. A former classmate shares something weird on social media, and I wonder. An in-law makes a dumb Hillary joke and catches my side-eye. I don’t know if they voted for Trump, and I’m not even sure I’d believe them if they tell me they didn’t. The election has made me a pseudo-racist conspiracy theorist.
Why do I need to know so badly? How will knowing change the way I feel about or interact with these people? Or will it? Or should it?
I don’t know yet.
What it would tell me is that these people heard a man crassly denigrate: women, immigrants, Muslims, minorities, LGBT people, and others—a man enthusiastically endorsed by the KKK—and then decided he was their guy.
What it would tell me is that they saw the anachronistic policy positions of his running mate, Mike Pence, and decided that this was the direction they wanted for the country.
What it would tell me is that Steve Bannon, the anti-Semitic white nationalist who ran Trump’s campaign and is now poised to hold a senior advisory position in the White House, was not too much of a problem for them.
And so on.
All this stuff is important for me to know, but it’s even more important for Trump’s Secret White Voters™ to admit. They need to come out of the closet, own their choices, confront reality. Hiding makes it seem as though they believe they did something wrong. I am more than willing to agree to disagree with folks—I’m not advocating ideological homogeneity—but first you have to be honest about what we disagree about. Don’t say one thing to my face and do the opposite in the voting booth.
And, yes, agreeing to disagree might mean agreeing to cut the pretense of acquaintanceship. I know there’ve been calls for reconciliation and coming together and all sorts of kumbaya, but a big part of reconciliation requires speaking the truth. For us to reconcile, we must both be able to acknowledge that you willingly voted for a racist troglodyte as President. This revelation upsets some white people, who object to any intimation that they might be racist or sexist. It’s not fair, they argue, because they don’t agree with those parts, only with the good parts, and besides, she’s a lying criminal. Listen, I know confronting our own prejudices can be upsetting, but that’s only because it requires confronting the truth. You can’t pick and choose the truth. I’m just the messenger, don’t ask me to make you feel good about yourself.
This is my stop. You’re standing on my neck.
Did you ever stop to imagine what might happen if he is actually able to implement some of his policies? Take marriage equality, for instance.*** It’s not quite the foregone conclusion you may think it is. Four Justices of the Supreme Court voted against it. All he needs is a fifth, and if things get real shitty, he might get a sixth or a seventh. Don’t tell me he doesn’t want to get rid of marriage equality, because, quite frankly, you don’t have a fucking clue. And neither do I. And, yes, dear Secret White Trump Voter, that scares me. I hope you can at least try to understand that.
Under normal circumstances, this is where we’d say we agree to disagree. That’s always been part of the story of Black history in America. Progress comes by incremental compromise. We agree to disagree. But this election is not normal, and I think it’s dangerous for us to pretend otherwise. Young, impressionable eyes are watching everything unfold. We cannot give them any impression that this is normal.
So, here we are, talking about safety pins. I totally get it now. Because I need to know. I *need* to know. If you are a white person in my life and you voted for him, I need to know. It might create an irreparable break in our interaction, but I think you’re okay with that, right? You saw and heard everything we saw and heard, and still you made your choice. Or maybe you weren’t fully informed when you cast your vote and are now regretting it, like so many Brexit voters. Tell you the truth, I’m not sure which is worse.
*For real-real I’d like to include any third-party votes and non-voters in this, but I’m trying to be as reasonable as possible.
**And this by no means attempts to excuse those who did. My message to them is simple: #YaBrainBroke
***Yes, I use an example that directly affects me, but I also want to note the importance of caring about an issue even if it doesn’t directly affect you. Empathy. Get you some.