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White people just made Trump the most powerful man in the free world

White people voted for him in the majority in every demographic.


Jaya Saxena


Published Nov 9, 2016   Updated May 25, 2021, 3:10 pm CDT

For the people upset about Donald Trump’s victory, there is a lot of blame to go around. There’s the gutting of the Voting Rights Act that stripped the right to vote from who knows how many. There are the deep veins of racism and sexism and xenophobia that conservatives have been dog-whistling for generations, but that Trump made explicit. There’s the Democratic Party’s reluctance to engage with the left. But for many, there is one main culprit: white people.

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The statistics most people are citing come from CNN, which show Trump getting the majority of votes among men, people 40 and older, and white people—including 53 percent of white women. In every age range, including 18-29, white people voted in the majority for Trump.

White people make up nearly 73 percent of the population, according to the 2010 census. But that number was down almost six percentage points from 2000, and trends show that the population of non-white people in America will soon surpass white people.

Many people point to economic fear as a motivator for many Trump supporters, saying that modern politics have overlooked the white blue-collar workers (and ignoring that people of color can be blue-collar workers as well). But that economic fear, while certainly real, is catalyzed by white supremacy. It’s not just fear that they’ve been left behind, but that they are being surpassed by people of color. And fear that another group will take your place at the top requires a belief that that group, specifically because of their race or ethnicity, does not deserve an equal chance. A belief that you are superior.

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White supremacy is real. Studies show it, anecdotal evidence shows it, and now a president-elect that openly retweeted white supremacists and anti-Black and anti-Jewish images and words shows it.

Whiteness, however, is also a construct. There are many ethnicities that were not originally considered white but came to be folded into its arms when it became beneficial for the white majority, either to boost their numbers or get others to join in anti-Black campaigns. Whiteness is a hologram of our prejudices, but one with very real consequences for those who have never been or are only provisionally part of it.

As America’s population continues to change, it’s not hard to imagine Whiteness will too. Some groups may join, and others will be left behind. Whiteness is not fixed, which means it has the opportunity to improve, or to even disappear. But it is Whiteness in its current iteration that has brought Trump to power. 

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*First Published: Nov 9, 2016, 12:41 pm CST