The Inauguration of White Supremacy

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Trump’s cabinet has no Latinos, the first time that minority, which comprises 18 percent of Americans, is absent for twenty-five years. Trump famously accused Mexican-Americans of being the worst people, including in their ranks rapists and drug dealers and having been deliberately sent across the border by the Mexican government in what he apparently, bizarrely, views as a mammoth conspiracy.

Trump and his Neofascist counselors are wounded white men, who see Latinos and their immigration to the United States as a challenge to white dominance that must be stopped and reversed. Never mind that whiteness is a construct, and that Benjamin Franklin even excluded Germans like Trump from the category. And never mind that Latino immigration saved the US from aging and losing population (these are real problems besetting e.g. Japan), and kept it an economic powerhouse through their labor.

In this way of looking at things, Trump sees Muslim-Americans as Latinos on steroids and so even more threatening to his project of racial hierarchy.

Then yesterday Tom Barrack, in charge of the presidential inaugural committee explained why Kanye West was not asked to perform: “We haven’t asked him . . . He’s been great. He considers himself a friend of the president-elect, but it’s not the venue. The venue we have for entertainment is filled out. It’s perfect. It’s going to be typically and traditionally American.” Kanye seems to have been particularly objectionable because of his hip hop culture. Barrack’s and Trump’s idea of ‘traditionally American’ is obviously an ideal of whiteness, which, of course, is a fantasy. Some 5 percent of self-described white southerners have a recent African genetic heritage. Trump and his circle associate Blackness with crime and inner cities burning, accounting for Trump’s bizarre tweets at Civil Rights legend John Lewis.

Trump is bringing Steve Bannon, the CEO of the neo-Nazi trash “Breitbart,” into the White House. There is a reason for which white supremacists rejoiced at that appointment.

He is also trying to make Jeff Sessions attorney general, who is alleged to have branded the NAACP, an advocacy group for African-Americans, “un-American.”

Aren’t we beginning to see a pattern here? The Trump cabinet and hangers-on think people of northern European descent are the real Americans (though mind you, in the early twentieth century European groups like the Irish, Poles, and even Greeks were not seen as “white.”) In his high appointments, Trump has not completely excluded minorities. though these appointees are either clearly unqualified for the job (thus making the case for white supremacy in an ironic way) or tied so closely in with the white Washington Establishment as to be unthreatening.

Trump also famously has contempt for women across the board, white or not. His white nationalism and that of his Rasputin, Bannon, is in part about male supremacy. White males are the alpha cohort, who can at will grope strange women.

But as strong as the blatant racism and sexism of the Trump circle is, we should not forget social class. Class helps form or tell against “whiteness.” The Irish and Poles were not considered white when they first in part because came they did menial labor or were solidly working class. Whiteness was about middle and upper middle class privilege.

Trump’s cabinet is a cabinet of multi-millionaires and billionaires who think the poor and the working class are not rich because they are lazy, rather than seeing their economic struggles as deriving from not being employed enough or not being paid enough. Andrew Puzder, Trump’s pick for secretary of labor, doesn’t believe workers should get breaks and opposed all minimum wage hikes.

Trump and many of his close advisers and appointees stand for white privilege, for the rights of corporations manned by filthy rich self-described “whites” to rule us without let or hindrance, without regulation or consequence. On the surface, white nationalism attempts to make it look as though only minorities are munchers are targeted as freeloaders. But ultimately what they mean by “white” is people like themselves, multi-millionaires and billionaires. All the rest of us are in some sense “untraditional” or “unusual.” The surprise awaiting the working class Reagan Democrats is that Trump doesn’t think they are really white, either.

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Related video:

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13 Responses

  1. He is also trying to make Jeff Sessions attorney general, who is alleged to have branded the NAACP, an advocacy group for African-Americans, “un-American.”

  2. It seems Trump is “making America White again”, there are no Hispanics, Muslims, and a token black man. The signs are all bad, and this is not going to get better, unfortunately.

  3. The whole Trump official-and-unofficial crew of appointments and advisors — is Roger Ailes still talking to T. several times a week, is Russian tool Paul Manafort still getting an ear ? ? — is so completely unqualified and both self-and-mutually-contradictory, not to mention the whole question of whether T. is a bought-and-paid-for Russian tool, or just a silly Russian fool — the whole thing should fall into complete disarray, scandal and outrage in the first 3 months.

    Shouldn’t it, please dear god, shouldn’t it ??

  4. I’m hoping this white supremacy thing, is like a light bulb which gets brighter before it burns out, and then America replaces it with multicolored lights which will burn even brighter and ever longer than before.

