"Black/Brown Power, Whiteness and Women: The 2020 Election Challenge—Democrats, Be the Light! Save America! (…and the World!)” with Dr. Ramona Houston
Summary and Thesis
In this webinar, I ague that racial politics is at the root of Trumpism, which is precipitating the deterioration of American politics as well as America’s standing as a beacon of hope and leadership in and for the world. I contend that Trumpism is built on the foundations of racism and Whiteness. I briefly explore the history of race, racism, and Whiteness, explaining that Democrats must understand this history and its contemporary manifestations in order to effectively dismantle Trumpism. I challenge ALL Democrats to “Be the Light!” individually and collectively; for it is the Light that will impede death and destruction, nullify ignorance, and overcome darkness. White women have a critical role in this process. By being the Light as well as working strategically and aggressively in the upcoming 2020 Elections, Democrats will destroy Trumpism, develop more powerful multi-racial/multi-cultural coalitions, build a stronger Democratic Party, secure the Presidency, win local elections, usher in a greater and more perfect union, and, most importantly, save America and the world!
There is no such thing as race. Race is not real. Race is a social and political construction used to stratify society and is maintained through coercion and ideology.
Slavery is the beginning of the development of the concept of race. Europeans used race as a means to stereotype people of African descent with degrading characteristics and, thereby, justify their enslavement. Furthermore, Europeans used race to stereotype and dominate other people of color as well. Europeans, therefore, used race to defend white supremacy and domination.
Racism is a system of white supremacy and domination.
Even after the American Civil War and the ending of slavery, when America had the opportunity to create a new system, race continued to play a prominent role in shaping the American power structure. This racial order culminated in the Supreme Court’s Plessy vs. Ferguson Decision of 1896, upholding racial segregation or “separate but equal.” Over the next 100 plus years the US created a complex economic, political and social system based on race. This new system solidified white power and white privilege. Given the fact that racism is a system, racism permeates and affects every area of America life.
Whiteness is racial power, racial privilege and racial bias.
Whiteness is rooted in the history of slavery and is more than identity. Whiteness contends that white people belong to a certain group and, therefore, are entitled to certain rights, which others are not worthy. Whiteness is the norm that every other group should aspire to. Whiteness is transferred in how white people are socialized—through beliefs, behavior, culture, social practices, ideologies, and institutions. Whiteness is so entrenched into the psyche of white people that most of the time, white people are not able to recognize it.
Origins of Trumpism
We must understand the concepts of race, racism and Whiteness because it informs our current political environment and state of our country. Most white people do not want to talk about race, racism or Whiteness because it causes emotions discomfort, guilt, shame. How can we solve our country’s current challenges if we will not go to the root, the foundation of the problem?
It is in this context of racism and Whiteness, that we can understand the emergence of racialized politics and the rise of Trump and Trumpism.
Why did Trump and racial politics emerge to plague our nation and now our world?…
The election of President Barack Obama!
The election of President Obama represented the advancement of black people and, more generally, people of color. It challenged white supremacy and white superiority. Most importantly, the election of President Obama threatened the system.
In the midst of the rise of an African American President, Whiteness emerged. Whiteness emerged to protect the system and restore to Whiteness as the supreme.
The mere presence of a Black family in the White House, represented a black reality that White America dares to imagine, let alone acknowledge. The Obamas’ existence and authority in the halls of power and inconceivable residency in the White House boldly and emphatically challenged all stereotypes of who African Americans and people of color are and are supposed to be. The Obamas, by their mere presence, challenged the system at its core.
The Tea Party Movement, Birtherism and Whiteness emerged. Many decided they would do anything to restore white power and supremacy, including electing such a man as Donald Trump. This effort rose to reclaim “white power” and “white privilege” and put black people and other people of color, who were inspired by The Obamas, back into their place.
Because much of white America has decide to “trump” progress and take the nation backwards in an effort to “Make America Great Again,” our country suffers. What has emerged is an America that fosters hatred, violence, xenophobia, nationalism, and terrorism as well as disregards the American Constitution and its ideals. On top of that, the United States is loosing our standing as a beacon of hope in and leadership for the world by our march backwards. Trump and Trumpism, therefore, not only threatens America, but also threatens the world.
Hope for America
Despite children locked in cages, despite the immorality and corruption in the White House, despite the weakening the Department of State, despite the slaughtering of Mexicans, Jews, and African Americans across the country, despite the rise of hatred, nativism, xenophobia, sexism, and racial terrorism, despite the utter disregard for the American Constitution, despite all of the madness, there is hope. Where is the hope? The hope is in the Light!
