One week after Donald Trump’s surprise election victory, the soul-searching continues. As America takes a hard swing to the extreme right, UBC Islamic and gender studies expert Ayesha S. Chaudhry says it’s time to confront the ugly truth about the racial and religious tensions Trump’s victory has brought into the spotlight.
What message does the election of Donald Trump send to minority groups in the United States?
The message that it sends minorities is: Be afraid. Trump was formally endorsed by the KKK and the American Nazi Party. He was consistently anti-immigrant, anti-minority, anti-Mexican, anti-Muslim throughout his campaign, and his action in the aftermath of his election have confirmed this rhetoric. Trump’s recent appointment of alt-right Breitbart News chairman Steve Bannon to his team is entirely unsurprising, given the hateful platform on which he was elected. Minorities have every reason to believe that Trump will follow through on his promises.
Exit polls showed that while white men and women favoured Trump, people of colour and religious and racial minorities favoured Clinton. What does this say about the divisions in America?
The two things to pay attention to are race and religion, in that order. Race was central to Trump’s election and campaign despite the media’s insistence that this election was about class. If you were listening to the chants at his rallies, his followers were animated by anti-Latino, anti-Muslim, anti-black and anti-Jewish sentiments. The chants were not about economic theory. They were about hateful attitudes towards racial and religious minorities. This tells us that there are deep racial divides in America that transcend mere economic boundaries; America is by no means post-racial.
There also needs to be deep conversation about Christianity in America. Most religious minorities voted Democrat, but Christians – both Protestants and Catholics – overwhelmingly voted for Trump. We need to ask probing questions about how Christianity is being interpreted to support a culture of white supremacy and structural inequality in the U.S.
Did women who voted for Trump vote against their own interests?
People are saying they voted against their own interests, but they didn’t. White women might have voted against their gender interests but they voted in support of their racial interests. To understand this, we must look at the this election through an intersectional lens, where we consider race, gender, sexuality, citizenship, religion and other interests alongside class. So, white women voted against their gender, and economic, and political interests in order to further their racial, religious and nationalist interests. It’s really important that racism, religiosity and nationalism not be erased in this conversation. We cannot and should not whitewash this election, which American political activist Anthony Kapel “Van” Jones has accurately described as a “white-lash”.