Quite the interesting conversation and audience interaction manifested yesterday evening in a Center City museum during a segment on a live broadcast meant to promote a new podcast presented by Philadelphia Magazine and 900am-WURD – Pennsylvania’s only black talk radio station – on the topic of effective white allyship, which will be released across platforms – www.PhillyMag.com and www.900amWURD.com – this Monday, January 16th, coinciding purposely with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day.
The question that gaslighted an already intriguing conversation between show host Mr. Nick Taliaferro, Philadelphia Magazine Associate Editor Mr. Malcolm Burnley and I, was: Can a white voter who cast a ballot for Mr. Donald J. Trump last November ever serve as an ally to people of color in the fight for racial and economic justice?
Given the caricature of the typical Trump voter – racist, uneducated, hostile to facts and concerned only with self-preservation – the instinctual reaction would be to answer the aforementioned question with a resounding no. Yet, in the audience, which was steadily increasing in heft and almost exclusively African-American, there were a few, maybe 6 or 7, who thought that, despite voting for an unqualified racial provocateur, their fellow White Americans could indeed be, if the proper context presented itself, an ally – I was among them – about 9 or 10 said no, the remaining were undecided.
At the core of the question posed yesterday wasn’t allyship but redemption: Can those Americans who, in the eyes of many, committed an unforgivable act, be forgiven nonetheless? Moreover, central to the inquiry was forcing society to confront a stance that people should be judged, and treated accordingly, to what’s perceived as their most egregious act, which in this case was electing to run the country a habitual liar – as proven by PolitiFact – and power-drunk-money-chaser.
My disappointment in those who voted for Mr. Trump is real and raw, and my expectation of their meaningful contribution to the movement for Black lives is minimal, yet I refuse to rule out completely the idea that at some point, when common ground is found, we’d walk on it, together. Some of them, after all, were the same people our community celebrated with in unison when in 2008 Mr. Barack Obama was elected the first African-American U.S. President.
Some Americans voted for Mr. Trump for a number of reasons, chief among them was because they disliked immensely Mrs. Hillary Clinton and due to her presidential campaign lacking a compelling message. And other Americans did, indeed, vote for Mr. Trump for reasons of a racial nature, yet to classify every single voter of his as racist, and irredeemable, is inaccurate an unnecessarily inflammatory.
Mr. Trump is a divisive political figure, he shouldn’t be normalized, and if his plan was to truly further divide the country, he succeeded. But his success doesn’t have to mean absolute failure for unification efforts at-large.
Allyship to me neither means best-friendship nor requires sleepovers and unyielding trust. Allyship requires sacrifice and being present, willing to leverage your privilege and position on behalf of others, so that they may be liberated. And at the end of the day, for me at least, liberation outweighs political affiliation and a single yet irresponsible vote.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
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Photo courtesy of the author.