Whitelash

The politics of race in America.

Art by Weiying Zhu

Art by Weiying Zhu

In Susan Faludi’s breakout 1991 book titled “Backlash,” she reveals how media created an illusory sense that women have made leaps of progress. She was able to rally women and create a resurgence of the feminist movement by calling out media organizations such as Time magazine, which claimed that “women’s fight for equality has largely been won.” In her book, Faludi argues that there has been a “backlash” against advances women made in the 1970s. A similar thing is happening in America today. Along with a war on women, there is a war on racial minorities.

Van Jones, a CNN commentator and attorney, was the first person to coin a term similar to “backlash.” During election night commentary, he used “whitelash” to explain the phenomenon of Donald Trump’s election. The election exposed many things about our country. It has proved just how divided we really are as a nation. It has also proved that a majority of white people want things to stay exactly how they are. Or, they want to turn back the clock to the 1950s, an era that fills some white people with nostalgia. This desire is something that Donald Trump was readily available to satiate with his campaign slogan: “Make America Great Again” (with “again” being the key word here).

Even though many Americans were filled with the hope that our country could have its first female president follow its first black president, it makes sense that there was such “whitelash.” Just as Faludi explains in her book, when women made progress in the 1970s, it was followed by “backlash.” Similarly, racial progress, in the form of electing President Obama in 2008 and again in 2012, is being followed by major “whitelash,” in the form of President-elect Donald J. Trump and his stances on immigrants, people of color and a host of other issues.

“They want to turn back the clock to the 1950s, an era that fills some white people with nostalgia; something that Donald Trump was readily available to satiate with his campaign slogan ‘Make America Great Again.’”

The progressive and inclusive direction in which our country was headed has been suspended. CNN’s exit polls indicate that 57 percent of white Americans voted for Trump, with an even higher rate among white voters without a college degree. “This was a whitelash against a changing country,” Jones said on CNN. “It was whitelash against a black president in part. And that’s the part where the pain comes.”