After the Civil War, when Americans of African descent had been freed from slavery through the Emancipation Proclamation, blacks enjoyed a season of being treated as genuine American citizens, with greater rights than they had had before. Some blacks had fought for their freedom in the War Between the States and had earned, they felt, the right to demand and to experience full American citizenship. During Reconstruction, nearly 2000 black people were elected to public office on local, state and federal levels. They organized and became activists and advocates for the rights and black people. From 1867-1877, a period known as Radical Reconstruction, the Congress actually granted black people the right to vote. (http://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/black-leaders-during-reconstruction)
But Southern whites resented the gains made by black people; they yearned for the return of the reign of white supremacy, and they began undoing every gain made by blacks during Reconstruction. Using violence and their political power, Jim Crow was put into place, designed to put black people “back in their place.” Beginning in 1869, Southern states, beginning with Tennessee, began putting into place all-white “redeemer” governments, sympathetic to the cause of the Confederacy. (http://www.understandingrace.org/history/gov/civilwar_recon_jimcrow.html)
The efforts of the Southern states were successful. Blacks lost their right to vote. Public facilities were segregated. They became victims of racist voter suppression tactics; they were denied equal education, access to tools which would help them achieve economic parity with white people, and in effect were relegated again to second-class citizenship.
It is happening again. White backlash began with a fury, it seems, after Barack Obama was elected president of the United States – not once, but twice. Many but not all white people have been furious since he first got into office; some met the day of Obama’s first inauguration to strategize how to make him a “one term president.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/25/robert-draper-anti-obama-campaign_n_1452899.html) The emergence of the Tea Party was part and parcel of the disgust many Americans felt that Obama was the most powerful man in the world, and adherents gained hundreds of thousands of like-minded thinkers. That his Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed only added fuel to the already blazing fire of resentment.
And now, the “angry white base” who support Donald Trump and his promise to “make America great again” are on the final stretch of the race to the White House. It doesn’t matter to them what Trump says or does, how moral or immoral some of his business dealings have reportedly been, whether or not he reads the Bible or goes to church -or lies about whether or not he reads the Bible and goes to church. It doesn’t matter if he used undocumented girls to work as models for him, or that, for all of his talk about how other countries are robbing America, he uses labor in other countries to make his products. They do not care. They just want a white man (not a woman!) in the White House.
Studying Reconstruction and the virulence of the white backlash of that period is sobering and scary; what is even more scary is that we as a nation do not seem to want to remember that it was after Reconstruction that black people received some of their most heinous treatment, most of which was sanctioned by government. White supremacy does not want company; it resents that some of its space and place in American politics was trespassed and has been violated by a black man for the past 8 years, but it is bound and determined to “get its place” again. That’s what “make America great again” means, in essence. White supremacists want things to be like they were before, when black people (and brown people) answered to them, when women knew their place, where men married women and that was it, and where America’s immigration policy protected the majority status of white people. White supremacists are not pleased, in fact, they are probably mortified, that predictions indicate that by 2043, America will no longer be majority white. It is a thought they cannot bear.
So, frightened, poor and unemployed/underemployed white Americans, grateful that Donald Trump has heard their cries, will flock to the polls on Election Day, but don’t be deceived. Many affluent white people, equally as disgusted and frightened about the diminishing numbers of white people in America, will vote for Trump, too. They want their power back. They support the building of The Wall. They support keeping immigrants out of America (unless they come from Europe), they support whatever they need to support in order to “make America white again.”
I hope we don’t let them. I hope scores of people, black, brown and white, have a love for the progress that has been made in this country in spite of our inherent and nascent racism and sexism. I hope as many Americans who cherish the progress that has been made for so many people, non-white, non-male, and non-heterosexual – go to the polls and vote. I hope we, “the American people,” don’t let white backlash win again. We have come too far.
Going backwards is just not an option.
A candid observation …