Talking about Trump

As I was scrolling through Facebook the other day I stumbled upon a shared link by a conservative Facebook friend entitled, “I’m a Republican, Not a Moron: Being Conservative in a World That’s Not.”  Intrigued, I read through the article, the general gist of it being that everyone just needs to respect each other across party lines and that we have to learn that agreeing to disagree is okay. While I agree that respect and valuing others opinions, even if they differ from ours, is important, the extremely racist statements of current politicians such as Donald Trump make me skeptical in simply agreeing to disagree.

Trump at rallyI have several friends who support Trump and our conversations about him – particularly regarding his statements on immigrants, women, and race in America – have led to very heated debates that escalate past the level of intense political debates and that have put a strain on our respective friendships. Given my academic background on racism, I see Donald Trump as a symbol of the racial problems in America today: he is connected to and emblematic of the deeply rooted racial ideologies that saturate America and its institutions. However, to them from their largely color-blind perspective of America, Trump may be unpolished and impulsive but the things he says are not truly meant as racist comments. I struggle with our disconnect, with the level of escalation of these conversations, and the unsettling feeling of simply “agreeing to disagree.”

As I grapple with our differences the ideas presented in D.W. Sue’s book Race Talk come to mind. When I bring up the racist comments Trump makes, I am turning a political conversation into a racial one which, as Sue explains, violates the politeness protocol and the color-blind protocol. While to me it may seem obvious that politics and race are inextricably intertwined, to my conservative friends bringing race into our conversation is violating social norms, is inappropriate, and is often met with strong uncomfortable reactions. Furthermore, when I condemn Trump and label the things he says as racist, I am activating my friend’s fears of being perceived as racist and realizing one’s racism. If you support a political leader who expresses racist sentiments, you are also labeled as racist. Therefore, you either have to downplay his racism or acknowledge that you support what he is saying and own his racist sentiment. My friends become incredibly defensive of Trump and their support of him by down-playing his racism and viewing racism as a grander, institutional problem. If Trump is not racist, then their personal morality and egalitarianism cannot be called into question either. This leads to conversation stalemate, leaving us both angry and frustrated. As a friend, I don’t want to push the issue and risk insulting them or jeopardizing our friendship, however as an ally, I am left unfulfilled and fearful of the larger implications with simply “agreeing to disagree.”

This brings me back to the points expressed in the article shared on Facebook and leaves me with the question: When it comes to discussion around racialized politics and Donald Trump, as an ally, is it acceptable to simply agree to disagree?

3 thoughts on “Talking about Trump”

  1. I don’t think agreeing or disagreeing is an option in a situation like this. Racism and all other forms of oppression and hatred are complicated and nuanced issues. I think that the agree/disagree format leads to the ‘good guy/bad guy’ concepts of racism, which leads to polarizing our friends. I really believe that Trump is coasting on fear. Americans are really afraid of terrorism and the BLM movement and the economy and everything that to simply disagree is to invalidate the fears that are allowing Trump to be successful. I think it’s important to remember that Trump supporters are not bad people. Just like not everyone in the Jim Crow era were bad people. Maybe converting to an “understanding” scale would be a better way to discuss these issues?

  2. I have found myself grappling with a lot of the same issues with regards to politics and how they are intertwined in casual conversations around campus. To be honest, I forgot that not everyone is liberal like me until hearing about circumstances where students have been debating Donald Trump and getting into heated arguments about the varying degrees to which he is a problematic individual, but also, like you said, a symbol of racism and sexism in the United States. I agree that “agreeing to disagree” in this circumstance feels so problematic because it feels like it is condoning the situation and the racism that exists. Although our relationships with people who have differing opinions are important, how important are they and how invested are we willing to let ourself be in trying to change someone’s mind or having a thought that maybe, because they support this man and what he stands for, they are supporting the oppression of varying populations of color in our country? I don’t have the answer to your questions either, but I find myself questioning this everyday because it has become such a relevant topic around campus and avoiding it all together, ALSO feels problematic.

  3. The question you pose is incredibly interesting and to be honest, I’m not sure I have an answer to it. Something that I do think it really interesting is how White people can get away with talking about race like that. If a White person brings race up (even in political conversations), then people can say “let’s just agree to disagree”. But if a Black person brings it up, people say “why do you have to make it all about being Black?” or they might not even have the option of raising their opinions on the matter because their voice may just be silenced. I’m curious if the fact that White people even have the opportunity to agree to disagree is in and of itself, a privilege. Sorry that didn’t answer the question at all but I just thought I’d piggy-back off of that with another idea to think about.

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