A recent CNN poll says that 57 percent of white people do not feel hopeful about their future. White people are feeling “pessimistic” about themselves and the world. These same people are voting for Trump because he promises to “make America great again.” White people please!!!!!!!!!!! I really don’t know where to start on this one.
First I am always leery of open-ended, suggestive, push polls about how white Americans feel about anything. So what exactly is it that white people are feeling so “down and out” about and why? Can these same people identify any point in the past when they were feeling happy and on top of the world and what was going on then—especially for other groups. Were white people feeling just fine and dandy as the Native Americans were being marched across the country to Oklahoma and their land being taken by white Southerners? Where white people just happy as can be as thousands of Japanese were placed in concentration camps? Were white people the “happiest” just before the Civil War when America had 5 millions black slaves making white people rich? When exactly was America so great—and for whom? When was America at its greatest for African Americans? Would this be the same period when white Americans were feeling good about their future?
What do white people have to feel so pessimistic about anyway? Whose children will most likely go to college or otherwise get good jobs? Who runs America? How many white governors are there in America? When we look at the make-up of Congress do we not see a “sea of white faces?” When we look at local and state governments all across America what color faces do we see? Who owns most of the wealth in America? Who are the billionaires? Who are the CEOs at America’s top corporations—the people making $20 million a year? Who are our college teachers and professors? Who runs Hollywood? Who runs the NFL? Would the answer to all of these scenarios be two words–“white people?” So just what the hell are white people so pessimistic about? Do white teachers show up in classrooms all across America and teach with an attitude of pessimism? How exactly do you do that and expect children to desire to improve their lives? What about immigrant dreamers who see tremendous opportunity “here in America?” Why do these same pessimistic white people want these immigrants to go back home and take their optimism somewhere else?
I have been reading “How the French Think,” by Sudhir Hazareesingh and Chapter 10 gave me the answer to white America’s growing despair and pessimism. Chapter 10 is entitled, “The Closing of the French Mind.” It begins this way: “At the approach of the summer of 2013, a tidal wave of negativity swept across France. Opinion surveys showed that the French had become the “European champions of pessimism” with an overwhelmingly bleaker collective outlook about the future than any of their neighbors; polls consistently showed that more than two out of every three French men and women believed that their country was “in decline.” That chapter then goes on to forecast how this creeping pessimism ushered in some strange politics. It is this chapter that explains the rise of Donald Trump. Trump’s popularity and polls numbers can be explained in an eerie comparison between what is going on in America right now. This chapter explains how and why Trump is pandering and exploiting pessimism for his own purposes. Trump knows how to use white despair and “lack of hope.” Trump knows how to dig in and make white Americans feel so “gosh darn” bad that they would vote for him even if he shot someone. Trump know that when a nation feels that it is in decline because of immigrants and minorities especially, that reasons and thought go out the window and people blindly falls for claims of “believe me” and “just trust me.”
As a black woman in America I am having trouble wrapping my head around white pessimism. As a black woman with a collective net worth of minus five dollars I don’t share in Trump’s white America “doom and gloom.” If anyone on this planet should feel doom and gloom it should be black women. We have been abandoned by black men who knock us down to get to a white woman. We are on the front lines of every sort of negative marginalization that can be thrown our way, from negative television commercials, to selling pain—not love– in music videos. Black women’s tears are front and center when it comes to burying our children due to crime and violence. Black women should feel generalized despair over the treatment of Sandra Bland, pulled over for an “illegal lane change,” dressed in high heels shoes, but found dead in Texas jail hours later. We have reasons to feel “doom and gloom” socially and economically. But do we—hell no, we still show up and “show out.” And we are smart enough even in our despair not to drink Trump’s Kool Aid promise to make “America great again.” Our first question for Trump would be this: Exactly how were black women treated when America was at its greatest?
White Americans need to reassess their collective “woe is us,” we be “black and blue” mentality. White people cannot wear the “oh pity us” mask with any sense of legitimacy given America is still the land of white privilege. If there is indeed so much despair and fear of the future maybe you created it? Maybe some of the historical dirt you have done to other people is now landing on your own front porch. Maybe the high usage and deaths from heroin use in white America are “chickens coming home to roost.” How were black folks treated when they had drug problems—HUH! Did they get prime time coverage on Dr. Phil? Maybe white people are hiding behind feelings of despair and pessimism as a way of keeping their heads in the sand about America’s changing demographics. Maybe they are feeling pessimistic because there is nothing they can do about it—except to keep drinking the Trump kool Aid—and of course to “blame Obama and Obama’s mama.”
Copyright 2016 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.