November 21, 2016

Not All Trump Supporters Are Racist

Donald Trump signs (28121498483)
By Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Since the 2016 U.S. presidential election, anyone using social media has almost certainly been bombarded with the tribalistic message that everyone who voted for Donald Trump is a racist, misogynistic, xenophobe. This claim is irrational, inaccurate, and unhelpful. The somewhat softer version of this claim, that Trump supporters might not all be racists but all of them were insufficiently bothered by racism (and thus still deeply flawed human beings) is not much better.

As we come to terms with the results of the election, it is important that we do not abandon reason and nuance in our political discourse. What is it that we are so fond of telling religious believers? One's preferred narrative is not an adequate substitute for reality. We should be cautious about embracing destructive political narratives.

Here's what Saeed A. Kahn (Religion News Service), a Muslim physician living in Detroit, had to say about Trump's election and the commonly heard claim from many on the left that anyone who voted for Trump is a racist or xenophobe:
Clearly, racism and bigotry are on display because they were unleashed, perhaps normalized, by a political strategy to mobilize voters. But to infer that all of Trump’s supporters are rabid racists, or even motivated by such base impulses, would be as ironically absurd as those who contend that all Muslims are terrorists. An accurate assessment of the election and the reality of this nation requires nuance, not the replacement of one binary narrative with another.
I suspect that nearly everyone on the political left who is upset over Trump's election would agree with Kahn's first sentence. There were clearly aspects of bigotry on display throughout Trump's campaign, and they did appear to be part of his strategy to win the presidency. I can certainly agree with that. I can also understand why so many people are so upset that this particular strategy was as effective as it was. Unfortunately, the rest of the quote above is likely to be far more controversial than should be the case.

It would be nice if more on the left, including left-leaning secular voters, appreciated the wisdom reflected in Kahn's statement. Replacing one irrational narrative with another is not the answer here even if it might be emotionally satisfying to do so. Far more reason and nuance are needed in our political discourse even if perpetual outrage and demonizing our ideological and/or political opponents is easier.
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