A few weeks ago, the president visited Chicago, and I wish I could have been out there protesting because I support every effort to remove him from office. He has demonstrated again and again that he is not fit to be president. In fact, during the campaign he never hid from us what kind of president he would be. Anyone who is surprised by the outcome of this presidency willfully blinded themselves to the facts of his nature.
But I’m afraid that most of his supporters had their eyes wide open about what kind of person he is and what kind of president he would be, and they either explicitly endorsed it or tacitly accepted it. Some people simply wanted as president a racist, sexist, trash-talking shell of a man who was clearly damaged by a lack of compassion in his childhood, a man who has always gotten whatever he wanted and so thought nothing of holding up military aid to Ukraine to initiate an investigation of his political rival. These people are either openly racist themselves or they are so disconnected from the experiences of people of color as to be functionally racist for all intents and purposes. Other people accept his racism and sexism because this president was a means to an end for them — getting more conservative judges approved, or simply defeating Hillary Clinton. All of these supporters, including many Republican members of Congress, will find it very difficult to abandon their support for this president.
But the election of 2016 was world-disrupting for me because it revealed the degree to which many white liberals, myself included, are part of the problem. I know many people, especially people of color, find laughable that so many of us had been asleep about the systemic racism and sexism coursing through the veins of our nation. But we were asleep, and some of us are beginning to wake up.
For all of us — those who have been in this fight and those just waking up and joining in — there are twin dangers on the horizon. The first danger is Trump himself, and it is vital that we remove him and his racist, norm-destroying behavior from office through impeachment or defeat at the polls.
The second danger is that we will direct all of our thinking and pushing and striving toward his removal. This is the attitude that says, “If we could only go back to how it was before Trump, we would be OK.” This idea is alluring because it means we would only have to pull our country back to where it was just four years ago.
But that is also utterly false.
With or without this president, we live in a nation that locks up more people than any other country in the world and that disproportionately locks up people of color. We live in a country that is doing barely a drop of what we need to do to defeat climate change, which disproportionately affects poor people — especially, once again, people of color.
Defeating this president is vital, but it is only a vital first step. We must consign him to oblivion, not go back to how things were before, so that we can push forward to true transformation — electing leaders who will provide basic needs to all Americans and put us on a path to zero carbon emissions. We must advocate for these policies and leaders, and we must create welcoming communities that truly appreciate and nourish the cultures, spirits, and bodies of people of color.
To accomplish this, we need to connect with our relationships, with our planet, with ourselves — with our own values. These connections lie at the core of anti-racism, and they must fuel us to move beyond the initial goal of removing this president. We must accomplish that goal, yes, but at the same time we must begin to truly grapple with our core challenge: fostering a society that exists in equilibrium with all its members, with other societies around the world, and with the planet itself, i.e. creating a society that truly values and embraces all of its people.