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Thursday, November 3, 2016

“We have been warned”

Trump's front page endorsement in the official newspaper
of the KuKluxKlan.
Robin Darling Young, a native of Hampton, Virginia, writes in Commonweal magazine about the frightening possibility that Trump has rekindled the spirit of white nationalism and race hatred that she knew so well in her youth. 

“To comprehend fully the anarchic spectacle of Donald Trump—a show unhindered by the guiding political and religious institutions of the United States—it helps to have been a young white woman growing up a half century ago, as I did, inside the border of the Old Confederacy.

“In my Tidewater hometown of Hampton, Virginia, democratic hopes were abundant. The twenty years after World War II had seen American progressivism pry open the old Southern social order and force it to admit black Americans.

“Southern integrationists expected that another generation or two would banish Jim Crow forever, more or less as the scourge of polio had yielded to Salk’s vaccine. Such things were inevitable, after all, like the ever-rising prosperity guaranteed by American industry and empire.

“What the progressives of my girlhood did not foresee was the postindustrial impoverishment of the working class; furthermore, even as the Republicans’ Southern Strategy captured the Old South, those same progressives failed to reckon with the lasting wages of America’s original sin.

“In time these two phenomena combined with ominous ramification. The crash of 2008 underscored the insecurity of the white working and middle classes, and in the context of this abiding insecurity, Trump’s slogan of “Make America Great Again” now clearly signals its real meaning: bring back white jobs, and with it white male power, to quell the threat of dark-skinned immigrants and the menace of black urban neighborhoods.

“Like the witch of Endor, Trump has the power to summon America’s undead, in the form of the white nationalists now relabeled the “alt-right.” Seizing the legacy of the new Southern Republicanism rooted in Richard Nixon’s cynical appeal to Dixiecrats, he has reanimated the race-hatred of the Old South.

“The success of Trump’s dog-whistle appeal to race comes as no surprise to someone who observed firsthand the satisfactions that white Southerners took in segregation.

“In my 1950s childhood, Confederate statues and flags sanctified the landscape throughout the South. My nursery-school class marched, battle-flags clutched in our hands, to commemorate Confederate Memorial Day.

Burned out black church in Mississippi
“My elementary school class watched Gone With The Wind during the Centennial. My Episcopalian parish featured a statue of a Confederate soldier in its graveyard, facing the town’s main street. My second-grade class excursion to Richmond included a devotional visit to Lee’s statue, where we learned that his boots had no spurs because the noble “General Lee would harm neither man nor beast.”

“At the time Virginia was fighting in vain to hold the line against miscegenation, its bitter defeat inscribed in the Supreme Court’s 1967 landmark ruling in Loving v. Virginia.

“Four decades after the last lynching in the state in 1926—which occurred after a white woman gave birth to a “mixed” baby and named a black man as the father—racial lines remained clear, and white women and black men knew all too well that they must not touch in public. Yet everyone also knew that the paler, blue-eyed blacks among us had come from precisely such unions….

“Though Donald Trump’s path to victory appears increasingly narrow as the election approaches, his ascendancy to the Republican nomination—boosted by his coded segregationist rhetoric—has left a mark on American politics.

“Even if he loses, he’s emboldened the dormant monster of white supremacy, in part by nurturing a pernicious lie that played to white resentment at the election of a black president.

“Assessing the significance of Trump’s appeal, John Cassidy, writing in The New Yorker, warned of a “long-term Trumpian movement —a nationalist, nativist, protectionist, and authoritarian movement that will forever be associated with him, but which also has the capacity to survive beyond him.”

“While Trump himself might lack the discipline of a serious candidate, Cassidy reasoned, another leader could arise in four or eight years to lead a movement like the Know Nothings of the 1840s or the America First Committee of the 1930s.”

We have been warned.