08 May 2018

The Pain We Still Need to Feel

Lynching echoes in other ways. Our politics are in the grip of a backlash defined, in large part, by deep racial entitlement on the part of many white Americans. Indeed, racial violence—or the promise of such—remains a potent tool for defining the boundaries of white racial community. As a candidate for president, Donald Trump promised state action against Hispanic immigrants and Muslim refugees. Not as punishment but as defense—a way to keep America free of people that, in his view, cannot assimilate. How did he describe these groups? As "rapists," criminals, and drug dealers—dangerous gang members who defile and kill innocent American women. Far from repelling voters, this language primed and activated racial fear and resentment among many white voters, supercharging its electoral potency. Trump wasn't just defining an enemy, he was speaking a language of racial threat—of purity and morality—that has its roots in the lynching era.