Rev. William J. Barber, II writes: On election night I felt a great sadness for America — not a Democratic or Republican sadness, but a sadness for the heart and soul of the nation. It is impossible to react to the election of Donald Trump with anything less than moral outrage. Trump is, as David Remnick wrote for The New Yorker, “vulgarity unbounded,” and his election has not only struck fear in the hearts of the vulnerable but also given rise to hundreds of documented cases of harassment and intimidation.
Trump ran his campaign sensing the feeling of dispossession and anxiety among millions of voters — white voters, in the main. And many of those voters — not all, but many — followed Trump because he was willing to trumpet their fury and affirm their sense, deeply rooted in this nation’s history of race and class, that a new world had conspired against their interests. Trump offered no answers to their fears. He merely said, “You are right to be afraid and very afraid. Obama is the bogeyman of coming diversity that will undo the world you grew up knowing, and I alone can save you.”
While we do, indeed, face a dire situation, this is not new. Trumpism is as American as apple pie. There could be no Donald Trump without America’s first black president. Brother Van Jones got it right on election night: we experienced a “whitelash.” And we must be clear: every stride toward freedom in U.S. history has been met with this same backlash.
We faced it during Reconstruction, in the shadow of slavery and amid the wreckage of the Civil War. African Americans joined hands with whites in the North and in the South who were willing to see one another as allies. Within four years after the end of the Civil War, white and black alliances controlled every state house in the South. Together, they elected new leaders. Almost all of the southern legislatures were controlled by either a predominantly black alliance or a strong interracial fusion coalition. They hammered out new constitutions from a deeply moral perspective. [Continue reading…]