Racial discomfort growing in 2016

Hello Duhawks, and welcome back to Dubuque! And for those first-time readers in their first year of school, welcome to Loras! First-time readers not in their first year — what took you so long?

My name is Dallas, and this will be my third year writing for The Lorian as I begin my senior year. A little bit about me: I’m majoring in politics and international studies, am a member of Loras College’s Mock Trial and Moot Court teams, Secretary of Loras Democrats, and have interned on campaigns for Pat Murphy and Hillary Clinton — which also answers the question of who I plan to vote for on Election Day. Also, in full disclosure, I didn’t actually “intern” on the campaigns. I was really a “fellow;” short for “fellow who volunteers more than others.” Saying it was an internship makes it sound more official than what I really did, which was make three hours of phone calls once a week and knock on doors in different neighborhoods.

My “fellowship” experience is what I want to focus on for this week because of some comments made by Hillary behind the closed doors of a fundraising event. There, Secretary Clinton divided Trump supporters into two “baskets:” the “deplorables” of the nation and “those let down by government.” Ignoring the stupid half-and-half division, it’s undeniable that there is at least some racial angst present in some number of Trump’s supporters. Super-fan and neighborhood racist David Duke as well as the alt-right of Breitbart news seem to agree. That is not to say that voting for and supporting Donald Trump is racist; that’s an ignorant belief in and of itself. However, there are still racial undertones that cannot and should not be ignored.

But the undertones can and will be ignored. I know I have. Happens every Thanksgiving Day when the grandparents sprinkle slurs into conversations without even thinking about it. Happened when I would knock on doors before the caucuses and ask voters who they were supporting. There were three, maybe four, occasions I remember distinctly. These few voters are memorable for the fact that I felt the same discomfort talking to them as I do every Thanksgiving.

One lady wasn’t sure if she was going to caucus as a Democrat or a Republican come Feb. 1 of next year. Her reason? She didn’t like where Democrats were heading on the issue of immigration. Obviously immigration is a racially charged issue, so does the voter’s concern on the issue reflect bigoted attitudes? No, because there are plenty of legitimate arguments both for and against the Democrats’ plan on immigration that are unrelated to race. However, I immediately felt uneasy continuing the conversation because I wasn’t sure what to say next. Logically, my next question should have been “Why do you feel that way?” to have the voter clarify their position, but I didn’t ask that question. I didn’t ask because I judged it not worth my time nor energy to ask her why, knowing that not every Democrat nor every voter will agree with my own political beliefs.

Looking back, I should have asked that voter — and the others like her — why they believed what they did in an effort to try to persuade them otherwise. I didn’t want to be rude or confrontational in asking her more questions, but is simply asking a question really rude or confrontational? If done respectfully, of course not! Instead of having a productive dialogue in which I could have found out the exact reasons for the voter’s opposition, I chose the easy way out and moved on to the next house. As a result, I can only assume why the voter believed what she did. And as my momma always liked to say, “Assuming something makes an ass out of you and me.”

When you think about it, isn’t that really the problem with what Hillary was caught saying? She made an assumption of some number of Trump supporters, generalized it, and subsequently offended the public for making that assumption. Had she been more thoughtful and thorough, maybe her statements would have never caused the controversy they did, but she wasn’t. Which, to me, begs another question. Should we be more upset by Secretary Clinton’s dismissive comments or disturbed by the fact that her detractors critique her not for mischaracterizing some number of voters’ support for Trump — but her attributing the views of a racist minority to a greater number of Donald’s supporters? The problem isn’t that she labeled people racist, it’s that she labeled too many people racist — which is apparently worse than racism itself.

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