Race and Racism in Trump’s America’s America

To be frank I didn’t want to write about the outcome of the election. I didn’t want to have to give it more than half a second of thought. I didn’t want to seriously confront the reality that is before us. In the days following the election a wave of indignation flooded over me and I found myself not even wanting to talk about the results. I felt as though I didn’t owe anyone my insight or a report on how I was feeling. Instead I chose to consume. I gorged on every tweet, op-ed, podcast, Facebook post, etc. that I could find and as I sought to make sense of what had happened I came to understand that my silence was not an option.

In my search for answers I was reminded that although shocking a Trump presidency should not come as surprise. Trump is tragically symptomatic of what America really is. The results of the election are in no way ahistorical. America was, is, and has been cradled in a sordid legacy of racism and discrimination. The very foundation of who we are rests upon the same foundation upon which Donald Trump built his campaign, the preservation of white supremacy. And sure, there’s room to acknowledge the ways in which progress has been made in this country but there is obviously still so much more work to do.

We here in the ivory tower are not immune to the existing structures of larger society. Masked as bastions of progress and innovative thinking, higher education institutions often replicate patterns of injustice. The University of Richmond is no stranger to the replication process, whether we turn to the on-campus minstrel shows of the 50s, resistance to integration in the 60s, or the fight to maintain “Dixie” and the Confederate flag as university symbols in the 70s. Although the University has begun to move from its reputation as an exclusive, all-white, Southern institution it still posits the stories and contributions of white men as central to the narrative and neglects to acknowledge the vital role that people from minority groups have played in the University’s success. That privileging of whiteness in University history does little to dismantle the underbelly of white supremacy.

Now more than ever projects like this matter. People need to know and understand actual silenced voices. People need to confront the University’s racist past and its implications in the present. We need to reclaim that history and uncover the stories of those who currently exist on the margins. We, myself included, must continue to publicly engage in questions of the past in order to continue the undoing of racial inequality.