The day after Trump was inaugurated as President of the United States millions of Americans took to the streets. The Women’s March was reported to be the largest single-day protest in American history. For a moment, one could be forgiven for feeling a tinge of optimism and hope amid the tragedy of the election. As the protests unfolded there was one image that reminded the world of the reality, present even among the pink pussy hats of the Women’s March, that of a Black woman holding a sign that stated a simple fact: white women voted for Trump. The picture enraged white people across the nation as whiteness did what it always does: mystifies truth and obfuscates reality.
Fast forward to Friday afternoon, October 5th, 2018. Susan Collins, after much hand wringing and feigning empathy, announced that she would support the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court. It was a reminder of just how powerful and compelling whiteness is. For example, only 11% of black people supported the confirmation of Kavanaugh and 30% of Latinx people, however, joining with 59% of white men, 45% of white women supported Kavanaugh’s appointment with 9% undecided. When presented with the choice of appointing Kavanaugh, who has been credibly accused of sexual assault by multiple women, and knowing the reality that 1/3rd of women have been sexually assaulted or raped, knowing that rate of false accusations-especially against white men- is absurdly small, Collins, along with the more than 45% of white women, choose to uphold whiteness and give in to patriarchy.
Whiteness doesn’t just obscure gender alliances, class often falls victim to whiteness as well. Joe Manchin, the Democrat from West Virginia, voted to approve Kavanaugh to the bench. In a state where Bernie Sanders, and his message of democratic socialism, won every county during the democratic primary Manchin made the calculated decision to support a man from the 1% of the 1%. Kavanaugh is the epitome of elitism and class privilege. From his schooling at Georgetown Prep and Yale to the leveraging of his pedigree during his confirmation hearing it is clear Kavanaugh knows nothing of working class people, of the people of West Virginia. Manchin’s vote, then, is predicated on the idea that the toxic intersection of white masculinity and the elitism embedded in the Democratic party are going to keep his seat safe. Manchin bet on the idea that working class white people of West Virginia would rather support white masculinity even if it means supporting the capitalist powers that maintain poverty in West Virginia. However, this may be a miscalculation.
In less than a month the American people are going to vote. This election has seen a wave of not just women, not just people of color, but of women of color running for office. From Alexandria Ocosio Cortes’ upset in the Bronx to Ilhan Omar in Minnesota; from Stacey Abrams in Georgia and Andrew Gillum in Florida the people are making it clear that an unapologetic progressive platform that plainly addresses issues of gender, race and class is the path forward for the country. As the old and white vanguard of the Democratic party continues to play the benevolent oppressor and Republicans feel empowered to unveil their deepest bigotries it is incumbent upon those of us who are perceived as white to offer our unequivocal support to this wave of progressive leadership. We must not continue to align ourselves with the logic of whiteness and realize our self-interest lies in this movement and in this moment. We must add our voices and votes to the chorus challenging the white supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy. Any hesitation only furthers our descent into disconnection and oblivion.