Without question, 2017 has been a rough year. The political climate is fraught with a deadly moral deficit rooted in White supremacist logic. Indeed, Donald Trump’s America is White America, and White America is Trump’s America. And something needs to change.
We are now nearly 10 months into Trump’s tenure as 45th president of the United States, and not only have we have borne witness to his racist tweets but his unabashed disdain for the most vulnerable in our communities, including victims of Hurricanes Maria and Irma in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, fighting to block access to health care, and flouting a progressive immigration policy.
That’s not all: Just this week, he provoked backlash after launching an attack on NFL free agent Colin Kaepernick, who is protesting racial profiling and racism in America. He banned transgender people from the military, and stood in support this summer of the White nationalist, neo-Nazi, neo-fascist, and KKK endorsed rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. And he still stands behind his 1989 public takedown of the Central Park Five.
Meanwhile, corporations and some well-intentioned White folks are trying to start important conversations about race. Remember My Black Is Beautiful, Procter & Gamble’s so-called diversity and inclusion campaign that was released this summer?
“Bias is universal,” the corporation said, “but having a conversation can open up everyone’s minds.”
The campaign featured a full-length clip introducing the concept followed by “four different eye-opening perspectives and experiences.”
The campaign explored the things White people say about Black girls’ beauty, the things White people say and do to Black people’s hair, the reticence that Black parents have about releasing their children into the world out of fear “they may never come home,” and the pressing reality that one day at some point Black children who make it to adulthood will probably be called “nigger” at least once in their life by a White person.
One video featured Jessica, who talked about what it’s like to be mistreated by White patrons while working in retail. White people would look at her funny, refuse to place money in her hand to pay for their items, and would even refuse her assistance because of her Blackness, she recalled. Her boss’ microagressive advice was for her to cut her locks and change her appearance. Like most people, Jessica—the Black person—was charged to fix a problem that White people created, one that renders them superior and her inferior and conflicted.
Another video featured Biz, who talked about “implicit bias” and “unintentional bias,” but she failed to note that White people must actively work to decenter themselves and deconstruct their own Whiteness. Such work would mean that Nicole, who was featured in a separate video, would not have to constantly remind her children that their “Black is beautiful.” Her children would already know that they were beautiful, and their worlds would be devoid of anti-black messaging in a media establishment that demonizes dark-skinned people and nappy curls.
So as much as P & G’s campaign was admirable in the midst of Trump’s daily shit show, talking about race—when Black and brown people are living under siege and under the threat of death—will never be enough. America, as The Rev. William Barber has contended, “needs a moral revolution of values.”
Such a revolution requires White people to put their bodies, not just their mouths, on the line and take down the gods of capitalism and White supremacy. Trump, himself, has argued that his racist remarks “have nothing to do with race,” so will White allies give Trump “the talk” and would such a conversation dismantle his White supremacist fantasies?
Ahmad Greene-Hayes is a doctoral student in the Departments of Religion and African American Studies at Princeton University. He also currently serves as an inaugural cohort fellow of the Just Beginnings Collaborative (2016-2018), where his project, Children of Combahee works to eradicate child sexual abuse in Black churches. Follow him on Twitter @_BrothaG.