Pity the male white supremacist: he began the year hopeful that a man who made no attempts to hide his racist rhetoric would ride white resentment all the way to the highest office in the land. But now, with three weeks until the general election, the great white behemoth is sinking under the rain of harpoons launched by angry women, and no matter how they try to spin the numbers, Donald Trump cannot win the election with the sole support of white men.
White masculinity has grown increasingly fragile, which has led some men to act out — for example, the staging of armed protests to reassure their scared white brethren that they can come out of the closet. Donald Trump, and the Republican party leaders who continue to tacitly or openly support his presidential ambitions, have run a reactive candidacy. While Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders each ran Democratic campaigns built upon well-researched platforms for legislative action, Donald Trump’s campaign has been one long hysterical reaction to a world in which certain white men can only see their upcoming diminution and, in their most paranoid fantasies, their extinction.
Make no mistake: current demographic trends show the continued decline in the number of white babies being born. In addition, immigration trends, and the current demographics that show higher birth rates among some immigrant groups, will lead to an America where white people will become a minority sometime during the half-century between 2050 and 2099.
White supremacists attack those they see as responsible for this diminution. The immigrant — especially the immigrant who is not “coded” as white — carries their difference on the surface of their body. Some white people have been so insistent that skin color differentiates humans on a fundamental, biological level, and reacts to the ideas that race is a socially constructed category that privileges light skin over dark skin as leftist, politically correct propaganda. The idea that skin color will no longer be the conferrer of privilege is the source of anguish and outright hysteria among those who have benefitted from a system that bases merit on skin color.
Much has rightly been made of Donald Trump’s virulently anti-immigrant rhetoric. This past weekend, while watching Ava DuVernay’s momentous documentary, 13th on Netflix, I was convinced by her facts and her argument that after the 13th amendment emancipated enslaved blacks people, the state brought its control of institutional violence (cf. Max Weber) to bear in terrorizing and later re-enslaving black males in the prison-industrial complex.
Donald Trump has made specific immigrants the targets of his “close the borders” speeches. Under the guise of protecting public safety, Donald Trump launched his presidential bid by labeling Mexicans — many of whom have mixed-race ancestry — as dangerous criminals. While the color divide among Latino peoples exists outside of the United States, Trump’s emphasis has been on the Mexican as criminal — specifically, rapists and murderers — who present the same perceived threat to white women and the white men who see themselves as their protectors. By focusing on a “wave” of brown people coming over the border, Trump plays white fragility like a game of Jenga.
Muslims, while members of a religious group, have been racialized in white supremacist discourse in a way that has displaced the 19th-century rhetoric of “Orientalism” — in which the Arab Muslim was both sexually profligate and feminized. In the new discourse, the “Orientalist Muslim” has been replaced with an image of Muslim men who are supremely misogynistic, radically religious, violent, and who plot in secret to destroy western civilization. The irony, of course, is that certain branches of white supremacist movements are characterized by these same four traits that they project onto “radical Islam.”
The other enemy of the white supremacist is the intersectional feminist. While it is wrong to speak of feminism as a monolithic belief system, rather than a series of belief systems that self-label as “feminism,” it is important to acknowledge that there are some forms of white feminism that fail to acknowledge racial privilege in the demands for equal rights with men.
Most self-professed feminists, however, do recognize that bodily autonomy, that is, the right to control one’s own reproductive processes, is one of the core beliefs of feminism. Without reproductive rights, all women of reproductive age are burdened by the possibility that an unwanted pregnancy — whether as the result of rape, incest, or various reasons for not wanting to carry a pregnancy to term — may disrupt a woman’s ability to make entire series of decisions — from economic to safety — on her own behalf.
But it is female control of reproduction, and in the case of America, the declining birth rate among white women that has contributed to the male white supremacist’s sense of impotence and rage.
The anti-immigrant, anti-feminist agenda that the Far Right has promulgated is motivated in part by the terror of extinction. The fear of death motivates much right-wing action.
Donald Trump’s white nationalism and his poisonous misogyny, his championing of rape culture, are not separate problems. As Donald Trump has attacked various constituencies within American culture, he has peeled off any support that those groups may have felt they owed to the Republican party. But, the attacks on immigrants and rape culture are not radically different issues — they are part and parcel of a larger agenda that seeks to guarantee the continued majority of the white “race” in America. In that way, his entire campaign has been one long, reactive howl against the loss of the automatic power that white masculinity used to confer.
It is why I believe that future historians, when writing about the 2016 election, will see this contest as a benchmark. It is one that I am hopeful will result in the greater tying together of an intersectional coalition of human rights activists drawn from various feminisms and peoples’ liberation movements.
Follow Lorraine Berry on Twitter @BerryFLW