Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison and comedian and political commentator Larry Wilmore have both written compelling essays in the aftermath of Donald Trump becoming president-elect. Theirs are among 16 published by the New Yorker, that offers each writer’s perspective on Trump’s America.
In her essay titled, “Mourning for Whiteness,” Morrison asserts Trump’s win was based on “cowardice”; White Americans fear of losing White privilege.
She writes in part:
Unlike any nation in Europe, the United States holds whiteness as the unifying force. Here, for many people, the definition of “Americanness” is color.
In order to limit the possibility of this untenable change, and restore whiteness to its former status as a marker of national identity, a number of white Americans are sacrificing themselves. They have begun to do things they clearly don’t really want to be doing, and, to do so, they are (1) abandoning their sense of human dignity and (2) risking the appearance of cowardice.
Embarrassing as the obvious display of cowardice must be, they are willing to set fire to churches, and to start firing in them while the members are at prayer. And, shameful as such demonstrations of weakness are, they are willing to shoot black children in the street.
These sacrifices, made by supposedly tough white men, who are prepared to abandon their humanity out of fear of black men and women, suggest the true horror of lost status.
In his essay titled, “The Birther of a Nation,” Wilmore shares he isn’t surprised Trump won his bid for the presidency. Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric, “incendiary words and images,” appealed to a certain segment of Americans who believed their country was stolen. He also writes in part:
I joked … Trump could win. I was immediately shouted down and told, in very funny terms, that I was out of my mind. It was then that my colleagues and I decided to title our coverage of the election “Blacklash 2016, the Unblackening.”
A little more than a hundred years ago, D. W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation” was screened at Woodrow Wilson’s White House. The film gave a distorted but sensational view of the Reconstruction South, where white heroes, in the form of the Ku Klux Klan, put uppity black villains back in their places. It was the Klan’s job to rescue white women from the black devils who were trying to rape them and create a mongrel race. The reality, of course, is that mixed-race Americans were largely the result of the cream being poured into the coffee, as it were, and not the other way around. But this lie — the myth of the black sexual predator — was powerful, both onscreen and off. It provoked a resurgence of the K.K.K., and reportedly led President Wilson to say that Griffith’s film was “like writing history with lightning, and my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.”
When Donald Trump expended so much effort not only criticizing President Obama but attempting to un-Americanize him, he was drawing a direct line from that horrible legacy to himself.
It appears that Obama’s biggest mistake was P.W.B., Presidenting While Black.