There are multiple meanings of the Light: life, knowledge and power. Each of us has the power to change the trajectory of this country by “Being the Light!” It is our Light that will defeat the dark forces that attempt to destroy democracy, America and the world. It is by “Being the Light!”—both individually and collectively—in our families, communities, networks, and spheres of influence that Democrats will dismantle Trumpism and harness our power as Democrats to win the 2020 elections—locally and nationally.
Democrats have the power to change the current reality.
Power of Democrats to Challenge Racism and Dismantle Trumpism
Considering that racism and Whiteness is at the root of Trumpism, Democrats have the power to dismantle Trumpism by being anti-racist and challenging Whiteness. Democrats must address racism in our daily lives, chip away practices and polices within our organizations and institutions that support racism, and use our influence as leaders to foster progress, equality and justice. Yes, these actions may be uncomfortable, but if America is going to dismantle Trumpism and keep America moving forward, “We have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
Politics, like money, is power. Politics is not an exercise in futility. African Americans and Latinx communities should no longer approach politics from an uninformed, weak and fainthearted frame of mind. Black and Brown people must elevate our minds, attitudes and behaviors toward politics and operate in politics from a position of power.
There are many reasons to advocate for Black/Brown power. Exercising our political power as Black and Brown people is now critical to our mere survival! Trump and Trumpism is a clear and present danger to people of color. Moreover, African Americans and Latinos are two of the foundational pillars of America. We are important to America and its progress and have always been. In fact, it is Black and Brown communities that have always made America live up to its ideals. Because African Americans and Latinos/as are disproportionately affected by America’s racialized system, harnessing Black and Brown political power by working together will maximize our resources and magnify our strength in addressing pertinent issues. Thus, through strategically building our political power, Black and Brown communities will be more effective in ushering in justice and equality in our nation.
Power of Women
Women of color must magnify our voice by serving in leadership positions and running for office.
As we know, 53% of white women voted for Trump. There are many theories explaining why, which will not be explored here. Historically, however, white women have always sought to protect their own power and privilege as white people. Interestingly, throughout American history Whiteness has always seemed to “trump” any other identities and interests that white women have.
Despite this fact, Democrats still have to work diligently to reach this important demographic. White women have a critical role to play in this process. Instead of people of color trying to figure out how to save white people, white women must save white people and, more specifically, white women. White women are the ones who have the ability to reach other white women by candidly discussing racism, Whiteness and politics within their circles. White women are undeniably important to America and its future, so Democrats must do what we can to bring them into the Light.
Democrats, we must work to move America forward! Below are my suggestions to enhance the Democratic Strategy for the upcoming 2020 Elections. Each effort should be executed comprehensively by strategically engaging all levels of the Democratic Party—individuals, local organizations and the Party—to achieve our goals. The strategy below includes two components: 1) Democratic Comprehensive Strategy and 2) Democratic Voter Participation Strategy. (Please refer to the webinar for the Power Point and a detailed explanation of each.)
Democratic Comprehensive Strategy
- Can be implemented by individuals and groups
- Can be applied to local and national elections
- Our Approach
- Our Agenda
- Our Message
- Political Empowerment Process
Components of key elements:
- Our Approach – What we do!
- Our Agenda – Why we do what we do!
- Dismantle racism and Trumpism
- Reform American politics and government
- Promote progressive policies
- Address the interests of its various constituencies
- Our Message – How we communicate!
- Composed of certain characteristics
- Speak to the interests of different constituencies
- Considers different types of learners
- Reading/Writing learners
- Auditory learners
- Visual learners
- Interactive learners
- Kinesthetic learners
- Disseminated on all communications platforms
- Social Media
- Involves and be created for Democrats on all levels
- Democratic Party
- Political Empowerment Process – How we move individuals along the political spectrum from the powerless to the powerful!
Democratic Voter Participation Strategy
Democratic Voter Participation Strategy must focus intently and aggressively on the three main efforts:
- Voter Registration – expanding the electorate
- Voter Education – educating and engaging the electorate
- Get Out to Vote (GOTV) – mobilizing the electorate to vote
Democrats, we have a lot of challenges and heavy lifting before us, but we can do it. We just have to have the political will!
Democrats, “Be the Light!” Embrace the challenges before us. Keep America moving forward!
An American historian specializing in African American and Mexican American history and relations, Ramona Houston, PhD, PMP, promotes Black and Brown relations and multi-racial/ethnic coalitions to advance social change and social justice. A Democrat, she has worked on all levels of government—city, county, state and federal—and currently seeks to help Democrats win the 2020 Elections locally and nationally in any way that she can! Contact Dr. Houston to discuss how she may support you or your organization.