Oftentimes, in person or online, I see a lot of responses (mostly from white people) trying to downplay the role of white people in the current state of our country. These are the responses white people give when a minority tells them they need to talk to their white friends and family members about voting in the best interest of all people rather than just white people. These are the “I live in an urban city and I don’t know any racist white people who voted for Trump”. As though there are no racist incidents in urban cities (Proud Boys/NYC anyone?). You’ll also hear renditions of “not all white people”, “not all white women” or “only the ones who voted” that, intentionally or not, downplay the “white problem” while simultaneously diminishing minorities arguments by implying we are exaggerating this great racial divide.
While we can argue about whether or not voting is being complicit in the destruction of minorities and draw parallels between that action or lack thereof and being complicitly silent when you see a racist act being perpetuated in person, the point of this is to do a numbers breakdown to see how much weight and value these words have. So let’s see just how likely it is to not know a white person who voted for Trump. We are going to break this down in numbers, percentages and fractions and ratios.
In 2016, the estimated U.S. population was 322,762,018. Out of that amount, 193,657,211 (about 60%) are white. Now, out of that number, close to 65% or around 125,877,187 white people voted in the 2016 elections. So around 2/3 (2 out of 3) white people voted in the election or a ratio of about 2:1. See below.
Out of the estimated 125,877,187 white people that voted in 2016, around 58% voted for Trump. That means for every 7 white people who voted in the election, 4 of them voted for Trump and 3 white people did not.
Now let’s break that down with the entire population. Now breaking that number down with the entire 193,657,211 (estimated) white people in the U.S. 73,008,768.5 is about 38% of the white population in the United States.
While some may think of it as, only 38% of the white population, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, this number is frightening because white people still make up over half the population in the U.S. That is 73 million white people that chose Trump or Republican’s that embrace these kind of white supremacist ideologies. This number is too high, particularly when the quality of life for minorities (Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, Muslim, LGBTQ, disabled) is on the line. Telling us, “well, not all” does nothing to change these numbers nor does it do anything positive for ours or your day-to-day experiences beyond making you feel better in the moment and making us feel disappointed, frustrated or angry. To see so many white people willing to hang on to their privilege at the expense of minorities is something you, white people, should be worrying about more than tone policing us.
Second, just because a white person didn’t vote does not mean they are not racist. It simply means they didn’t vote. Conversely, just because you didn’t vote for Trump does not mean you are not aiding and abetting white privilege/supremacy in your day to day life (like tone policing us, calling us divisive and telling us we are going to lose allies because we don’t add “some” or “most” before our white people statements).
Third, these numbers still show that at least 3 out of 8 white people are racist Trump voters. Yes, racist. Because, knowing what he is they voted for him anyway; meaning they do not regard nor want us on equal footing with them. They want someone to help keep them above minorities and that is what the system in this country was created for — to ensure white privilege/supremacy lasts and ensure minorities stay as workers/slaves. You know more than 8 white people. Even I, who actively avoid being around too many white people, know more than 8. In your family and friends, there are white people so, despite all your claims, you know someone who voted for Trump and rather than stepping outside your white privileged bubble to actively discuss with them you would rather tell us how uncomfortable our words make you.
Fourth, it’s no secret that Trump is racist. However, bear in mind that class exists in the U.S. also to uphold racism. At this point if you are voting for Republicans who want to suppress/purge votes, gerrymander maps to the point where minorities are concentrated in one district while white people are separated into 10, strip “entitlement programs”, strip rights away from people convicted of any form of crime — the side effect of which is that minorities will suffer more than white people — you are willingly aiding in attacks on minorities. It’s no longer just, if you vote for Trump you are a racist. There were plenty of racist representatives long before Trump came into the picture.
A lot of us have given up hope of reaching these white people but you, their family and friend, should not, especially if you’re going to keep talking to them. If you’re thinking, I don’t want to lose a friend or family member over this, think about what that means. You are basically saying our equality; our rights mean nothing to you. You would rather see us suffer than take a risk. So how can you call yourself an ally? They’d be far more likely to listen to you than one of us, so this is your task.
So get uncomfortable. Do research on how to discuss these topics (So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo is a great place to start) and keep trying. You may lose one person, but you may gain a friend who will now stand with you in this fight. We are up against a lot and we need each one of you to put yourself out there. You have far less to lose than we do. We get called “loud”, “divisive”, “reverse racist” and before you can say “white privilege” we are either being fired or bullied out of our job. Oftentimes, we are waiting for a white ally to speak up because we’ve learned not to assume that just because we are “friends”, you’ll stand beside us when we point out microaggressions in the workplace (and there’s little more disappointing than seeing your friend either agreeing with their white coworkers or remaining awkwardly silent).
You don’t have to confront every single time (truth told, it’s exhausting), but you can’t remain silent just because you don’t want to “make waves” or “create a problem”. The problem is already there. The question is — what are you doing to solve it?