Something’s happening in the United States. We see it in the protests in the streets, we hear it in the speeches of our leaders. We can feel it in our fearful hearts when we watch the news.
There is a … heat, here. Something is brewing.
We are brewing.
Of course, heat is nothing new. This great melting pot has been on the stove for a long time, and has boiled over before. When slavery boiled us, we turned down the heat with freedom. When Jim Crow boiled us, we turned down the heat with equal rights under law. But the burner was always on. The melting pot always feels the heat, and though we might turn it down a bit from time to time, there’s still heat, and more heat.
This melting pot is boiling.
Nowhere is this more evident than the current presidential campaign, with its rhetoric that borders on white-hot racism.
The entertainer Donald Trump headlines this. Using racist statements and outright lies, he’s run the gamut from openly mocking blacks, Hispanics, and people with disabilities – to promoting Nazi-era protocols to identify Muslims. His bigoted rhetoric, coupled with an actual admission that he doesn’t bother checking facts, combine to give the US a chance of having a president with the intellectual capacity and emotional control of a toddler having a temper tantrum.
And make no mistake, Trump is a real contender for the throne – something that is in itself terrifying.
But Trump is not alone.
The Grand Old Party (GOP) is a seething cauldron of racism and xenophobia. We saw this when the Syrian refugee crisis, which began more than four years ago while none of them were paying any attention, became a political platform. Trump’s neo-Nazi Muslim ID cards was shocking, but Ted Cruz suggested we should restrict entry to allow only Christians in, and Rubio has essentially called for the Christian version of Sharia law. Even Ben Carson compared Syrian refugees to rabid dogs.
Send us your tired, your hungry, your white and your Christian. This is our America, where even a black man will easily use racism for political gain.
None of this is limited to the presidential race. Republican Rhode Island State Senator Elaine Morgan thinks Muslim refugees should live in segregated camps and more than half of US governors took the stance of publicly refusing Syrian refugees – this despite the fact that they have no say in the matter because refugee immigration is regulated under federal law.
Even Roanoke – Virginia’s Mayor David Bowers thinks that we should look at the Japanese internment camps of World War II as our example for housing refugees. Our darkest hour has become an inspiration.
Proudly racist rhetoric from local to national leaders suggests that our American melting pot is boiling with a heat that it hasn’t felt since the mid-1800s and the 1960s. Black Lives Matter protesters proclaim: “This ain’t your mama’s civil rights movement,” while white supremacist groups rally with what feels like increased support from political leaders. Latino communities exercise increased political power even as the Supreme Court threatens to diminish the Latino vote in favour of more voting strength for white populations.
The US is boiling, and politicians know it, especially Trump. Happy to make money from Muslims, he pals around with them in Dubai calling them his friends, but he’ll stand on a stump saying we should ban Muslims from the country because he knows that such racist language will win him votes.
Meanwhile, we have a two-term democratic president, and if history is any judge, there’s very little the Democrats can do to win. As evidence, see the ineffectual campaigns of Clinton and Sanders – both of whom seem dedicated to little more than checking the “at least I tried” box.
The GOP can say what they want because the majority of its voting base in the US seems to agree with its racist ideology. In fact, racism is the biggest card that the Republican party has in this game, and it’s a Trump card.
As grim as this scenario sounds, it actually gives me some hope.
It seems racism is on the rise. But today, the black community is mobilised in a way not seen since – or even during – the Civil Rights Movement. Black voters are vocal in the streets and on social media, and are increasingly demanding that Democrats “earn this damn vote or lose it“. Gone are the days of being assured of the black vote while supporting policies that destroy black communities.
Black and Hispanic people are increasingly taking roles in government while white population numbers are dwindling. Even the acceptance of white norms are unabashedly fought by entertainers such as Nicki Minaj and Kanye West.
The world is changing, white supremacy is under threat. I’m not just talking about skinheads, I’m talking about the implicit white supremacy that allows the media to label white mass murders as “quiet” while labelling innocent black murder victims “the son of drug users”.
I’m talking about the white supremacy that created the war on drugs that disproportionately convicts black and Hispanic people for drug use even though white people are more likely to use, abuse, and deal drugs.
The melting pot has always worked because it’s been a cream base with a few extra ingredients. But within a generation, white people will be the minority. Many people are afraid of this – interestingly, they are often those who would argue that racial inequality is an imagined issue. If that’s so, why would a white minority be a problem? Becoming a minority wouldn’t be scary if we honestly believed minorities were treated with equity.
But we don’t believe that, so weapons are being drawn in the battle for white supremacy’s reign.
I think the violence and rhetoric is from people who realise the party’s over – not tomorrow, we still have work to do, but better days are coming. There’s a manic kind of violence in today’s white supremacy – whether it’s in the Chicago police department, Fox media, or Dylann Roof. White supremacy is a cornered rat that sees its own mortality and wants to cause as much damage as possible on its way to the grave.
But this mania is countered by a confident strength in our minority communities. Black women are standing topless in the streets with their fists in the air. Hispanic communities are unapologetically flexing their political power. Even Muslims – who are taking this racist xenophobia on the chin – are refusing to feel guilty and asking why everyday Christians don’t feel the need to apologise for Christian ‘terrorists’. And I’m heartened by the increasing volume in voices of white people, many formerly silent, who are saying, “We can do better than this.”
White supremacy has had its run, but it will fight in increasingly violent displays as it’s dying. Trump and the rest of the GOP contenders know this and want to capitalise on it. They are stoking fear of a changing world to their advantage. They don’t care about their voter base. They don’t care about the next generation, or even really about this one. They care only about winning the election, and they’re willing to crank up the heat and burn us all to do it.
John Metta has worked as a cook, groundskeeper, store clerk, park ranger, Navy submariner, Army wartime medic, hydrologist, school teacher, software developer, mathematical modeller, and underwater archaeologist. Before any of these jobs, and during them all, he was writing. Always writing.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.