donald trump's horror ascent to the presidency: pic of him at a podium

Hey White People: You Need To Start Doing The Ugly Work That Isn’t Safe For Us To

The harrowing looming onset of the apocalypse after the events of November 8th is no doubt heavy on all our minds. And we can’t move forward, or fix anything, without asking: How did we get here? And what do we do now?

The outcome of this election has been credited as a victory to white supremacy. To hatred, narrow-minded xenophobia, and outright racism. And while this is certainly true, what is also true is this: if you are white, progressive, not low-income, and as relatively safe as anybody can be in this fresh dystopian hell, you don’t get to write off this election as something you’re not responsible for.  You don’t get to self righteously wash your hands of this outcome as something a bunch of poor “redneck loonies,” some ignorant “idiot third party voters,” and perhaps some “lazy and irresponsible” minority voters did. You don’t even get to write it off to a white, well-off but racist America that has nothing to do with you, and your spotless, #woke, pure progressive values.

Middle class, affluent white women — a demographic that already turned out more for Trump than Hillary — are already writing think pieces coopting minority pain as an excuse not to engage with the white working class and white poverty. Hadley Freeman is just so tired of “liberal journalists” crying about poverty, presumably out of some kind of condescending pity — conveniently ignoring that her own publication provided a brilliant take on the decays of the working class in America by not a condescending middle class journalist, but someone who actually came from rural poverty. White progressives are using black friends as shields to wall themselves off engagement with factors like rural deprivation and persistent poverty by saying “well, I just can’t engage with racism, I’d be validating it.”

Here’s the thing: the country isn’t going to change its voting demographic overnight in the face of your self righteous disgust.

There are rightful reasons that people of color don’t want to have anything to do with the muck of engaging with Trump voters. We are in physical danger near them. We also don’t deserve to shoulder the emotional work of empathizing with and loving our own oppressors.

But someone’s got to tackle this. We can’t sustain a country that visits systematic rural deprivation on a large swath of its population. We can’t keep actively fostering the conditions for social and economic unrest. We can’t — you can’t, especially, if you’re middle class, white, and from an urban area — use your #woke credentials as an excuse to blind yourself to the ugly truths of unequal distribution. You don’t have to hug a Trump supporter, or even understand their racism, to do the simple work of fixing socio-economic despair that is the breeding ground for fascism. You can’t hide behind your POC friends to hide away from how you’re the only people with the power, safety, and privilege to ensure this doesn’t happen again. That the politicians you spend so long Facebook posting celebrity endorsements in enthusiastic support for actually give a shit about demographics that aren’t you, whether poor folk or people of color. You’re the only people who can get through to other white people, and the only ones who can push your politicians to care about more expansive communities.

You don’t get to deflect anymore, or defer responsibility to someone less perfect than you for not having turned up to the polls and voted for Hillary.  You have to fight the battles that aren’t safe for other people to fight, you have to show the empathy that other people can’t, you have to engage where only your voice will be heard. You have to shoulder the struggle. Anything less is complicity.

White people failed their brothers and sisters of color last Tuesday, and now you better roll up your sleeves and get to work on fixing this. Because two years from now in the midterms, and four years from now in the next presidential election, this country has got to have something to vote for, not just a terrifying fascist to vote against.


Meg is a law student in California. She's interested in law and politics, intersectional feminism, criminal justice, human rights, freedom of the press, the law and feminism, and the politics of South Asia.

Meg is a law student in California. She's interested in law and gender, race and criminal justice, human rights, cats, and sports.

Read more about Meg

Join the Conversation