  5. Debate about things that matter to ordinary citizens is the cornerstone of democracy. This Trump phenomenon can be viewed as a consequence of media abandoning its role as a forum for serious debate about issues of public concern in favour of minute by minute coverage of the latest gossip. Political acuity demands ongoing involvement or it drowns in ignorance, becoming like hearing distant debate in an unfamiliar language; it’s one of the ‘use it or lose it’ things. If it becomes impossible to attract people back to political awareness and serious debate then US democracy will have withered on the branch. Maybe Trump is a wake up call?

  6. But, wait!
    Melania tapped a little-known Hispanic designer for her inaugural debut!

    “Melania Trump on Thursday picked a little-known New York designer of Hispanic descent and daughter of a wounded veteran, for her first outfit celebrating husband Donald’s presidential inauguration.

    The choice of a knee-length, black coat from Norisol Ferrari for her visit to the Arlington National Cemetery was something of an inspired choice for Trump, who has been criticized in the past for favoring high-end European clothes.”

    link to msn.com

  7. There were times when I was young and I would have a couple of drinks and they seemed to have no effect, so I figured it was no problem to have 2 or 3 more. Than, all of a sudden, WHAM, it would all hit me all at once and I would be totally wasted. I suspect this is what we will see with the Trump presidency. A lot of laws and executive orders will get promulgated, but the country will keep humming along for a while. then, when those malignant decisions start to go into effect, we will see serious problems surface. Then, maybe something will be done to rein in this demagogue. I only hope he doesn’t do irreparable damage before this occurs.

  8. I was hoping this ‘carnage has got to stop’ referred to America’s war crimes, but, of course, it was his usual loose talk. I guess it alluded to the imagined raging wars in our streets and the supposed diminution of America’s esteem in the world. Both of those things will only increase under Trump’s leadership. I’ll sure miss Obama’s careful use of the English language, even though his policies left a lot to be desired!

  9. I have clear memories of inaugurations going back to 1956, and nothing prepared me for the US vs THEM tone of Trump’s speech. I don’t think I read too much into his words to recognize what I expect to be frontal attacks on the 1st, 4th and 5th Amendments to say nothing of decades of legislation and court decisions broadening our civil rights.

    And then there’s his bluster (let’s hope it’s only bluster) toward the rest of the world.

    Donald, if you’re demanding that I stand with you in order to share in the American dream, screw you!

    Juan, I apologize for my language. It was the most polite I could muster.

  10. To top it all was Trump’s inaugural address, which was the most narrow, chauvinistic, ungracious, uncompromising, uninformed and in a word the most depressing inaugural speech that I can remember by any American president. Domestically, he coined the term “American carnage”, and portrayed a country afflicted by crime, drug addiction, poverty, unemployment, and a landscape of rusted factories like tombstones. He promised that “the American carnage stops right here, right now”, but he did not explain how he was going to implement that edict.

    He blamed all his predecessors and “the establishment” for the carnage, saying that “politicians prospered, but the nation did not share in its wealth… The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country.” All this came from a billionaire who by all accounts has paid very little tax, and who has filled his cabinet with fellow billionaires. He praised people’s support for him, saying: “You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen before.” If he was referring to the number of people who attended the inauguration ceremony, early estimates put the number at many fewer than the number of those who took part in President Obama’s inauguration, and if he was referring to the number of people who voted for him, he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly three million votes, hardly an event “which the world has never seen before.” The only thing that was unprecedented about Trump’s inauguration was the extent of demonstrations and protests against him and the number of people who were arrested.

    Many people who watched the speech from abroad must have been aghast at the thought that America has “subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military” (despite a military budget larger than that of the next eight biggest military powers combined), has provided financial help to other countries while they have plundered America (despite the fact that America has received the lion’s share of the wealth of other countries, such as oil and mineral resources), that other countries have been responsible for the loss of jobs in America (which has been mainly due to automation and the fact that other poverty-stricken countries have risen up and are now competing for jobs), etc. His only solution for that unfortunate state was: “From this day forward a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward it’s going to be only America first. America first.”

    This kind of scapegoating and narrow and chauvinistic nationalism is very dangerous, and when the promises fail to be fulfilled, as they must, there is every danger that people will turn against foreigners and minorities at home whom they will blame for their unfulfilled dreams. Sadly, we have seen many disastrous examples of that mentality in the past. Those who thought that Mr. Trump’s rhetoric during the campaign was just intended to win votes and that when in office he would adopt a broader and a more unifying stance will get a rude awakening.

  11. Welcome to the era of Mafia Don. That’s all you need to know to understand where this is all heading.

  12. If their president always lies, why does the media even show up? No media, no lies, no hump!

  13. As the FDR years demonstrate there is nothing wrong with shaking the structure up a bit but this is the replacing of a tottering system (2008/09!) with an even worse one.

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