It’s in my nature to try and search for the silver lining we are told every cloud promises.
I feared Trump’s victory since visiting America a few months ago and realising how many people did not see him as a credible threat. So I’ve had a few months to get my shovel out and start digging for some solace in the inevitable.
I know today is full of anger and fear, but please try to come with me for a minute, because we are going to need all the candles we can find in these dark times.
Trump’s rhetoric was filled with lies and hatred. Predominantly aimed at people of colour, women and minorities. This appealed to a lot of people. This needs addressing. I don’t think Trump has made anyone any more racist or hateful than they already were. What he has done is give people permission to air their oppressive views.
At first glance this looks like a horrific car crash. But the reality is much of this bile already existed, it has just been thinly (and not so thinly) veiled. Yet this is a place from which many people were already responding, they were just trying to hide it. This is how systematic oppression is able to sustain itself.
Imagine if you were to hear someone say they wouldn’t employ any brown people in their company. You can have a conversation with them about that. You can discuss why that’s not an acceptable thing to say, and if that fails and they are morally bankrupt, you can explain that it is also illegal. But if someone is not giving people job interviews because their names sound “a bit foreign” there is nothing tangible to be grasped. Nothing is in the open and the conversations cannot be had. There is no dialogue. There is no progress. I do not see a way that these things can possibly be expiated until they are out into the open. I cannot see any other way. This hidden poison has been contaminating us all.
Imagine for a moment that a man suggests it’s fun to “grab a woman by the pussy”, behind closed doors, between buddies, apparently, this is acceptable. When it is out in the open, the public are dismayed. It was not the disgust which rang loud for me in that scenario, but the number of women clearly stating every woman they knew had experienced something similar to that.
Now let’s look at Billy Bush (the accomplice in what we shall uncomfortably call “Gropegate”). See how he chuckles along? See how he wants a bit of the game? See how he puffs his chest out and plays predator too? Well it’s the Billy Bushes of this world we need to be addressing.
That little sexist comment in the workplace which was “just a bit of fun” so no one gets pulled up on it? The racist aside from a family member which you’re too long in the tooth to address? The homophobic meme you saw on the internet which didn’t intend offence, but it just happens to reinforce negative stereotypes? Ignoring these moments is what seeds hatred and division. Letting this stuff slide turns into landslides of election victories for people who perpetuate disunity.
If Trump did not exist he would simply be replaced by someone equally hateful. The rage-filled undertones which elected him need a figurehead. He is a product of the electorate, not the other way around.
You can’t eliminate the Trumps (or Farages or Le Pens) of this world, but you can educate the Billy Bushes. And the Billy Bushes speak to their friends and families (and locker room buddies) and these are the people who cast the votes that authorise the power.
Change is never going to be top down. Change imposed upon people is never durable. But change from the people causes those seeking power to reflect the will of those who put them there: they have to, or they lose their seat.
So don’t feel powerless. You embody what puts people on those seats. And the more conscious, considerate, caring, inclusive dialogues you start, the more are had. And the more people think about others, the more they respect others. And the more we respect others the more the politicians have to reflect the will of the people.
So let’s make a vow to not walk away from those awkward moments, those tricky conversations and those outright unkind and oppressive things we all hear said in the open. And let’s make sure we are never, ever, Billy Bush.