The hauntingly powerful documentary showed the truth all white people knew but wanted to hide – anyone can turn to hate when it suits them
Channel 4’s documentary, White, Angry and American was raw in its depiction of even casual hate. Gary Younge was impressive in the face of an onslaught of abuse from Richard Spencer but the show was a powerful reminder of the real danger of those with extreme views; they make every day hate more common and more acceptable.
When Younge sat down with a seemingly friendly stranger who was happy to talk, it seemed an innocuous scene. Before long though, the genial stranger started talking about how diversity had gone too far, that white people were threatened to be wiped out and his biggest grumble with Trump was that he hadn’t done anything. While so many laugh at Trump’s failed agenda, we cannot forget that there are those furious with Trump for not doing more to push through white supremacy. That latent anger was used to elect Trump and it could bring even worse still.
There was the Democrat who ran for office, and argued that her friends were not the ‘basket of deplorables’ Clinton had said and she was offended for them. While there was an acknowledgement that white people were furious because of a loss of jobs and the American dream wasn’t delivering for them (and an acceptance that it was never designed to empower people of colour), the refusal to see that those who voted for Trump are complicit in white supremacy fails to assign accountability. It doesn’t matter how bad things are, the fact white people could vote for a man who promised to make white America great again by furthering the oppression of people of colour shows that they voted for racism. They voted to make their lives better at the expense of others. That is deplorable.
Until white America, as a whole, acknowledges the pain it has caused then nothing can change. White privilege is being able to vote for a candidate that will make your life better at the expense of everyone else and that is the core of white supremacy. It doesn’t need to be a string of men at a protest carrying torches and shouting “soil and blood”, it is everything that allowed that to happen in the first place and that includes every single person who voted for Trump or said that Clinton was just as bad.
“Until white America, as a whole, acknowledges the pain it has caused then nothing can change”
Even among those who understood the pain of Trump and of America’s legacy of white supremacy, there was still a refusal to give up on that ferocious white identity. One woman acknowledged that the South should not rise again, that she was glad the South lost the civil war but she believed in paying tribute to the Confederate flag to honour the young boys (often teenagers) forced to fight for white supremacy, sometimes held ransom as by fighting it was the only way they could make any kind of living and escape poverty. As idealistic and hopeful as that is, the Confederate flag represents nations who wanted to keep slavery. It is a symbol, for many millions of people of colour, of white supremacy. The nuance doesn’t matter. There are many discussions that could be had about how white supremacy tried to recruit working class and poor white Americans to its own ends. Those conversations can take place without a hurtful and racist symbol being present. Even sympathetic white Americans couldn’t take down their damn flag.
What was more horrifying than Spencer stating white supremacy and slavery benefited black Americans were the well meaning people who were still willing to tolerate racist ideas and symbols. Spencer is a leader of hate but if society by and large had shut down any platform he ever had, than the ‘alt right’ wouldn’t have come into the mainstream. There are the gatekeepers too. The ones who say that they’re just well meaning good Americans who voted for Trump, not because they were racist, but just because they wanted a job. Those who say technically the alt-right aren’t fascists, forgetting that language and ideology fluctuate and if a person of colour says they’re being targeted by fascists, the only job of white people is to offer solidarity and not tone police. There are those nostalgic for the past, casting aside the reality that the past was an even more oppressive time for people of colour and that’s why it was so good for white Americans. White Americans benefitted from stealing from and oppressing black people. They’re nostalgic for an era where they reaped the rewards of oppression.
White, Angry and American offered a snap shot of the different kinds of white people; the KKK. The alt right. The nostalgic guy who wants his childhood back. The nice guy who just has concerns white people are being replaced. The politician who just worries (white) people won’t get the jobs they always expected. The liberal who thinks we need more complex conversations and can’t talk in binaries. In one way or another, either explicitly or implicitly, all of these people cater to racism. Good white people who just want to get on, can be racist. There were a lot of decent hard working guys, and long time Democrats who voted for Trump. Maybe a part of the vote was about the economy, but about an economy that depends on white people being elevated by the oppression of people of colour. White America is angry, but you have to wonder just what right they have to be.