In recent weeks, viral videos of angry, ranting supporters of Donald Trump have made the rounds, prompting fears in many that under the rule of a Pres. Trump, racist white people will feel even more entitled to inflict their hateful views on people who are different from them.
An essay in the New Republic published Wednesday, however, put forth the idea that these videos — and the collective disgust they inspire in us — are actually a sign that the majority of Americans don’t subscribe to the angry, racist ideology that helped propel the former reality TV star to a victory in the U.S. Electoral College.
Videos of the white woman who went on a 45-minute racist harangue in a Chicago Michael’s crafts store, the man who stood up during a Delta flight and demanded to know if there were any “Hillary b*tches” on board the plane and the angry Florida Starbucks customer who said he was the victim of anti-white discrimination all went viral not because everyone supports these people, but because we as a country are appalled by them.
At first blush, wrote New Republic’s Graham Vyse, these videos appear to be confirmation of — as former Republican presidential candidate Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) said — evidence of Trump’s “trickle-down racism.” Trump’s open disdain for nonwhites has emboldened a number of his followers and made them more comfortable inflicting their backward, racist views on the people around them.
“The closer you look, the more you listen, the clearer it is that these bigoted ranters aren’t so much empowered as they are fragile and pathetic,” wrote Vyse. “And what’s gone largely unnoticed is the reactions that the other people in the videos have to their bigoted ravings—reactions that hint at something to be kinda, sorta hopeful about — that non-racist whites have also been woken up by the Trumpian surge of white nationalism.”
In the Michael’s video, the Starbucks video and during the incident of the Delta flight, none of these outspoken Trump supporters are met with support by the people around them. The Starbucks customer was told not to “talk to people that way” by another customer. A witness to the Chicago incident started a GoFundMe account for the employees impacted by the angry shopper’s racist harangue. And the man on the Delta flight who called for cheers for Trump was met only with stony silence from other passengers.
Vyse said, “So, yes, these people were acting entitled. In two of the cases, they were engaged in racial harassment. And sure, they’re all displaying petulant and pathetic assertions of white privilege. But they’re also full of what the scholar and author Robin DiAngelo calls ‘white fragility’ — ‘a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves.’”
He pointed to the videos and the nation’s reaction to them as a sign that the majority of white Americans are not going to stand by and be “silent partners” to a revival of old school racism and a reassertion of American white supremacy.
Anti-racism scholar and activist Tim Wise, Vyse said, reports that in addition to an uptick of racist mobilization in the U.S., there has been a corresponding rise in anti-racist activity in the country.
“Wise said he’s seen more white anti-racist activists in recent years than he has for many decades — and Trumpism has undoubtedly helped them find their voices, too,” wrote Vyse. “In a strange way, these disturbing viral videos can be a gift, showing Americans who we really are—both bad and good. They’re also an challenge to be our best selves, to act in such situations the way we’d hope to be seen on camera.”